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Senate approves extended Patriot Act, but with limitations

[JURIST] By voice vote late Friday the US Senate unanimously approved a bill that would permanently extend most provisions of the USA Patriot Act [text] while limiting it in the most controversial areas. The Senate legislation puts a four-year cap on the two most highly debated measures - the "library provision," which allows the FBI to obtain records from libraries, doctor offices and businesses after receiving approval from the US Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court [Wikipedia profile], and another that allows roving wiretaps on individuals. The US House of Representatives approved its own extension [JURIST report] to the act earlier this month, but placed a 10-year limitation on the two provisions. The Senate bill will also set stricter requirements for the FBI to seize records, allow people to dispute issued warrants, and require that individuals secretly searched must be told within seven days unless an extension is obtained. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] has voiced its opposition to broad extension of the act, but a spokesperson for the group said [ACLU press release] Friday that "[t]his good faith effort made by Senators, while imperfect, is a good starting point, and is vastly better than its counterpart passed by the House." The Senate and House of Representatives are expected to negotiate a final version of the Patriot Act extension this fall. Read a US Department of Justice press release issued after Senate passage, expressing confidence that "Congress will ultimately send the President a bill that does not undermine the ability of investigators and prosecutors to disrupt terrorist plots and combat terrorism effectively." The Washington Post has more.

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