The PATRIOT Act’s Poisoned Tree – Opinion

The 9/11 attacks did not end American history. The nation was forced to take a more difficult path by the vile events of 9/11. But just like the attacks on America were the poisoned fruits of previous policy mistakes and crimes, so too did the government surveillance and information capture that arose from deeper roots than the rubble of the Twin Towers.

A bill called “Uniting and Strengthening America through Providing Appropriate Tools Required To Intercept and Obstruct terroristism Act” was introduced within a month. It gave the federal government new spying power. USA PATRIOT Act soon to go away USA in standard usage, was signed into law by President George W. Bush on October 26, 2001. Voting against it were 66 House members and just one senator: Russ Feingold (D–Wisc.().

Two decades down the line, after a confusing array of follow-on intelligence-gathering laws (including the 2015 USA FREEDOM Act, which supplanted various PATRIOT Act provisions), it is not obvious that America has indeed been “strengthened.” It has been used in overwhelming numbers to prosecute the War on Drugs, and not the War on Terrorism, which was at the time that the country had moved away from prohibitedionism. Although the new tools have proven ineffective, it has not been demonstrated that they prevented terrorist attacks on U.S. soil. Nevertheless, these tools have been used to justify successive governments’ creation of vast and constitutionally highly suspect secret surveillance networks.

But efficacy wasn’t a big part of the original debate; the preventive utility of an information-gathering dragnet was widely—and wrongly—assumed. Back then, opponents and supporters were more likely to disagree about the effect on civil liberties.

Defense lawyers often argue that evidence against their clients was obtained from the “fruits of the poisoned trees” when trying to convince courts to throw out the evidence. PATRIOT Act, itself, was the product of law enforcement’s unrelenting desire to get rid of all the inconveniences and guiding principles of privacy.

The Wish List

Critics of this law said it meant the end of privacy. The law was not a significant departure from American surveillance, however, proponents countered. The hawks were correct on this point.

For example, the controversial “national security letters”—warrantless demands for data about people from third parties such as phone companies, without notifying the target of the investigation—had already been in use, authorized by the 1978 Right to Financial Privacy Act (RFPA) and the 1986 Electronics Communication Privacy Act (ECPA). Many Americans realized that the shadowy Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, (FISC), was providing judicial fig leaves to PATRIOT fishing expeditions. It had been in operation since 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Bulwark against previous surveillance abuses.

As former G-man Michael J. Woods wrote this 2005 article in an interview with Michael J. Journal of National Security Law & Policy article, the FBI before 9/11″had five separate legal authorities that addressed the need to compel production of transactional information in counterintelligence investigations: three types of national security letters (under RFPA, ECPA, and FCRA [Fair Credit Reporting Act]), the FISA pen register/trap and trace authority”—i.e., grabbing the numbers for incoming and outgoing calls from a phone or browser history from a computer—”and the FISA business records authority. All of these authorities specified the types of records that could be obtained, and all the records specified were, according to the reasoning of the Supreme Court…outside the protection of the Fourth Amendment.” The controversial 1976 Miller In this case, the Court held that the Fourth Amendment does not allow you to exercise privacy rights if the information is given up by you.

It was made easier by the PATRIOT Act to get approval to surveillance that focuses on foreign nationals. This changed the standard of tracking individuals from being foreign intelligence as the “primary purpose” to only a “significant purpose”. The PATRIOT Act made it easier to obtain approval for surveillance meant to focus on a foreign national. It also changed the standard of tracking an individual from foreign intelligence being the “primary purpose” of an investigation to only a “significant purpose.”

Although the FISA court had been deferential towards intelligence agencies for years, it became more like a rubber stamp by issuing approvals that were not allowed for public inspection. Bush administration Department of Justice official David Addington boasted in the high-spirited spirit of times that they were “one bomb away” from eliminating that unfavorable court. The paper wall that separated the executive and maximum security was seen as too bothersome.

The impetus and urgency of 9/11 were the driving force behind the PATRIOT Act. However, no PATRIOT Act power was created in response to the terrible day. Instead, law enforcement had an easy excuse for fulfilling their long-standing wish list when the Pentagon and World Trade Center attacks occurred. It is the White House that now holds the White House as the primary keeper of the list.

As a senator, Joe Biden initially bragged about the PATRIOT Act like a proud papa, clucking that then–Attorney General John Ashcroft had essentially “sent up…my bill”—a grab bag of expanded police authority that Biden had been pushing since the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995.

It is concerning that domestic law enforcement concerns are grafted onto the response of a foreign-originating terrorist attack. This should cause us to stop, especially in 2021. The PATRIOT Act specifically identified domestic terror as a specific category. This was the most likely one to be used by the president who is familiar with these law enforcement tools. PATRIOT may be most relevant in the current administration, even though “Islamic terrorist” is no longer a threat.

PATRIOT was designed to broaden the scope of circumstances, places and targets that the government could use without having to consider the Fourth Amendment’s legal traditions and practices about notices, warrants and meaningful judicial supervision. PATRIOT was criticized for being unconstitutionally intrusive on citizens’ privacy. It was supposedly in the name fighting foreign terrorist. However, it didn’t appear to provide any goods over time, particularly regarding this point.


PATRIOT Act increased the criminal potential of anyone living in America, regardless of whether they were terrorist plotters. The PATRIOT Act could see non-citizens indefinitely detained without being convicted. U.S. citizens who take more than $10,000 from the United States are no longer guilty in a paper crime. Instead, they could be subject to Section 371 and have their money taken by the government. This was among many other measures that the government took to tighten the informational controls on banks for the purpose of “money laundering”, which is preventing terror financing.

PATRIOT’s controversial parts were so controversial that Congress passed them with “sunsets,” which required Congress to approve them every five years. They were the most debated sections of the law, due to their political content.

Section 215, which extended the scope of “business records” government can seize under FISA authority, is the most controversial. The capturable records were previously provided only by common carriers, which are providers of public accommodation or storage. The term could also be “any tangible object” which the FISA court could accept as relevant for a terror investigation.

Convincing the FISA court was as simple as saying “Because I say so.” As the FBI’s Woods spelled out, “the judge has no meaningful discretion in considering a §215 application. While the plain language of §215 directs the judge to issue the business records order if the judge finds ‘that the application meets the requirements’ of the section, the only ‘requirement’…is that the application specify that ‘the records concerned are sought for an authorized investigation.'”

Section 206 also provides for the authority to “rove wiretap”, which allows surveillance of a target, without additional authorization. This permits surveillance to be carried out when the target changes communication method. Privacy rights groups felt that this violated the Fourth Amendment’s requirement for a warrant to be “particularly described”.[e]The place you should search.

It allows the tracking of individuals suspected to have terrorist intents who aren’t known to be affiliated with any government or foreign organization. Although it was introduced in 2004, the government denies that this provision has ever been used.

Bush and Obama reauthorized all of the controversial sections in 2006. Bush additionally made sure to let us know in his signing statement that his administration would only report what it felt like reporting to the public about PATRIOT use, saying that he “shall construe” requirements “that call for furnishing information to entities outside the executive branch…in a manner consistent with the President’s constitutional authority…to withhold information the disclosure of which could impair foreign relations, national security, the deliberative processes of the Executive, or the performance of the Executive’s constitutional duties.” His lawyers argued that after the Authorization to Use Military Force was signed, the president was free to do anything he wanted in defense of the nation. Stop His actions were a blot on Constitution.

Others troublesome components of PATRIOT weren’t subject to sunset and reauthorization. Section 505 is confusingly similar to the Section 215 powers. It contains “national security letters”. These can be only issued by the FBI. They allow third parties to take records and are not allowed to speak about their customers.

Privacy advocates called this “sneak-and-peek” searches and seizures. In which an ordinarily prior notice involving a judge authorized warrant was removed, the target information was “within a reasonable time of its execution”, which may be further extended by court for good reason. Reasonable here is both undefined and unlikely.

Was PATRIOT a Helper?

Even before 9/11, FISA was notoriously error-prone. According to a report issued in 2006 by the Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General, 75 errors were made in 2000–01 regarding a target’s asserted connections to foreign terror. The same Office of Inspector General in 2007 reported that FBI agents had a similar record. They exceeded their authority when it came to national security letters. This included directing them at wrong people and taking the information the letters didn’t specify. And then executing them beyond the requested time.

Bush officials wanted to keep secret their investigations and secret laws secret. They often stonewalled even the relevant congressional committees over how the provisions of the act were being used. Sometimes, they revealed details behind closed doors only to Congressmen and top-secret staffers. Many offices that did not have such staff were forced to keep the secret. The executive branch’s intelligence folk believed that the obligation of informed democracy was fulfilled by a select group of intelligence committee muckety mucks in Congress who knew (some) of what the administration was doing, while the electorate was kept in the dark.

The PATRIOT Act’s ambiguity combined with vague terms like “information sharing” among intel agencies led to widespread belief. But as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) argued on its website, “the Patriot Act is not the reason for improvements in information sharing…FISA information, properly obtained for foreign intelligence purposes, could always be shared with criminal investigators if relevant to crime. Instead, what the Patriot Act really is about FISA makes it much easier for you to bypass the Fourth Amendment by making it more accessible 

Further, the ACLU noted that only 361 of those cases were classified as terrorist investigations between September 11th 2001 and September 04 by Justice Department. “Only 39” of these people have been convicted for crimes related to terror. How shocking were the terror arrests! A sign: The average sentence for these offenses was 11 months.

PATRIOT has not seen a significant improvement in his terror-fighting performance over time. Criticisms believed that sneak-and peek searches intended to circumvent the Fourth Amendment would be a common law enforcement tool, and not only for emergency situations to stop terrorism plans. These critics were correct. As Lee Tien of the Electronic Freedom Foundation wrote in 2014, “Exactly what privacy advocates argued in 2001 is happening: sneak and peek warrants are not just being used in exceptional circumstances…but as an everyday investigative tool.”

Tien noted a pattern in 2009-2013 of a lower use of these weapons for terrorist-related cases. 1 percent The total number of narcotics used in the year was over 70%. This pattern is still evident in 2020’s figures with 71% for drugs. A federal court report shows that there was no terror-related activity in the year.

As much as PATRIOT did, for the Bush administration it didn’t do enough—so officials quickly, and covertly, went beyond even its expanded tools and authorities. They were also known by many other names including “Stellarwind”, a colorful program discovered in 2005. The New York Times. (Those with unrealistic expectations about the watchdog media should be aware that they held this information for over a year because of national security concerns, before publishing it. The paper was held that information for a year over national security concerns before publishing it. Times Stellarwind reported that it had monitored the telephone and e-mail communications of thousands of Americans without warrants for the past three year.

Yet the excesses of the information-gathering machine enabled by the PATRIOT Act were only just beginning to shock the conscience of the world.

The Snowden Effect

Those keeping a close eye on the security state already knew by the turn of the 2010s that the government was doing disturbing things, such as having secret rooms built in a major AT&T center in San Francisco from which to grab internet traffic (enabled by another pre-PATRIOT authorization, the 1994 Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act, which mandated that telecom companies deliberately design their systems to aid in government eavesdropping). Yahoo! is a search engine company. In 2009, Yahoo! was complaining (while asking for the government’s refusal to grant a FOIA inquiry regarding Yahoo! Yahoo! would be “shamed” if they revealed how much information about their customers was provided to them. They “shock” customers as the FOIA requester accuses them of trying to.

James Bamford (journalist) has published numerous books on National Security Agency. He stated that in 2008, “the idea about communications privacy within the United States is literally a joke.” By then, pranksters from the San Francisco Billboard Liberation Front had already altered an AT&T billboard to read: “AT&T works in more places, like NSA HEADQUARTERS.”

The spooks were hungry to prove they could even then. The temptation to spy on the maximum extent possible without encryption or civil liberties being intruded upon could not be quenched. This pathological impulse would end up being common knowledge in 2013.

The breakthrough came with the colorful espionage tale of former CIA man and then–NSA contractor Edward Snowden. He leaked gigabytes worth of information from one of the federal data warrens in Hawaii and was then able to hightail it to Hong Kong, where he became an international fugitive after his passport was cancelled by the United States. Suddenly, it began to sink in that the government wanted to know everything it possibly could about us—and that it was using the PATRIOT Act’s Section 215 as legal justification for acting on that desire.

The surveillance machine was scooping up staggering amounts of metadata—records of which phone numbers were calling which, when, and for how long, and the analogous information generated by internet use—under the belief that, well, it may prove relevant to some terror or foreign-espionage investigation. FISA judges were compliant and agreed as usual. Although intelligence experts stressed the fact that no content is being retained or read by FISA judges, it can still be very easy to get a complete account of an individual’s private activities from knowing each person’s phone number and visiting every website visited.

In Barton Gellman’s 2020 Snowden book Dark MirrorRick Ledgett was the ex-NSA deputy director and offered the following defense intel advice to calm outraged Americans. Their activities are just not relevant from a national security standpoint.

In a 2014 report, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, a bipartisan executive-branch agency, concluded that NSA’s bulk phone record program “has demonstrated minimal value” in protecting the country from terrorist attacks. We haven’t found any instance in which the program had made an impact on the outcome of counterterrorism investigations based upon the information we received, which includes classified briefings. 

The program’s many aspects are kept secret, making it difficult to determine the extent of any tangible harms. No one knows if Obama’s departure made it possible for the NSA and American law enforcement to exchange information they had obtained overseas. This allowed domestic law enforcement in America to access your personal information as part of routine investigations, according to the ACLU of Massachusetts. They could also send information to the police if they come across evidence of illegal drug activity. This means that information collected by the NSA for so-called national security’ purposes will be used to put ordinary Americans in jail for their routine crimes.

To legally cover their tracks about potentially ill-gotten evidence—the NSA was specifically known to share information with the Drug Enforcement Administration—law enforcement agencies often feel obliged to come up with what they call “parallel construction”: an alternate, untrue story for how they learned the information that doesn’t involve relying on warrantless NSA procedures.

No matter how many paper barriers are in place to safeguard Americans against surveillance abuse, it is still done by real human beings, who can often do anything they wish to. ABC News in 2008 reported on NSA whistleblowers laughing at salacious details from phone calls to the United States. The actual contents of these telephone calls were not what they originally thought, but rather something that was amusing them. The NSA staffers were able to listen in on conversations between soldiers in Baghdad and their wives, as well as their wives, while listening in to private calls from Americans in the Middle East. They also had the ability to overhear the “personal, intimate things” of Americans not associated with terrorism.

After years of being the symbol of government excess, the mass phone metadata programme, the best-known and most easily understood post-PATRIOT, was finally regulated legislatively by the USA FREEDOM Act 2015. This changed NSA access the phone records to no longer be “they take it all form telcos”, but to “telcos retain it, but do searches for the NSA at will.” These searches would now be restricted to only two “hops” to the targeted number. That means that they could not search for every phone called from this number, but instead, they will keep it and run searches to find the NSA.

The Age of Terror never ends

Trump and his government added another twist to Washington’s usual reauthorization routine. They combined their official support of keeping the surveillance powers as large as possible with occasional statements from Trump himself (often in tweets) that FISA-approved surveillance might have been interfering with his communications. Trump railed against the “deep state” while continuing to empower it: Even after the NSA itself had (at least officially) abandoned it, for example, the Trump administration, in an August 2019 letter to Congress signed by then–Director of National Intelligence Dan Coates, asked for an eternal commitment without further sunsetting to the USA FREEDOM Act version of the call-records program.

There was a silver lining to Trump’s zigzag. The Department of Justice’s Inspector General slammed FBI in December 2019, 478 pages long, over a warrant for surveillance of Carter Page. That surveillance had been the ignition that sparked the two-year-long special Russia investigation. Section 215 and the single wolf provisions, both roving wiretap authorizations, were all legalized to expire in March 2020.

Trump’s deep state did not create the Carter Page FISA irregularities. A 2019 Electronic Frontier Foundation article states that “Over the last twenty years, federal agencies has…” Repeatedly misled the FISC about the nature and scope of FISA surveillance. In 2009, a judge at the FISC recounted that the NSA had repeatedly submitted surveillance data to FISA.[ed]The NSA’s surveillance methods were inaccurately described. In another opinion from 2011, another FISC judge wrote that he was ‘troubled’ by the government’s ‘substantial misrepresentations regarding the scope of a major collection program’—the ‘third instance in less than three years’ of the government misleading the FISC about a significant aspect of the government’s surveillance programs.”

Privacy-conscious Americans should not be surprised by the unexpected death of Section 215. It isn’t a reason to think that the surveillance post-9/11 hangover has ended. Timothy Edgar (author of Beyond Snowden: Mass Surveillance, Privacy and the Struggle for Reform at the NSA (Brookings Institution Press), wrote the following: World Politics Review April “The NSA’s most sweeping surveillance powers involve its collection of data outside the United States—powers that are not affected by the expiration of a few provisions of the Patriot Act. These data may include both American and foreign communications. They can be collected by the NSA without the need for a court order and oversight from Congress.

Even though some legal authorities were revoked by the Trump administration’s bizarre political requirements, the mentality that was the surveillance state after 9/11 has not disappeared. PATRIOT Act created a system to exploit and exaggerate fears about dangerous Others. This type of weaponized anxiety is likely to be self-perpetuating and free-floating.

PATRIOT Act is the result of a poisoned plant. We can see its shadow in 2021, as the Biden administration shifts its “domestic terror,” anxieties onto Trumpism. Although the new strategy report was not issued by the Obama administration on domestic terrorism and it does not seek any additional lawmaking powers, it insists in the June report that “it is equally important for the Federal Government to engage in efforts that prevent individuals from falling into the clutches of domestic terror in the first instance.” It means, amongst other things, that both the demand and supply of recruitment material must be reduced. It is a sign of the type of harassment and infiltration that occurs to those who are not engaged in First Amendment protected activities.

Alarming news for anyone who wants their online life free of content-based surveillance is that the government declared “the widespread availability domestic terrorist recruitment materials online is a security threat whose frontlines are overwhelmingly private sector online platforms. We are committed to informing better the increasing efforts made by these platforms to secure those frontlines.”

Hugh Handeyside (a senior attorney at the ACLU’s National Security Project) says that these kinds of emphasises indicate that Biden’s plan “relies upon tools and structures, which have proven deeply detrimental to Muslim and immigrant community and have concentrated on speech and any other constitutionally protected activities, as a basis and basis for investigation.”

Feingold, the American Constitution Society’s head, warned former Democratic colleagues at Capitol Hill during a February Wall Street Journal He urged them not to allow fear of Trumpist terror convince them that they need more legal power. In the article, he stated that domestic terrorists tend to employ intrusive and unconstitutional surveillance methods to prosecute legitimate dissent. He also stressed that there is no way for progressive activists to be ensnared by any renewed emphasis on domestic terror fighting inspired by January 6. Due to their claim of being domestic terrorists, the two Dakota Access Pipeline harrassers have received enhanced sentences.

PATRIOT Act definitions “domestic terrorist” as those who violate the law “involves dangerous acts to human life” to “influence the policies of a government through intimidation or coercion.” This interpretation is alarming because it’s easy to protest and break any law, particularly if you are dispersed by police. Black Lives Matter can be affected just as much as Team MAGA.

Online activity and metadata and even private papers stored on our devices are still quite vulnerable to prying eyes, both private and federal—and the former can too easily become the latter. Apple revealed in August that they would preload their devices with an application that allows them to look for child pornography. Alliances formed between government agencies and those companies who make our devices aren’t going away after Snowden. There will be new motives to support the government’s attempt to destroy our privacy. The PATRIOT Act wasn’t the reason for the government’s compulsion not to snoop. Its most controversial provisions will also expire, but that won’t mean it is over.