Q. Does the US Patriot Act allow the US government to access my personal information?*

A. Yes. The Patriot Act allows for the US Government to access personal information that is held or accessible by anyone within the United States or any US citizen by two different methods. The first tool which the US Government possesses is found in Section 215 of the Patriot Act. Under this section the relevant Government agency must apply to a court for an order allowing them to access the personal information in question. The information which can be collected pursuant to this court order is very broad. The second tool which the US Government has is found in Section 505 of the Patriot Act. It is under this section that the Government can issue National Security Letters whereby they can request that personal information be disclosed to them. The information can be accessed where it meets the following criteria: that the information sought is relevant to an authorized investigation to protect against international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities. No court order is necessary for a National Security Letter to be issued; however, the type of information that is retrievable is more limited than through that available in a Section 215 (see above) order.

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