House extends key Patriot Act provisions

By Associated Press
February 15, 2011

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WASHINGTON — The House agreed yesterday to a 10-month extension of three key law enforcement powers in the fight against terrorism that some privacy advocates from both the right and left regard as infringements on civil liberties.

The House measure, passed 275 to 144, would extend authority for the USA Patriot Act-related provisions until Dec. 8. Common ground must be found with the Senate before the provisions expire on Feb. 28.

At issue are two provisions of the post-Sept. 11 law that give counterterrorism offices roving wiretap authority to monitor multiple electronic devices and court-approved access to business records relating to a terrorist investigation. The third “lone wolf’’ provision of a 2004 law permits secret intelligence surveillance of non-US individuals not known to be linked to a specific terrorist organization.

Last week the House, in an embarrassment for the new GOP leadership, failed to pass the same bill under an expedited procedure requiring a two-thirds majority. Twenty-six Republicans joined 122 Democrats in voting against it. Yesterday’s vote drew 27 Republican no votes.

The main objections are to what critics see as unconstitutional search and seize authority and big government intrusions into private lives.

“I believe the American people have a legitimate fear of out-of-control government,’’ said conservative Republican Dana Rohrabacher, one of the no votes.