This day in history, October 26, 2001, President George W. Bush signs the Patriot Act, an anti-terrorism law drawn up in response to the attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.
The USA PATRIOT Act, as it is officially known, is an acronym for “Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism.” The goal was to prevent terrorist attacks on U.S. soil.
The law was intended, in Bush’s words, to “enhance the penalties that will fall on terrorists or anyone who helps them.”
The act increased intelligence agencies’ ability to share information and lifted restrictions on communications surveillance. Law enforcement officials were given broader mandates to fight financial counterfeiting, smuggling and money laundering schemes that funded terrorists. It also gave the FBI increased powers to access personal information such as medical and financial records. The Patriot Act superseded all state laws.
The Patriot Act has faced ongoing legal challenges by the American Civil Liberties Union, and in recent years, some members of Congress who had originally supported the bill have come to mistrust the Bush administration’s interpretation of the law, but in 2006, a Republican-controlled Congress passed and Bush signed a renewal of the Patriot Act in March 2006.