Senate & House Vote to Extend Patriot Act Provisions 90 Days

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Date: 
February 18, 2011

Update: Feb. 17, the House of Representatives joined their colleagues in the Senate and voted to extend the legal authority of three Patriot Act provisions for 90 days.  The president is expected to sign the bill before the provisions expire on Feb. 28. The three month extension until May 27 gives Congress additional time to debate the surveillance provisions that have been criticized for violated privacy rights. 

To allow more time to debate three expiring Patriot Act provisions, the Senate voted to pass a 90 day extension on Feb. 15, 2011. This comes just one day after the House had voted to extend the surveillance provisions until Dec. 8. The Senate’s version will now go to the House. If Congress does not act, the provisions would expire on Feb. 28. 

In the run up to the deadline, several lawmakers have called for further debate to offer amendments and increase civil liberty safeguards. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) said in a statement that the extension provides an "opportunity to explain why the Constitution is being violated. We should talk about how we do not have to give up who we are in order to fight terrorism. It is not acceptable to willfully ignore the most basic provisions of our Constitution—in this case—the Fourth and First Amendments—in the name of security.”

Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D- VT) said, “With the three-month extension… we will be able to consider the USA PATRIOT Act Sunset Extension Act of 2011 and improve authorities that are otherwise set to expire.  Our bill can promote transparency and expand privacy and civil liberties safeguards in the law. It will increase judicial oversight of government surveillance powers that capture information on Americans.”  
 
On Feb. 11, Representative Tom McClintock (R-CA) called the Patriot Act “dangerous” and said, "A year ago, I made a terrible mistake and voted to extend those provisions of the Patriot Act. But the more that I learned, the more that I researched, it became crystal clear to me this that this is not only an affront to our bill of rights, but it's a fundamental challenge to our freedom."
 
The expiring provisions grant authority for roving wiretaps on terror suspects. Another provision allows for the examination of a terror suspect’s personal and business records. The third provision permits surveillance of "lone wolf" suspects, those who act alone who may not be associated with a terrorist organization. For more infomration about the surveillence provisions, click here.