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Patriot Act Appears Headed for Renewal

Over objections raised by both civil libertarians and tea party supporters, the Senate easily advanced renewal for four years of the nation’s anti-terrorism law, the Patriot Act.

A final vote in the Senate and also a House vote were expected later, but the Senate vote of 74-8 on a procedural step to bring the measure’s renewal to the floor showed strong support.

The bill would renew the government’s authority to spy on a “lone wolf,” a non-U.S. citizen suspected of terrorism who may not belong to a known terrorist group; and it would extend provisions for roving wiretap court orders and for court orders to seize “any tangible things” judged relevant to a terrorism probe.

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., was a leader in opposing the measure. He contended it involved swapping privacy for national security, according to a Los Angeles Times article. “We cannot give up our liberty. If we do, if we trade it for security, we’ll have neither,” Paul said.

“We’re very disappointed,” said Michelle Richardson of the American Civil Liberties Union, which tried to amend the law. Congress and the administration, Richardson said, “are no longer pursuing meaningful reforms that would protect privacy.”

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Patriot Act Extension Rejected in House

The House of Representatives narrowly defeated Tuesday a measure to temporarily extend  key provisions of the USA Patriot Act, the nation’s main counterterrorism law.

The setback for House Republican leaders came after some tea party linked Republicans voted against the measure, and it fell seven votes shy of a two-thirds supermajority required under a procedure adopted for expedited passage.

Because the provisions are set to expire Feb. 28, a new vote is likely to be scheduled soon under regular rules, according to a Washington Post article.

A number of tea party members view the legislation as over-reaching by the government into private matters, the Los Angeles Times reported, and it said a coalition of veteran Republicans and conservative new lawmakers blocked its passage.

House Democrats split over the bill. Some saw it permitting overly broad surveillance authority. House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, D-Mich., protested that the Patriot Act was “one of the worst laws this body has ever passed.”

The bill would renew the government’s authority to spy on a “lone wolf,” a non-U.S. citizen suspected of terrorism who may not belong to a known terrorist group; and it would extend provisions for roving wiretap court orders and for court orders to seize “any tangible things” judged relevant to a terrorism probe (see Gavel Grab).

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Extension of Patriot Act Provisions Sought

The House of Representatives is preparing to vote on whether to extend  key provisions of the USA Patriot Act, the nation’s main counterterrorism law.

The bill would renew the government’s authority to spy on a “lone wolf,” a non-U.S. citizen suspected of terrorism who may not belong to a known terrorist group; and it would extend provisions for roving wiretap court orders and for court orders to seize “any tangible things” judged relevant to a terrorism probe.

These provisions are set to expire Feb. 28 unless Congress acts, according to a Washington Post article. In a recent letter, Attorney General Eric Holder and James Clapper, director of National Intelligence, wrote congressional leaders to seek reauthorization of the provisions through 2013. The House bill would extend them through Dec. 8.

The Patriot Act initially was passed in October 2001, following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. According to a New York Times article:

“The Patriot Act became a symbol of eroding civil liberties for those who believed that the expansion of government power had come at the expense of individual rights. As a result, extending its provisions as they periodically expire has often proved difficult.”

To learn more about the Patriot Act and controversy around it, check out Gavel Grab.

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Obama Signs Patriot Act Extension

President Obama signed into law a measure to extend key provisions of the USA Patriot Act for one year, the Associated Press reported.

The measure is the nation’s main counterterrorism law. The extension signed by Obama did not contain new privacy protections that had been advocated by some congressional Democrats; Senate Democrats had to retreat on those protections when they could not muster enough votes to advance them. To learn more, see Gavel Grab.

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House Votes to Extend Patriot Act Provisions

The House of Representatives has passed 315 to 97 a bill to extend for a year key provisions of the USA Patriot Act, the nation’s main counterterrorism law, the Associated Press reported. The bill, already approved  by the Senate, goes to President Obama for his signature.

As mentioned earlier this week in Gavel Grab, Senate Democrats retreated on new privacy protections when they could not muster enough votes to advance them.

The bill would renew the government’s authority to spy on a “lone wolf,” a non-U.S. citizen suspected of terrorism who may not belong to a known terrorist group; and it would extend provisions for roving wiretap court orders and for court orders to seize “any tangible things” judged relevant to a terrorism probe. You can read about controversy over the legislation in Gavel Grab.

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Another Extension Ahead for Patriot Act?

Congress appears poised once again to punt on renewing key sections of the USA Patriot Act.

When Senate Democrats could not muster the 60 votes needed to advance new privacy protections to the counterterrorism law, they retreated,  and the Senate passed a one-year extension of three key provisions that were set to expire, according to the Associated Press. The House was expected to take up the extension soon.

Set aside in the Senate “were restrictions and greater scrutiny on the government’s authority to spy on Americans and seize their records,” the AP reported. Republicans contended terror investigations would be weakened by the changes.

You can read more about debate over renewing the legislation in earlier Gavel Grab posts.

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Congress Punts on Patriot Act Renewal

Three key USA Patriot Act provisions appear headed for a two-month extension, after House of Representatives leaders resisted a Senate plan to insert reauthorization of the expiring  provisions into a must-pass Pentagon spending bill.

House Leader Nancy Pelosi argued that to accept inclusion of the provisions would lead to a “revolt on the left,” according to an article in Politico.

Both the House and Senate Judiciary committees have passed versions to reauthorize the key provisions, but lawmakers have not reached agreement on reconciling differences between the two versions. The House version offers greater safeguards for citizens.

In a key difference, the bill passed by the House committee  would not renew the government’s authority to spy on a “lone wolf,” a non-U.S. citizen suspected of terrorism who may not belong to a known terrorist group; a bill passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee, in contrast, would renew that authority.

The two-month extension will be written into a Pentagon spending bill that must be passed this month, according to Main Justice.

The USA Patriot Act is an acronym for “Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism.” To learn more about debate over renewal of key provisions,  click here for earlier Gavel Grab posts or see Justice at Stake’s page on National Security and  Civil Liberties.  A  2006 JAS publication entitled “Courting Danger,” analyzed how the law “dramatically weakened the historic power of the courts to protect our rights and check government abuses.”

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Holder Backs Senate Version on Patriot Act Provisions

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has voiced support for a Senate version of legislation to extend three key provisions of the USA Patriot Act. Holder did not endorse a House version that goes further to revise the anti-terrorism law to curb federal government surveillance and seizure powers.

In a letter to members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Holder expressed “strong support” for the Senate version, according to an article in Main Justice, which covers insider news about the Justice Department.

A bill passed by the House Judiciary Committee  would not renew the government’s authority to spy on a “lone wolf,” a non-U.S. citizen suspected of terrorism who may not belong to a known terrorist group, whereas the Senate version would renew that authority. The Obama administration desires extension of that power. Rival versions in both chambers  extend provisions for “roving wiretap” court orders and for court orders to seize “any tangible things” judged relevant to a terrorism probe.

An article in truthout, meanwhile, said extension of the three controversial provisions may be near, “evidently with a green light from the Obama administration and over strong objections from human rights and civil liberties groups.” The article is entitled, “Is a Redo of Post-9/11 Paranoia the Best We Can Do?” To learn more about debate over the impact, and provisions, of the Patriot Act, click here for earlier Gavel Grab posts.

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High Court Acccepts Cases on Patriot Act, Miranda, Job Bias

For the first time a part of the USA Patriot Act, passed by Congress shortly after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, will come under review by the Supreme Court.

The high court decided to hear an appeal by the Obama administration defending a law that makes it illegal to give support to a foreign terrorist group. An appeals court found the law unconstitutionally vague, according to an article by Reuters.

“The material support law resurrects guilt by association and makes it a crime for a human rights group in the United States to provide human rights training,” David Cole, the lead lawyer challenging the law, told Reuters.

But the Obama administration defended the law as “a vital part of the nation’s efforts to fight international terrorism.”

The high court also agreed Wednesday to hear these appeals in its new term:

  • A claim by black applicants for Chicago firefighter jobs that a test discriminated against them; at issue is the timing of their submitting a lawsuit, the Los Angeles Times reported.
  • A case from Michigan asking whether police can question a defendant who said he understood his Miranda rights, but did not formally invoke them, the Associated Press reported.
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Jockeying to Reform Patriot Act

A sizzling vignette about a Senate hearing and a meatier  piece about details of policy and politics combine to underscore the challenges facing liberals who want to curb the USA Patriot Act.

Dana Milbank’s colorful column in the Washington Post entitled “Talking Transparency Isn’t the Same as Seeing it Through” needles Assistant Attorney General David Kris, President Obama’s “point man on the legislation.” When senators asked him hard questions, he gave guarded replies and “sounded very much like his predecessors in the Bush administration,” Milbank writes.

Although Obama pledged new openness in his administration, the column continues with a slap by Steven Aftergood, who heads the Project on Government Secrecy for the Federation of American Scientists: “So far, the continuities between the Obama and Bush administration overwhelm the differences.”

Meanwhile ,Theo Emery examines rival Democratic proposals in a Time magazine article, “Can Liberal Democrats Reform the Patriot Act?” The “Justice Act” whose Read more

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