The following 16 surveillance provisions of the Patriot Act are set to expire on Dec. 31, 2005:
Sec. 201: Adds to the list of offenses that can be used to justify a federal wiretap. That list now includes the use or development of chemical weapons, crimes of violence against Americans overseas, development of weapons of mass destruction, multinational terrorism, financial transactions with a country designated as a sponsor of terrorism, and providing material support to terrorists or terror organizations.
Though the Patriot Act runs over 130 pages, opposition to the law largely centers around a few provisions expanding the government's police powers. Get a rundown of the act's most controversial sections:
Sec. 202: Adds computer crimes to the list of offenses that justify a federal wiretap.
Sec. 203(b): Allows foreign intelligence gathered through criminal wiretaps to be shared with a wide array of federal agencies, including defense and intelligence agencies.
Sec. 203(d): Authorizes law-enforcement personnel to share foreign intelligence information with the same broad set of federal agencies.
Sec. 206: Expands the use of "multipoint" or "roving" wiretaps in foreign intelligence investigations.
Sec. 207: Expands the duration of foreign intelligence surveillance of non-U.S. citizens.
Sec. 209: Clarifies that law enforcement only needs a simple search warrant to seize a voice mail message, not a wiretap order. The Justice Department argued for this provision as a way to update earlier law, which demanded a wiretap order before investigators could get access to voice mail messages stored on message services.
Sec. 212: Allows communications service providers to disclose suspicious e-mail messages to police if there's immediate danger of physical injury.
The Justice Department says that prior to the Patriot Act, the FBI could not accept emergency calls from Internet service providers (ISPs) who had knowledge of an ongoing crime. Now, the FBI can intervene immediately if an online conversation reveals an emergency.
Some legal scholars say this provision is open to abuse, since the ISP gets to determine what constitutes an emergency. Critics want any information that was obtained inappropriately to be thrown out of court if there's a criminal prosecution.
Sec. 214: Makes it easier for investigators to use "rap and trace" or "pen register" devices in foreign intelligence investigations. These devices relay the numbers of the people on either end of the call.
Sec. 215: Allows a special judge to issue an order for "any tangible thing" that is sought in connection to a foreign intelligence investigation. Previously, this power was limited to hotel, car rental and storage records. Librarians and bookstore owners have objected strenuously, saying the FBI could use this section to search patrons records. This provision also prohibits the records holder from talking to anyone about the order.
It has been used 35 times as of March 31, 2005, never at a library or bookstore.
Sec. 217: Allows the government to eavesdrop on electronic communications if one party agrees, without judicial oversight. The section was designed for cases of computer trespassing, when an Internet service provider wants the police to help investigate an attack. Some critics say this provision gives the ISPs and the police the power to go after people who might be illegally sharing files or who have violated the terms of their use agreements.
Sec. 218: Expands the use of foreign intelligence wiretaps to cases where intelligence is merely a "significant" purpose of the probe, rather than the "primary" purpose as before. This key amendment to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act is also seen as key to removing the "wall" between intelligence and criminal investigations.
Sec. 220: Allows nationwide search warrants for electronic communications. Eliminates the need to seek multiple warrants for Internet messages, which may pass through several jurisdictions.
Sec. 223: Allows people to sue the government over unauthorized disclosures of wiretap information.
Sec. 225: Provides immunity from lawsuits for people cooperating in an intelligence wiretap.