House passes short-term Patriot Act extension

House passes short-term Patriot Act extension

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[JURIST] The US House of Representatives [official website] on Thursday voted 279-143 [roll call vote] to extend three surveillance provisions of the USA Patriot Act [text; JURIST news archive] through May 27. The measures were set to expire on February 28. The provisions extended include roving wiretaps, “lone wolf” terrorism suspects and the government’s ability to seize “any tangible items” in the course of surveillance. The brief extension has been viewed as a delay tactic to allow Congress to continue debate and hold hearings over the controversial counter-terrorism law. The American Civil Liberties Union [advocacy website] issued a statement [press release] critical of the House’s decision, but urged Congress to use the additional time wisely:

It is regrettable that this extension means living with a bad law for three more months, but the silver lining is an opportunity for Congress to focus fully on making necessary reforms to the Patriot Act. The intrusive and extensive power that this law grants our government has very real and serious effects on Americans’ lives, and has been in place for far too long. Congress should use the next three months for the kind of vigorous debate Americans’ privacy deserves.

The bill will now be sent to President Barack Obama for his signature.

The US Senate [official website] passed [JURIST report] the bill on Tuesday by an 86-12 vote. Earlier in the 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. Earlier this month, the Obama administration released a statement of administration policy [text, PDF] vying for a three-year renewal of the provisions, but expressed support for the bill passed Monday. The provisions were extended in February 2010 after the Obama administration asked the Senate Judiciary Committee to extend [JURIST reports] the Patriot Act.