You are here: Constitutional Law & National Security > Section 3 > Crimes Under the USA PATRIOT Act

Crimes Created Under the USA PATRIOT Act
As a result of a need for better security against terroristic threats, Congress passed the USA PATRIOT Act just six weeks after the attack on the World Trade Center. Students should read with interest about the host of new crimes this act created and the greater powers granted to the government over citizens' rights to privacy.
Under the Uniting and Strengthening America Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001 (USA PATRIOT Act) a number of new crimes were created:
  • §801: Terrorist attacks on mass transit facilities
  • §803: Harboring terrorists
  • §805: Affording support to terrorists
  • §817: Possession of biological weapon materials
  • §§315, 329, 353, 374-376: Money laundering by terrorists
In addition, §§810-812, 814 and 1011 enhanced penalties for acts of terrorism and in §§106 and 806 expanded federal property forfeiture powers. It also provided a fund for compensating victims of terrorism (§§421-427) as well as increasing monetary awards that may be paid to combat terrorism (§§101, 501, 502).
The Act also provides new powers to track and gather criminal communications (§§210, 216, 220) and eases restrictions on gathering foreign intelligence and sharing information between intelligence and criminal prosecution authorities (§§203, 207)—an area which had been a specific problem.
The USA PATRIOT Act has a number of provisions which deal with border protection and immigration, including the fingerprinting of incoming aliens, monitoring of student visas, and expanding the grounds for excluding and deporting aliens.
In December 2005, Congress agreed to an update of the Act. It was not until March 2006 that a deal was made to include a few small civil-liberties protections; among the changes: gag orders from secret subpoenas could be challenged after one year and it would also become harder for the feds to get library records. The bill became Public Law 109-177. In addition to signing the bill into law, the President issued a signing statement. (For complete text of the President's Statement on H.R. 199, the "USA PATRIOT Improvement and Reauthorization Act" and related documents, visit this website and scroll down to statement on H.R. 199.)
Student Activities and Assessment Tools
  • Have the students go on-line and find editorials and analysis of the USA PATRIOT Act. How many people have actually been successfully prosecuted under it? The students can then discuss whether the Act is more political than prosecutorial. You may use the included evaluation form.
  • Have students research the origin of signing statements. Are they tied to the Constitution? How do signing statements affect the enforcement of the law, if at all?