Last updated on: 6/15/2017 | Author:

Is the USA PATRIOT Act a Good Law?

General Reference (not clearly pro or con)

The Congressional Research Service (CRS) stated in an Apr. 18, 2002 report for Congress, “The USA PATRIOT Act: A Sketch,” written by Charles Doyle, Senior Specialist in the American Law Division:

“Congress passed the USA PATRIOT Act in response to the terrorists’ attacks of September 11, 2001. The Act gives federal officials greater authority to track and intercept communications, both for law enforcement and foreign intelligence gathering purposes. It vests the Secretary of the Treasury with regulatory powers to combat corruption of U.S. financial institutions for foreign money laundering purposes. It seeks to further close our borders to foreign terrorists and to detain and remove those within our borders. It creates new crimes, new penalties, and new procedural efficiencies for use against domestic and international terrorists. Although it is not without safeguards, critics contend some of its provisions go too far. Although it grants many of the enhancements sought by the Department of Justice, others are concerned that it does not go far enough.”

Apr. 18, 2002

PRO (yes)


The US Department of Justice explained in its July 2004 “Report from the Field: The USA PATRIOT Act at Work”:

“The USA PATRIOT Act equips federal law enforcement and intelligence officials with the tools they need to mount an effective, coordinated campaign against our nation’s terrorist enemies. The Act revised counterproductive legal restraints that impaired law enforcement’s ability to gather, analyze, and share critical terrorism-related intelligence information. The Act also updated decades-old federal laws to account for the technological breakthroughs seen in recent years… the Act enhanced America’s criminal laws against terrorism, in some cases increasing the penalties for planning and participating in terrorist attacks and aiding terrorists. The Act also clarified that existing laws against terrorism apply to the new types of attacks planned by al Qaeda and other international terrorist organizations.”

July 2004


Paul Rosenzweig, JD, Former Senior Legal Research Fellow at the Heritage Foundation, Alane Kochems, JD, Policy Analyst at the Heritage Foundation, and James Jay Carafano, PhD, Senior Research Fellow at the Heritage Foundation, wrote in their Sep. 20, 2004 report “The Patriot Act Reader,” published by the Heritage Foundation:

“The Patriot Act accomplishes three critical goals. First, it gives investigators familiar tools to use against a new threat. Second, it breaks down a wall that has prevented information-sharing between agencies. Third, it updates U.S. laws to respond to the current Internet environment. The Patriot Act is one response allowing the United States to wage war against an enemy that attacked the country in disguise, while remaining true to the country’s founding ethics of freedom, equality, privacy, and human dignity.

The Patriot Act has, in conjunction with other legislation, strengthened civil liberties. It does so through such things as the expansion of judicial authorization, privacy officers to protect against invasions of privacy, mandatory reports to Congress, and Inspector General oversight.”

Sep. 20, 2004


Tom Ridge, JD, former Homeland Security Secretary, in his July 15, 2004 speech “Prepared Remarks at the Allegheny County Emergency Operations Center,” said:

“So let me state it plainly: The tools of the Patriot Act are vital to our ability to prevent terrorist attacks. It is not a zero sum game. Like the Department of Homeland Security and so many federal agencies, the authorities of the Patriot Act exist to protect the very liberties that our Founders established in the Constitution. By protecting our freedoms, our civil liberties are enhanced, not diminished.”

July 15, 2004


John Podesta, JD, President and CEO of the Center for American Progress, stated in the Winter 2002 “USA Patriot Act – the Good, the Bad, the Sunset,” in the Human Rights Magazine of the American Bar Association’s Section of Individual Rights and Responsibilities:

“Notwithstanding the haste with which Congress acted, the provisions of the new law relating to electronic surveillance, for the most part, are a sound effort to provide new tools for law enforcement and intelligence agencies to combat terrorism while preserving the civil liberties of individual Americans.

Some changes simply update our surveillance laws to reflect the fact that we live in a digital age. Other sections expand the surveillance powers of our law enforcement and intelligence communities in ways that make sense in light of the new threats facing our country.”

Winter 2002

CON (no)


The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), in its Apr. 3, 2003 article “Surveillance Under the USA PATRIOT Act,” stated:

“Just six weeks after the September 11 attacks, a panicked Congress passed the ‘USA/Patriot Act,’ an overnight revision of the nation’s surveillance laws that vastly expanded the government’s authority to spy on its own citizens, while simultaneously reducing checks and balances on those powers like judicial oversight, public accountability, and the ability to challenge government searches in court.”

Apr. 3, 2003


The American Civil Liberties Union’s (ACLU), Director of ACLU’s Washington Office, Laura Murphy and Associate Director and Chief Legislative Counsel, Gregory T. Nojeim, wrote in their Oct. 23, 2001 “Letter to the Senate Urging Rejection on the Final Version of the USA PATRIOT Act”:

“While it contains provisions that we support, the American Civil Liberties Union believes that the USA PATRIOT Act gives the Attorney General and federal law enforcement unnecessary and permanent new powers to violate civil liberties that go far beyond the stated goal of fighting international terrorism. These new and unchecked powers could be used against American citizens who are not under criminal investigation, immigrants who are here within our borders legally, and also against those whose First Amendment activities are deemed to be threats to national security by the Attorney General.”

Oct. 23, 2001


John Whitehead, JD, Founder and President of The Rutherford Institute, in a June 13, 2005 paper “How Liberty Dies: The Patriot Reauthorization Act” for the Rutherford Institute, wrote:

“At a massive 342 pages, the Patriot Act violates at least six of the ten original amendments known as the Bill of Rights – the First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh and Eighth Amendments—and possibly the Thirteenth and Fourteenth as well…

While it remains questionable whether the Patriot Act has really succeeded in protecting Americans against future acts of terrorism, the highly controversial additions to the Act will unquestionably succeed in gutting the Fourth Amendment. Of all the protections found in the Constitution, the Fourth Amendment stands as the final barrier between the privacy rights of Americans and the potential for government abuse of power. But if law enforcement officials can search your home and your records without having to go through a judge, then the concept of a man’s home being his castle will become as antiquated as the Model T.”

June 13, 2005


David Cole, JD, Professor of Law at Georgetown University, stated in a July 15, 2003 interview with Bryant Gumbel, posted on The Flashpoints USA with Bryant Gumbel and Gwen Ifill:

“[The Patriot Act] gives the government the ability to spy on its citizens and on foreign nationals without probable cause of a crime, to get wiretaps and warrants. It gives them the ability to get records from libraries and book stores on people who are not targets of any criminal investigation, who are not targets of any foreign intelligence investigation and who are not suspected of engaging in any illegal activity…

But it’s one thing to make some sacrifices in terms of privacy but another thing to throw the fourth amendment out the window.”

July 15, 2003