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BREAKING NEWS ~ Senate approves Patriot Act renewal

[JURIST] The US Senate [official website] has approved a long-term renewal of the USA PATRIOT Act [PDF text; JURIST news archive] by a vote of 89-10 [roll call vote]. The vote was expected [JURIST report] after the Senate approved amendments to the USA PATRIOT and Terrorism Prevention Reauthorization Act of 2005 [bill summary] which incorporate additional civil liberties protections: 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.

Sixteen provisions of the Patriot Act were set to expire at the end of last year, but members of Congress were unable to reach agreement on the terms of the renewal, prompting instead two short-term extensions [JURIST report]. The renewal legislation will make 14 of the provisions permanent and extend the remaining two until 2009. The current legislation is set to expire March 10. The legislation approved today has already been approved by the House [THOMAS bill status] and will go to the President for signature along with another renewal-related bill still in process.

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