In response to the September 11, 2001 attacks, The USA PATRIOT Act was quickly developed as a means by which the government could hope to put an end to terrorism. USA Patriot is an acronym for "Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism"--an elaborate acronym for a lengthy document (the Patriot Act is nearly 350+ pages long). President Bush signed it into law on October 26, 2001, after it received little congressional review or debate. Giving almost unlimited anti-privacy powers to domestic law enforcement and international intelligence agencies, PATRIOT virtually eliminates checks and balances that previously gave courts the opportunity to ensure that those powers were not abused.
Therefore, the Patriot Act threatens the basic liberties and freedoms of millions of Americans, and the courts can do little in helping them to keep them.
With seemingly unlimited authority, the federal government can target and spy on any American citizen by using surveillance equipment (Sec. 214 "authority to use wiretap/pen register/trap and trace equipment). Most commonly, the federal government may use wire-tapping devices on a citizen's telephone lines. Title II of the Patriot Act outlines this in it's policy on enhanced surveillance procedures. In sections 201 and 202 the government says it has the " authority to intercept wire, oral, and electronic communications relating to terrorism, computer fraud and abuse offenses" and may if they find it necessary, have the "authority to share criminal investigative information" with anyone, including other regular American citizens, as outlined in Section 203. They may also record and confiscate all voice-mail messages (Sec. 209 "seizure of voice-mail messages pursuant to warrants"), phone call records (Sec. 215 Access to records and other items ) and phone conversations relating, but not limited to crimes including terrorist activity or fraud.