[JURIST] US President Obama signed a four-year extension [press release] of the Patriot Act [materials; JURIST news archive] late Thursday night, minutes before it was set to expire. The bill passed the US Senate [official website] 72-23 [roll call vote], and shortly after passed the US House of Representatives [official website] by a vote of 250-153 [roll call vote]. Although major congressional leaders of both parties had agreed to a clean extension of the act [JURIST report] last week, delays were met when Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) [official website] filibustered the bill over the lack of an amendment process and serious concerns about privacy. After three days of filibustering, Paul received votes on two amendments that ultimately failed, both related to the ability of security officials to survey gun purchases. Controversial provisions 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.
Last February, the House passed a short-term extension until May 27 of the controversial surveillance provisions after they were set to expire on February 28, two days after the Senate passed [JURIST reports] 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.