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US congressional leaders agree to extend Patriot Act through 2015

Top US congressional leaders agreed Thursday to put forth a clean extension of controversial provisions of the USA Patriot Act [text; JURIST news archive] until 2015. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) [official websites] agreed to extend [WP report] several key provisions of the Act with no amendments and will first put it to floor debate in the House next Monday, where it could reach a final vote by the following Wednesday. Controversial provisions to be renewed include provisions allowing the government to use roving wiretaps on multiple carriers and electronic devices and allowing the government to gain access to certain records relevant to its investigations. The "lone wolf" provision enables investigators to get warrants to conduct surveillance over targets not connected to any particular terrorist group. It is unclear whether House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) [official website] agrees with the extension.

Last February, the US House of Representatives [official website] passed a short-term extension [JURIST report] until May 27 of the controversial surveillance provisions after they were set to expire on February 28, two days after the US Senate [official website] passed [JURIST report] the bill by an 86-12 vote. Earlier that week, a simple majority of the House approved a similar bill that would have extended the three provisions until December after it had failed [JURIST reports] the prior week under a special rule that required a two-thirds majority. Prior to that vote, the Obama administration released a statement of administration policy [text, PDF] vying for a three-year renewal of the provisions. The provisions were extended in February 2010 after the Obama administration asked the Senate Judiciary Committee to extend [JURIST reports] the Patriot Act.

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