NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


April 13, 2005

The Patriot Act is a necessary and constitutional response to the terrorist attacks on the United States. These attacks demonstrated many weaknesses in our legal system's ability to find and stop those who would attack, says Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Sessions, a former federal prosecutor for 15 years, says there are no provisions in the act that undermine the principles of our Constitution. The Patriot Act, he explains, was carefully drafted and, after more than three years, no part of the act has been struck down.

Since our founding, laws have provided for court-approved search warrants and the issuance of subpoenas to obtain documents relevant to investigations, says Sessions.

  • Some have complained that library records, though never mentioned in the act, could be subpoenaed, but county prosecutors regularly issue subpoenas for bank, hospital, motel or phone records if they are relevant to a criminal investigation in even a simple fraud case.
  • The confusion arises from the fact that while health, bank and library records are often given privacy protection by state laws, they are not protected from a lawful subpoena; corporate prosecutions, for instance, use subpoenaed records.


  • The Patriot Act's procedure for delaying notification of the execution of a judicially approved search warrant was approved long before 9/11 by every federal circuit court that has considered the question.
  • Under the Patriot Act, if federal investigators first go to court before serving the warrant and make out a sufficient factual record, the court may order a delay in notification to the searched party.
  • While this procedure is seldom used, there will be times when this technique is critical, such as when investigating a terrorist cell.

Source: Jeff Sessions, "Law doesn't erode liberties: Patriot Act gives law enforcement legal tools needed to fight terror," USA Today, April 13, 2005.


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