Monday, June 1, 2015

Know Your Rights Quick Take: Did The Patriot Act Really Expire?

ANAHEIM - This weekend, far from Southern California across the country, a political drama in Washington, D.C., played out resulting in a portion of the USA PATRIOT Act (The Patriot Act) to expire.

 photo Seal_of_the_United_States_Department_of_Homeland_Security.jpg.png
Seal of the United States Department of Homeland Security. Public domain.

Wait! I Thought The Whole Patriot Act Expired at 9 p.m. Southern California Time?

Despite some misconception in the media, and raving rants of certain lawmakers who never let a microphone and camera in their face go to waste, there was an impression that the entire The Patriot Act itself was going to expire. That was not the case.

So, What Really Did Expire?

What really expired, and what most of the debate was about, was Section 215, and, again, The Patriot Act as a whole did not expire.

What Does This Mean For You And Your Rights?

Well, as it stands now The Patriot Act itself, which is mostly permanent at this point, will still allow the government to get any information about anyone it wants for any reason, without a warrant, using National Security Letters (N.S.L.).

What Is The National Security Letters?

The N.S.L. is an administrative subpoena issued by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (F.B.I.) in authorized national security investigations "to protect against international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities," according to the F.B.I.

The N.S.L. program goes back to 1978, but Section 505 of the Patriot Act, which has not expired, allows the use of the N.S.L.s when seeking information "relevant" in authorized national security investigations. This portion of the act also provides the Department of Defense (The Military) the ability to issue N.S.L.'s when their use is necessary to conduct a law enforcement investigation, counterintelligence inquiry, or security determination.

What's The Big Deal About The N.S.L. Program

When it concerns The Patriot Act the N.S.L. powers under 18 U.S.C. § 2709 were expanded. This portion of The Patriot Act allows N.S.L.'s served on communications providers, like telephone and Internet companies, which allow the F.B.I. to secretly demand data about ordinary American citizens' private communications and Internet activity without any meaningful oversight or prior judicial review.

What If My Communications Business Receives a N.S.L.?

Do not talk about it with your customers, because you can get into a lot of trouble. Why? As the law is written recipients of N.S.L.'s are subject to a gag order forbidding them from revealing the N.S.L.'s existence not only to customers, but to their coworkers, to their friends, or even to their family members.

Bottom Line...

Even with Section 215 expired the numerous alphabet soup government security agencies still have massive surveillance legalities and tools, like the N.S.L., to use against its citizens, suspected terrorists and known terrorists.

Our legal disclaimer: Information here about The Patriot Act and N.S.L. is for general information purposes only and should not be taken as any kind of formal legal advice for any individual case or situation. If you find yourself in some legal trouble, or your business is served with a N.S.L., contact an attorney for further help. 

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