The Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act, also known as the USA PATRIOT Act, is another important tool for U.S. mass surveillance programs. After the Attacks on September 11, the USA PATRIOT Act was created to expand the domestic availability of data collected by mass surveillance programs.

The USA PATRIOT Act is codified in 50 U.S.C. § 1861 (opens new window).

# Section 215

Section 215 amends FISA to allow the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the U.S. domestic federal law enforcement and intelligence agency, access to records collected through mass surveillance programs for domestic investigations of U.S. citizens.

USA PATRIOT Act, Section 215

  1. The Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation or a designee of the Director (whose rank shall be no lower than Assistant Special Agent in Charge) may make an application for an order requiring the production of any tangible things (including books, records, papers, documents, and other items) for an investigation to protect against international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities, provided that such investigation of a United States person is not conducted solely upon the basis of activities protected by the first amendment to the Constitution.
  2. An investigation conducted under this section shall—
          (A) be conducted under guidelines approved by the Attorney General under Executive Order 12333 (or a successor order); and
          (B) not be conducted of a United States person solely upon the basis of activities protected by the first amendment to the Constitution of the United States.

Section 215 also comes with an order stating that “no person shall disclose to any other person that the Federal Bureau of Investigation has sought or obtained tangible things under this section,” which silences anyone ordered to hand over information obtained through a surveillance program (USA PATRIOT Act 2001, 18). This clause deters people from leaking information, and it provides the government with a prosecutable offense to use against whistleblowers. With FISA originally intended to be a foreign surveillance tool, Section 215 greatly expands the domestic power of the country’s mass surveillance programs.

# Sources

  1. USA PATRIOT Act, 115 Stat. 272 (2001), https://www.congress.gov/107/plaws/publ56/PLAW-107publ56.pdf (opens new window).