Government Collection of Private Information: Background and Issues related to the USA PATRIOT Act Reauthorization [March 2, 2010] [open pdf - 297KB]
"Congress enacted the USA PATRIOT Act soon after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The most controversial sections of the act facilitate the federal government's collection of more information, from a greater number of sources, than had previously been authorized in criminal or foreign intelligence investigations. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), and the national security letter (NSL) statutes were all bolstered. With the changes came greater access to records showing an individual's spending and communication patterns as well as increased authority to intercept e-mail and telephone conversations and to search homes and businesses. In some cases, evidentiary standards required to obtain court approval for the collection of information were lowered. Other approaches included expanding the scope of information subject to search, adding flexibility to the methods by which information could be collected, and broadening the purposes for which information may be sought. [...] Subsequent measures made most of the USA PATRIOT Act changes permanent. However, three authorities affecting the collection of foreign intelligence information are set to expire on February 28, 2011: the lone wolf, roving wiretap, and business record sections of FISA. The 111th Congress replaced an earlier expiration date with the 2011 date. Before that change was made, the impending expiration prompted legislative proposals which revisit changes made by the USA PATRIOT Act and related measures. [...] This report surveys the legal environment in which the legislative proposals arise."
CRS Report for Congress, R40980