The USA PATRIOT Act
The Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism (USA PATRIOT) Act was signed into law on October 26, 2001, in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks. Designed to deter and prevent terrorist attacks against the United States, the USA PATRIOT Act increased and enhanced the authority of federal officials to track and intercept communications. The legislation also incorporated critical sunset provisions to provide congressional oversight of the government's use of the anti-terrorism tools.
In the months following the attacks of September 11, 2001, the Senate Judiciary Committee held numerous hearings concerning national security, terrorism and civil liberties. One of the primary roles of the Judiciary Committee is the oversight of the Department of Justice, which took on added responsibilities in assisting law enforcement in the fight against domestic and international terrorism. The Committee has continued to hold hearings and receive testimony from witnesses on the effectiveness and implementation of the USA PATRIOT Act, and on guarding civil liberties and protecting constitutional freedoms.
Congress first revisited expiring provisions in the USA PATRIOT Act in 2005. After months of debate and negotiations, legislation to authorize certain provisions in the Act was signed into law in March 2006. The 2006 reauthorization included another sunset provision for three surveillance tools: roving wiretaps, lone wolf, and Section 215 orders, commonly known as the library records provision.