The Patriot Act, passed less than two months after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center, was intended to help authorities identify terrorists and prevent further attacks.
Hastily written and passed into law, some elements that were not fully debated remain controversial and subject to criticism, including:
- Telephone data collection, including numbers, date and duration of calls
- Collection by intelligence agencies of all kinds of records from citizens as long as they are deemed relevant to an investigation
- Expansion of executive branch powers, thereby stripping away Congressional and judicial checks and balances
- Over 1,000 instances found during audits of misuse of the law
The Patriot Act expired June 1, 2015 after key parts were not approved by Congress.
New legislation approved by the House of Representatives would end the National Security Agency's bulk collection of telephone data and transfer the task to telephone companies.
Source: Politico, U.S. Department of Justice, news reports