Congress Approves Patriot Act Extension
The US House of Representatives today approved a 90-day extension of key provisions of the controversial USA Patriot Act, a liberty-reducing counterterrorism surveillance law enacted in the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. The highly partisan 279-143 House vote (with Republicans overwhelmingly supporting the extension and Democrats mostly opposing it) comes two days after the US Senate approved the three-month extension. The measure now heads to President Barack Obama’s desk for his signature.
Three key provisions of the Patriot Act were set to expire at the end of this month. One, Section 206, allows for roving wiretap surveillance of terrorism suspects who try to thwart Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) monitoring. Another, Section 215, permits the US government to seize “tangible items” during the course of surveillance. The third provision, Section 6001 of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorist Prevention Act of 2004, allows for the surveillance of “lone wolf” terrorism suspects not affiliated with specific organizations.
Supporters of the extension argue that the three provisions give them a powerful tool with which to fight terrorism. Opponents say the provisions are intrusive and unconstitutional and run counter to the ideals of liberty that Americans cherish.
The Obama administration has said it would prefer a much longer extension of the three Patriot Act Provisions, through 2013.
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