The Patriot Act

Jurisdiction of this law:

Type of Rule:

Popular name:
The Patriot Act

Official name:
Uniting And Strengthening America By Providing Appropriate Tools Required To Intercept And Obstruct Terrorism (USA Patriot Act) Act Of 2001

Other names:
USA Patriot Act, H.R.3162, USAPA

For more information:
Library of Congress official site:

March 9, 2006 update to the act:|/bss/d109query.html

Commentary on Bush's "signing statement":

Compendium of information:

Life and Liberty commentary:

The USA Patriot Act dramatically expanded the authority of U.S. law enforcement agencies for the stated purpose of fighting terrorism in the United States and abroad.

It has many provisions, including ones that affect data and information and how it is used. A discussion of the Patriot Act is included in this section because it so clearly illustrates a common controversy in governance: a real or perceived lack of alignment between Decision Rights and actual data-related decisions. Decision rights specify who gets to make decisions, and when, using what processes. A principle of governance is that checks-and-balances should be built into decision rights, so that no one party has unchecked power to make decisions that affect multiple stakeholder groups.

With the USA Patriot Act, great controversy continues to exist about its reduction of checks-and-balances between branches of the US government. Of concern are decision rights regarding the definition of citizens' right to privacy and protection from illegal search and seizure. The USA Patriot Act gives the Executive branch of the US government unprecedented power to intercept wire, oral, and electronic communications, to conduct domestic surveillance of individuals, to review personal internet use, and to view educational, library, medical and financial records without demonstrating evidence of commission of a crime.

Detractors object to the law for various reasons. Each of their concerns is accepted as conceptually valid by nearly all participants, it seems; the question is how to decide which set of stakeholder rights will take precedent when multiple concerns collide.

If you are charged with creating internal data-related standards, rules, or policies, it is worth your while to understand the classes of objections to this law so you can analyze your own decisions in terms of how they comply with your stakeholders' expectations for decision rights.

Decision-rights objections to the USA Patriot Act:

Protection of individual's rights. Some detractors are concerned with citizens as individuals, objecting to the erosion of personal rights of US citizens. Individuals, they argue, have been given protection against unreasonable search and seizure from the country's earliest days and have always had access to due process. They argue that it is completely unacceptable to give any other set of individuals the empowerment to strip away these rights, especially when it is possible to reach investigative goals and still respect rights.

Honoring checks-and-balances. Other detractors are concerned about bedrock American principles, pointing to the unbalancing of governmental checks-and-balances, arguing that such unbalance opens the door for unchecked abuses.

Unchecked power. The act was updated and reauthorized on March 9, 2006. President Bush issued a "signing statement"   to the effect that he would not feel bound to comply with some of the provisions of the law htp:// ,  leading to objections htp://  that the Executive Branch does not have the power to ignore any provisions of laws.

Process. Other detractors are concerned about governmental process, arguing that giving one group unbridled power to decide what constitutes a situation worthy of reduced rights - and therefore deciding which groups will lose rights without notice or opportunity for redress - is an unacceptable workflow.

Hierarchy of policy. Other detractors look to the way rules have always been stacked on each other: Constitutional rights, then Federal Laws, then State Laws, then local regulations. They argue that it is illegal process to "pull out" constitutional protections - that such changes require changes to the constitution, after due process.

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Copyright 2004-2008 The Data Governance Institute, LLC. All Rights Reserved
The site is brought to you in partnership with the Business Intelligence Network

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