The USA PATRIOT Act, enacted on October 26, 2001, has been critical in preventing another terrorist attack on the United States. It brought the federal government's ability to investigate threats to the national security into the modern era—by modifying our investigative tools to reflect modern technologies, eliminating barriers to effective national security investigations, and giving national security investigators the same sorts of tools as have long been available to investigators who handle non-national security matters.
Today, following several months of intense debate, Congress passed the USA PATRIOT Act Improvement and Reauthorization Act of 2005 (H.R. 3199). This legislation reauthorizes all expiring provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act, adds dozens of additional safeguards to protect Americans' privacy and civil liberties, strengthens port security, and provides tools to combat the spread of methamphetamine. The reauthorizing legislation provides essential support for our efforts to protect both Americans and the values that Americans cherish.
The reauthorizing legislation makes permanent 14 of the 16 sunsetted USA PATRIOT Act provisions and places four-year sunsets on the other two—the authority to conduct "roving" surveillance under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and the authority to request production of business records under FISA (USA PATRIOT Act sections 206 and 215, respectively).
Among the 14 USA PATRIOT Act provisions made permanent are vital enhancements of our ability to protect against terrorism and other serious crimes, including provisions:
Since the attacks of September 11, 2001, the highest priority of the Department of Justice has been to prevent another terrorist attack on America. The reauthorizing legislation authorizes the Attorney General to reorganize the Department of Justice by placing the Department's primary national security elements under the leadership of a new Assistant Attorney General for National Security, fulfilling a recommendation of the Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction.
This reorganization would bring together under one umbrella the attorneys from the Criminal Division's Counterterrorism and Counterespionage Sections and the attorneys from the Office of Intelligence Policy and Review (OIPR), with their specialized expertise in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and other intelligence matters. The new Assistant Attorney General will thus have all three core national security components under his or her control. He or she will lead a dedicated team acting in concert to accomplish their shared mission of protecting the national security while simultaneously safeguarding Americans' civil liberties. The Assistant Attorney General will also serve as the Department's primary liaison to the new Director of National Intelligence, and the new Division will gather expertise from across the Department to create a focal point for providing advice on the numerous legal and policy issues raised by the Department's national security missions.
The reauthorizing legislation also provides tools to protect our waterways and seaports from terrorists and thieves. It gives federal law enforcement new tools to fight terrorists, including new or enhanced penalties for crimes such as smuggling goods into or out of the United States or bribing a public official to affect port security with the intent to commit international or domestic terrorism. Would-be terrorists will now face a United States Coast Guard empowered with new law enforcement tools for use at sea, including penalties for refusal to stop when ordered to do so and for transporting an explosive, biological agent, chemical weapon, or radioactive or nuclear materials knowing that the item is intended to be used to commit a terrorist act.
Part of our strategy after the horrific attack of September 11, 2001 has been to stop the terrorist with his hand on the check rather than on the bomb. The reauthorizing legislation provides strong support for this strategy primarily by enhancing penalties for terrorism financing and closing a loophole concerning terrorist financing through hawalas, informal money transfer networks, rather than traditional financial institutions.
National Security Letters (NSLs) predated the USA PATRIOT Act and are invaluable tools for investigators in authorized international terrorism or counterintelligence investigations. The reauthorizing legislation:
The Combat Methamphetamine Act contained in the reauthorizing legislation makes certain drugs used in manufacturing meth "scheduled listed chemical products"—harder to obtain in unlimited quantities and easier for law enforcement to track. As part of a more comprehensive approach toward controlling this growing problem, the reauthorizing legislation:
The reauthorizing legislation strengthens death penalty procedures by eliminating confusion as to the appropriate death penalty procedures for certain cases under the Controlled Substances Act and expands on the authorities governing provision of counsel for death penalty-eligible defendants who are unable to afford counsel.
The reauthorizing legislation provides clear intent standards and tough penalties for terrorist attacks and other violence targeted at our rail systems and other mass transportation systems regardless of whether they operate on land, on water, or through the air.
The reauthorizing legislation also included a number of technical changes to the original USA PATRIOT Act, including: