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Provisions and Changes in the USA PATRIOT Act

New Sections:

The following new sections were tacked on as amendments. The first section listed below was never debated in the House or the Senate. Most of the new sections have no connection to combatting terrorism.

  • It establish a new uniformed police force for "special events of national significance," and expands the authority of the Secret Service by allowing them to arrest demonstrators at such events if they believe there has been a breach of a security perimeter. Demonstrators can be charged with a felony, with penalties of up to 10 years in prison.
  • It creates several new death penalty offenses.
  • It takes aim at the methamphetamine trade by imposing new restrictions on the sale of over-the-counter cold and allergy medicines, which contain a key ingredient for the drug. Read a news summary of this measure at Join Together.

Changes to Existing Provisions:

  • The package makes clear that recipients of National Security Letters have the right to challenge them in court. However, it places the bar for succeeding in a challenge too high. In order to win the challenge, the third-party holder of records sought must prove that the government acted in bad faith, without the advantage of knowing whether the government is using secret evidence.
  • It gives recipients of court-approved subpoenas for information in terrorist investigations the right to challenge a requirement that they refrain from telling anyone.
  • Two new procedural hurdles have been imposed on FBI agents who want to apply for a Section 215 order to search bookstore or library records: they must first obtain the permission of one of three top officials--the director or deputy director of the FBI or the Executive Assistant Director of National Security; they must also present a statement of facts justifying the relevance of their request to a judge in the secret court established by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).
  • Third parties who receive a Section 215 order will have the right to consult an attorney and the right to challenge the order in the FISA court.
  • Automatic, permanent gag orders imposed on everyone who receives a National Security Letter or a Section 215 order may appeal the gag order one year after the order is received.
  • The public has gained the right to learn whether Section 215 is being abused: the Inspector General of the Justice Department will conduct a review of the use of Section 215 since 2001 and report publicly whether any abuses have occurred; in addition, the Justice Department must annually report the number of bookstore and
    library searches that have occurred under Section 215.
  • The package clarifies that most libraries are not subject to demands in those letters for information about suspected terrorists. If the library is not an Internet Service Provider, the government will seek the Internet records directly from the ISP rather than seizing the library computer.

Renewed Provisions:

  • Section 201 — Gives federal officials the authority to intercept wire, spoken and electronic communications relating to terrorism.
  • Section 202 — Gives federal officials the authority to intercept wire, spoken and electronic communications relating to computer fraud and abuse offenses.
  • Subsection 203(b) — Permits the sharing of grand jury information that involves foreign intelligence or counterintelligence with federal law enforcement, intelligence, protective, immigration, national defense or national security officials
  • Subsection 203(d) — Gives foreign intelligence or counterintelligence officers the ability to share foreign intelligence information obtained as part of a criminal investigation with law enforcement.
  • Section 204 — Makes clear that nothing in the law regarding pen registers — an electronic device that records all numbers dialed from a particular phone line — stops the government’s ability to obtain foreign intelligence information.
  • Section 206 — Allows federal officials to issue roving “John Doe” wiretaps, which let investigators listen in on any telephone and tap any computer they think a suspected spy or terrorist might use.
  • Section 207 — Increases the amount of time federal officials may watch people they suspect are spies or terrorists.
  • Section 209 — Permits the seizure of voicemail messages under a warrant.
  • Section 212 — Permits Internet service providers and other electronic communication and remote computing service providers to hand over records and e-mails to federal officials in emergency situations.
  • Section 214 — Allows use of a pen register or trap and trace devices that record originating phone numbers of all incoming calls in international terrorism or spy investigations.
  • Section 215 — Authorizes federal officials to obtain “tangible items” like business records, including those from libraries and bookstores, for foreign intelligence and international terrorism investigations.
  • Section 217 — Makes it lawful to intercept the wire or electronic communication of a computer hacker or intruder in certain circumstances.
  • Section 218 — Allows federal officials to wiretap or watch suspects if foreign intelligence gathering is a “significant purpose” for seeking a Federal Intelligence Surveillance Act order. The pre-Patriot Act standard said officials could ask for the surveillance only if it was the sole or main purpose.
  • Section 220 — Provides for nationwide service of search warrants for electronic evidence.
  • Section 223 — Amends the federal criminal code to provide for administrative discipline of federal officers or employees who violate prohibitions against unauthorized disclosures of information gathered under this act.
  • Section 225 — Amends FISA to prohibit lawsuits against people or companies that provide information to federal officials for a terrorism investigation.

New Sunsets:

New, four-year sunsets apply to the following renewed provisions:

  • Section 206 — roving "John Doe" wiretaps
  • Section 215 — "tangible items" such as business records
  • Section 6001 — "Lone Wolf" provision included in Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act

Sources: The Associated Press, American Booksellers for Free Expression, and the Bill of Rights Defense Committee