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USA PATRIOT Act
The USA PATRIOT Act (Congressional bill H. R. 3162), was passed in October 2001, in the aftermath of the September 11th attacks. It is officially called “The Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001.”
This Act gives new powers to both domestic law enforcement as well as international intelligence agencies. It amends more than 15 statutes giving these government agencies more leeway in electronic searches and wire taps for the purpose of discovering domestic terrorists before they strike.
Both positive and negative opinions have been voiced about this Act, because it expands law enforcement's surveillance and investigative powers where domestic security is threatened. Proponents point out the Act's expansion of power for law enforcement to seek out terrorists and hackers alike. Critics of the USA PATRIOT Act fear that the same expansion of power may lead to a privacy or civil rights violations.
If you want to learn more about this bill, the American Library Association provides summaries and discussions of the USA PATRIOT Act.