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SIM Materials

SIM Curriculum - Renewal of the PATRIOT Act

Discover curriculum materials for the Renewal of the PATRIOT Act Senate Immersion Module experience at the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate

Following the terrorist attacks on America on September 11, 2001, Congress overwhelmingly passed a collection of sweeping security measures called the USA PATRIOT Act. This legislation gave the government new surveillance powers to monitor communications, allowed for closer oversight of financial institutions and accounts, and strengthened border security. In subsequent years, voices across the political spectrum raised concerns that interpretations of the USA PATRIOT Act violated the civil liberties of American citizens – coming to a head in 2013 when a government contractor leaked evidence that the US government had been collecting bulk data on American citizens.

In this SIM, students take on the roles of Senators from the 114th Congress to debate whether to reauthorize, alter, or do away with controversial sections of the USA PATRIOT Act, including

(1) To what extent should the government monitor the bank accounts of foreign customers?

(2) Under what circumstances can suspected terrorists be detained?

(3) Who should be on the terrorist watchlist? (4) Who decides what types of surveillance can be deployed in monitoring suspected threats? These and other questions harken back to America’s earliest debates about civil liberties vs. national security. How Americans view this debate today will shape American policy in the future.

Created by the Edward M. Kennedy Institute, Gigantic Mechanic, and the McConnell Center at the University of Louisville

Reviewed by US Senate Offices

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