U.S. Senate Extends Patriot Act Spying
The Senate voted late Tuesday to extend through May three controversial Patriot Act spy measures that were set to expire at month’s end.
The 86-12 vote came a day after the House voted to extend the same provisions to Dec. 8. The fate of both bills remained unclear late Tuesday.
The action in both chambers can best be described as a Groundhog Day for the Patriot Act.
The expiring provisions at issue were set to sunset in December 2009. Congress extended the deadline until the end of February 2010 in a bid to work out compromise legislation. When that failed, lawmakers punted for a year, declaring that those measures would expire at the end of this month unless new action is taken.
President Barack Obama has said he wants the measures extended, without change, through at least 2012. The act was hastily adopted after the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks.
Here are the extended provisions at issue:
• The “roving wiretap” provision allows the FBI to obtain wiretaps from a secret intelligence court, known as the FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) court, without identifying the target or what method of communication is to be tapped.
• The “lone wolf” measure allows FISA court warrants for the electronic monitoring of a person for whatever reason — even without showing that the suspect is an agent of a foreign power or a terrorist. The government has said it has never invoked that provision, but the Obama administration said it wanted to retain the authority to do so.
• The “business records” provision allows FISA court warrants for any type of record, from banking to library to medical, without the government having to declare that the information sought is connected to a terrorism or espionage investigation.