Feingold filibustering again to block Patriot Act renewal

[JURIST] US Sen. Russell Feingold [official website] has begun one more perhaps-quixotic filibuster against renewal of the USA Patriot Act [JURIST news archive], claiming that new versions of key provisions offer only modest protection for civil liberties [floor statement transcript; MP3 recorded audio]. Feingold has so far received little support on his latest attempt to block renewal [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel report] of the far-reaching US anti-terror law, and US Senate Judicial Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (R-PA) [official website] says he will soon have the 60 votes needed to overcome the filibuster. Sixteen provisions of the act are currently set to expire on March 10.

Most senators agree that years of talks over the expiring provisions have led to tighter limits on governmental power in comparison to the original version of the legislation enacted shortly after the September 11 terrorist attacks [JURIST news archive]. While Feingold recognizes only one modest change in favor of protecting civil liberties, other senators point to several improvements. House Judiciary Committee chairman James Sensenbrenner recently outlined what he regards as 27 new civil liberty safeguards [HJC materials] in the latest Patriot Act renewal conference report. AP has more.

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