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US House Passes Patriot Act Extension; Senate Passage Not Assured

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On Wednesday, the US House of Representatives passsed an extension of the 2001 Patriot Act (HR 3199, 251-174) which gives the FBI authority to use a variety of surveillance methods, including roving wiretaps, and powers such as seeing private medical records. Sixteen provisions in the current bill will sunset on Dec. 31.

Signed into law only weeks after Sept. 11, 2001, the Patriot Act is the product of a Congress jolted into action, any action, to respond to terrorism. Four years later, the White House has been pressing both houses of Congress to pass a Republican compromise bill. However, a bipartisan group of senators is pressing for reconsideration and has threatened a filibuster.
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In addition, an unusual coalition is also calling for a delay: Opposition groups are as varied as the American Conservative Union, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Cato Institute. According to the Christian Science Monitor, “Seven states and nearly 400 counties and communities have approved resolutions critical of the Patriot Act.”

At issue are provisions allowing the FBI access to personal information without a warrant through the use of “National Security Letters” and the act’s broad definition of terrorism, which could include traditional acts of civil disobedience.

“The fact that Congress wasn’t aware that the FBI has used some 30,000 national-security letters over the past few years is an indication that not enough oversight has been done,” says Tim Lynch, director of the CATO Institute’s project on criminal justice. “The money-laundering sections of the Patriot Act require scores of businesses to track the transactions of their customers and report to the government. It’s an aspect of the Patriot Act that doesn’t get much attention, but it should. This has huge implications for people’s privacy.”

Sen. John Sununu (R-NH) and Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) are leading Senate opposition. Feingold cast the lone dissenting vote against the original bill in 2001. Feingold called the House bill “a major disappointment.” It takes 60 votes to stop a filibuster; there have been no rumors of Republicans invoking the “nuclear option” should a filibuster occur.

Some House Democrats expressed concern that a vote against the bill could hurt them in 2006 electionis. Only 155 Democrats voted against the House bill; 44 Democrats joined 207 Republicans in voting “yes.” Another 19 Republicans voted “no.” After passage in the House, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) vetoed the idea of a “short-term extension” of the bill.

Read more:
An 11th hour drive to amend Patriot Act,
Bipartisan Senate Stall of Patriot Act Renewal,
PBS Debate, Attorney Gen. Alberto R. Gonzales Calls for Reauthorization, Qualms about anti-terror law unite the left and right

Prior coverage:
Bush to Congress: Renew Patriot Act,
House Passes Patriot Act Amendments,
Congressional Republicans Reach Deal on Patriot Act,
Libraries and Patriot Act

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This story first appeared at
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About Kathy

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    Kathy, nice job, especially with all those links. Call me a cynic, but if the Senate filibusters this bill, then expect to see a major terrorist attack in your country.

    Your president needs something to help him override the bill of rights and the rest of the constitution. Real opposition to him and his policies, justified or not, is growing to the point where his legitimacy appears to be under question.

  • gonzo marx

    Ruvy sez…
    * Call me a cynic, but if the Senate filibusters this bill, then expect to see a major terrorist attack in your country.*

    with all due Respect…i call bullshit

    firstly…the FBI is ONLY supposed to deal with domestic Issues among american citizens…INS for illegal alien issues…and the CIA for all things foreign

    so you see, it is a gross violation of the $th Amendment of our Constitution to violate a citizens privacy on a mere “fishing” expedition(like those 30,000 cited in the Post)

    so much more to this, but i wanted to make the point that many provisions of the “Patriot” act are unconstitutional…and THAT is the problem

    MANY of the “Acts” provisions are NOT being used against “terrorists” but against our own citizens

    the fallacious assertation that if we don’t pass thgis, just as it is, may have worked days after Sept 11th….before congress and senators actually got to read it

    but a sad, sick , sorry Day for our Republic if this shit passes under the clear cold Light of examination as seen through the lenses of Civil Liberties and constitutional rights (think 4th amendment here folks)

    Excelsior!

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    Gonzo, you can yell “bullshit” all you want, but just because a box says cigarettes on it does NOT mean that cigarettes are indeed inside.

    You are right in all that is “supposed” to be, and you are right that most of the “Patriot” Act is unconstitutional. But after four years of living in a country that is becoming more and more of an open dictatorship daily (and having had my ideals trashed entirely in the process), I’ve gotten a tad cynical.

    Your prez wants absolute power and will do what the thinks he needs to do to get it.

  • MDE

    Filed under couldn’t resist:

    *it is a gross violation of the 5th Amendment of our Constitution to violate a citizens privacy on a mere “fishing” expedition(like those 30,000 cited in the Post*

    it is a gross violation and crime against humanity to deprive an individual of his right to life on a mere “fishing” expedition (like those ‘30,000’ in Iraq)

    Saddamize Bush – off to the Hague with him

    Mark

  • http://uspolitics.about.com/b/a/207524.htm Kathy

    Story updated – Senate filibuster holds.