George W. Bush and the PATRIOT Act

Passed by Congress and signed into law by Bush in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, the USA PATRIOT Act gave expanded surveillance powers to intelligence agencies in the hope of preventing future terrorist attacks.  The PATRIOT Act was complex and covered many different areas of intelligence gathering, including those carried out by both domestic and foreign intelligence agencies.  Some parts of the law have expired, or been found unconstitutional in the courts, while some remain and are set to expire in 2019.  The act has ten sections, including anti-money-laundering, border security, and enhanced surveillance procedures.  The passage of the law caused controversy, particularly among advocates for civil liberties and privacy.

As one result of the PATRIOT Act, the National Security Agency (NSA) collected phone records for millions of Americans without their knowledge or consent.  This metadata included the number making the call, the number receiving the call, and the location and the length of the call.  The program was revealed in 2013 through Edward Snowden’s whistleblowing activities.  The metadata collection program has been modified and restrictions have been added to it, but the central debate between security and civil liberties continues.