Yesterday marked a turning point on the way that surveillance technologies were used. 15 years ago on October 27th, George W Bush signed the Patriot Act into legislation. It came as quick and highly demanded response to the attacks that took place on the World Trade Center and on the Pentagon on September 11th, 2001. Only a month before the Act was written. The goal of this act was to prevent another terrorist attack from happening on American soil again.
While it is commonly known as the Patriot Act, this name is actually an acronym. It stands for “uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism”. After it was passed, the laws allowed for the restriction that had originally been placed on communications surveillance to be expelled. This would make it easier to gather and share information that was gathered by intelligence agencies across the nation. It also made records that were once private available to members of the FBI.
In 2011 President Obama signed the PATRIOT Sunsets Extension Act of 2011 into action. It allowed for a four year extension of three main surveillance techniques that the Patriot act had originally created. These include conducting surveillance of those suspected of doing terrorist activities, searching of business records, and roving wiretaps.
Parts of the original Patriot Act expired on June 1st of 2015. These were allowed to end because Congress no longer supported their measures. The next day though the USA Freedom Act re-enabled these particular aspects. They will now be enforced until 2019. The only thing that was no longer continued was the practice of mass phone data collection. Originally these could be attained at anytime but now it will be necessary to go through a court system to retrieve the information if it is necessary.