As noted by multiple civil libertarian groups, the PATRIOT ACT and its associated laws authorize the government to conduct courts in which the interpretation is not made public, and searches may be authorized without presenting the suspect with a warrant.

Is this permissible under the Constitution? Specifically, what precedent is available on the topics of due process and search and seizure that may inform a court's decision should they take a case challenging the act?

Edit: The parts I am most concerned with are sections 213 (Sneak and Peek), 215 (Access to records), and 218 (Reduced Wiretap Requirements). Although I find many other sections questionable, in the interest of keeping the question fully answerable, I am limiting my choices to these three.

  • 2
    Stack Exchange sites are not well-suited to this type of debate. Its not likely that someone could answer authoritatively (or even completely) whether the patriot act is constitutional without a lot of extended discussion around the talking points. This would be better suited to a chat room or threaded discussion forum. A Stack Exchange -style Q&A is not going to be amenable to these type of ongoing, adversarial debates found on most political forums. – Robert Cartaino Jan 4 '13 at 13:36
  • 1
    @RobertCartaino - meta.politics.stackexchange.com/questions/194/… – user4012 Jan 4 '13 at 14:39
  • @RobertCartaino can you reopen the question? – Snakes and Coffee Jan 4 '13 at 17:25
  • 1
    This may be more answerable if you zero in on specific "controvercial" provisions of the act that are widely disputed as being non-constitutional. – user4012 Feb 18 '13 at 16:39
  • 3
    Unless we have a Supreme Court judge here on the forum, I'm not sure how anyone here could give an opinion that wouldn't be merely argumentative and reflect but his personal opinion. Constitutional law is a complex and technical topic, which AFAIK requires extensive professional training to navigate. – StasM Feb 23 '13 at 21:55

The Supreme Court has recently provided several rulings on search and seizure, including several on technology searches. The most relevant recent case would be Riley v California (2014). In this case, the Court ruled 9-0 that police require a warrant to search a cell phone, even if that phone is on the person. The reasoning was that a cell phone today contains a lot of personal information that police would not generally have access to without a warrant, such as pictures of family, addresses and contacts, internet browsing history, location data, etc.

However, in Olmstead v US (1928) the Supreme Court ruled that wiretapping did not constitute a violation of search and seizure (Fourth Amendment) or self-incrimination (Fifth Amendment) because there was no entry into premises to be searched and Olmstead was free not to make self-incriminating remarks on the phone. This was a 5-4 decision and might be overturned if reviewed by the current court, which tends to allow a good degree of privacy rights. However, the current precedent is that wiretapping is not a violation of search and seizure.

Hope this helps!

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .