Adopted shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, attack on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, the Patriot Act greatly expanded the powers of the FBI and other intelligence agencies to conduct spying and disruption operations against individuals and organizations, carry out arbitrary search and seizures, and jail immigrants virtually indefinitely without charges.
The act grants greater authority to the cops to eavesdrop on phone, e-mail, and Internet communications, supervised by a court issuing secret orders. The laws roving wiretap provision allows the FBI to place a wiretap on someones phone without having to identify who the person is or why that individual should be under surveillance. Police are allowed under the act to search someones home without their knowledge.
The act allows the attorney general to jail an immigrant accused of terrorism for up to six months without charges. The person can be deported without presenting evidence. There are stiff penalties for anyone convicted of harboring terrorists or raising funds for organizations the U.S. government considers terrorist.
The library records provision of the law makes it easier for the FBI to request permission to spy on a persons private information, including what books they check out from the library. The snoops have to prove only that the information they are seeking is relevant to an investigation. The target of the surveillance need not even be a suspect.
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