U.S. House votes to renew expiring Patriot Act

Friday, July 22, 2005

President Bush in Baltimore: "We're constantly monitoring intelligence reports. And part of our job is to collect intelligence, look at it, analyze it, and if it's a problem that relates to a security system at a local level, we'll let you know as quickly as possible." 2005-07-20

The U.S. House of Representatives voted Thursday night to renew several provisions of the Patriot Act which was established after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The final vote was 257-171, this now makes 14 of the 16 original provisions of the Patriot Act permanent and will extend the other two for an additional 10 years.

The two provisions which were only extended for 10 years have been called unconstitutional by some civil liberties advocates as well as several law makers from both the right and left. They say that the provisions give law enforcement "sweeping powers" that could be abused. However, President Bush as well as several Republican and Democratic members of Congress say that the provisions have been used judiciously and provide key tools needed to fight terrorism.

House lawmakers widely viewed the uncontroversial provisions of the Patriot Act as breaking down "the wall" that was a barrier to communication and cooperation between FBI and CIA agencies. The two provisions which received 10-year extensions were concerned with allowing roving wiretaps, and the other with allowing searches of library and medical records. In a pre-vote Q & A, U.S. federal attorney Paul McNulty explained that a federal search in those intrusive situations require independent federal judge approval, which is granted under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act in Section 215.

The U.S. Senate's reauthorization of the Patriot Act has differences from the House version. Both bills head to conference committee to be combined into one cohesive law.

In a Wednesday morning address to a gathering at the Port of Baltimore, in Maryland, President Bush called on congress for passage of the act: "The Patriot Act is expected to expire, but the terrorist threats will not expire. I expect, and the American people expect, the United States Congress and the United States Senate to renew the Patriot Act, without weakening our ability to fight terror, and they need to get that bill to my desk soon." The sunset provision of the act is due take effect at the end of this year, in which case the act would expire.