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BREAKING NEWS ~ House approves Patriot Act renewal

[JURIST] The US House of Representatives has approved renewal of the USA PATRIOT Act [PDF text; JURIST news archive], sending the reauthorization bill to President Bush for his signature. The US Senate approved [JURIST report] the USA PATRIOT and Terrorism Prevention Reauthorization Act of 2005 [HR 3199 summary; DOJ fact sheet] last week.

Sixteen key provisions [DOJ report, PDF] of the Patriot Act were set to expire at the end of last year, but members of Congress were initially unable to reach agreement on the terms of the renewal, prompting instead two short-term extensions [JURIST report], the latest of which is set to expire March 10. The renewal legislation will make 14 of the provisions permanent and extend the remaining two until 2009, those being Section 206 on "roving" wiretaps under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and Section 215 on subpoenas under FISA. Four Republican senators joined with Democrats to oppose a previous version of the renewal, but eventually reached a compromise agreement [PDF summary; JURIST report] to incorporate additional civil liberties protections in the renewal. The additional safeguards include allowing recipients of Section 215 subpoenas for information in terror investigations to be able to challenge the accompanying gag order; eliminating a requirement that people who receive National Security Letters (NSL) [sample text, PDF; ACLU backgrounder] must provide the FBI the names of lawyers consulted about the NSL; and clarifying current law to ensure that libraries functioning in their traditional roles would not be subject to NSLs.

7:45 PM ET - The USA PATRIOT Act Additional Reauthorizing Amendments Act of 2006 [S. 2271 summary] passed the House 280-138 [roll call], with just two votes more than the two-thirds majority necessary to pass the bill on an expedited basis. S. 2271, a series of amendments to the reauthorization bill, was approved by the Senate [JURIST report] last week. Both bills will now go to President Bush for his signature. After the vote Speaker Dennis Hastert praised the anti-terror provisions [press release] in the bill and also welcomed the inclusion of "critical anti-drug provisions that we hope will stem the flow of methamphetamine into our communities." The bill now goes to President Bush for expected signature.

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