Controversial Patriot Act Provisions

The following is a brief summary of the more controversial USA Patriot Act (search) measures expected to generate debate in Congress when some of the provisions expire at the end of 2005:

— Section 213, the "sneak and peek" search warrants that law enforcement may obtain to search someone's home or business while they aren't there, notifying the owner after the fact. This section does not sunset in 2005.

— Section 214, the ability for the government to obtain wiretaps under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (search) for cases both of a foreign intelligence and criminal nature. Warrants under FISA are subject to much lower probable cause standards than regular warrants. This power expands to e-mails, but that portion does not expire.

— Section 215, allows the government to seek a FISA court order to obtain personal records, like library, financial, phone, travel and medical records, through a third party. They are also based on softer probable-cause standards. While the Justice Department has said it has not used Section 215 to access library records, Section 505 — which allows the government to go after personal records under an administrative subpoena called "National Security Letters" with no judicial approval — does not expire in 2005. Section 505 has been used many times since 2001, according to the American Civil Liberties Union (search), which received records from the Justice Department through a Freedom of Information Request (search) in 2004. Section 505 was struck down in September by a federal district judge in New York as unconstitutional, but the government is appealing the decision.

— Section 218, which does expire in 2005, allows investigators to apply for the expanded use of secret search warrants under FISA for both foreign intelligence and criminal intelligence-gathering purposes.

— Sections 411 and 412, which allow the government to deport and detain, respectively, aliens for associating with terrorists, even unknowingly. In the case of detention, the government can hold an alien with no judicial review, as long as there are reasonable grounds to believe that the non-citizen endangers national security.