[JURIST] A long-term renewal of the USA Patriot Act [PDF text; JURIST news archive] now seems likely as four key Republican senators who had been holding out on approving an extension have reached an agreement [JURIST report] with the White House. Sixteen key provisions [DOJ report, PDF] of the Patriot Act were set to expire at the end of last year, but members of Congress were unable to reach an agreement [JURIST report] on a long-term extension before Christmas and instead have passed two short-term extensions [JURIST report] keeping the provisions in force until March 10. The US House of Representatives and the White House had backed the renewal proposal in December's conference report [PDF text], but Senate Democrats, joined by the four Republicans, refused to agree, calling for more civil liberties protections to be incorporated into the renewal.
Under the compromise agreement [PDF summary; press release], recipients of Section 215 subpoenas for information in terror investigations would be able to challenge the accompanying gag order; people who receive National Security Letters (NSL) [sample text, PDF; ACLU backgrounder] would no longer be required to provide the FBI the names of lawyers consulted about the NSL; and current law would be clarified to ensure that libraries functioning in their traditional roles would not be subject to NSLs. Several Senate Democrats have also agreed to back the compromise, though other Democrats insist that the agreement includes only minor changes to the conference report and falls short on protecting freedoms [Sen. Feingold (D-MI) press release]. Friday's Washington Post has more.