House fails to pass Patriot Act extension
House fails to pass Patriot Act extension
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[JURIST] The US House of Representatives [official website] on Tuesday defeated a bill [HR 514 text] to renew three provisions of the USA Patriot Act [text; JURIST news archive]. The vote was 277 to 148 [roll call], falling short of the two-thirds majority required for the “suspension of the rules” procedure. The provisions in question, set to expire on February 28, create the authority for roving surveillance, including wire-taps and cell phone monitoring; compel production of business records and “other tangible things” under section 215 of the Act; and allow the US to target non-US persons “who engage in international terrorism or activities in preparation therefor, but are not necessarily associated with an identified terrorist group,” under the “lone wolf” amendment, section 6001. Earlier this month, the Obama administration released a Statement of Administration Policy [text, PDF] vying for a three-year renewal of the features, but expressed support for the now-failed House bill. A major opponent of the bill, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website], was pleased with the vote [press release], with Laura Murphy, director of the ACLU’s Washington Legislative Office stating:

The House should be commended for refusing to rubberstamp the continuation of these provisions. For the nearly 10 years it has been law, the over-reaching Patriot Act has been abused by law enforcement to violate innocent Americans’ privacy. We urge both the House and the Senate to keep up this momentum and continue to fight the extension of these provisions that put Americans’ privacy at risk.

Republican lawmakers are expected to bring the bill up again for a vote by simple majority before the provisions expire.

In September 2009, the Obama administration asked the Senate Judiciary Committee to extend the Patriot Act, which it did in February 2010 [JURIST reports]. The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] dismissed [JURIST report] a constitutional challenge to the Patriot Act in December 2009 due to lack of standing. The US District Court for the District of Oregon [official website] had previously ruled that certain provisions of the act were unconstitutional [JURIST report]. The Patriot Act was passed in 2001, on the heels of the 9/11 attacks, greatly expanding US law enforcement’s powers of surveillance and discretion when conducting terrorism investigations, and the US Government’s ability to regulate foreign individuals’ and immigrants’ financial transactions.