The US Senate [official website] on Tuesday voted 86 to 12 [roll call vote] to extend three surveillance provisions of the USA Patriot Act [text; JURIST news archive] through May 27. The measures were set to expire on February 28. The provisions extended include roving wiretaps, "lone wolf" terrorism suspects and the government's ability to seize "any tangible items" in the course of surveillance. The vote garnered support from both parties, and was seen as a delay tactic to allow Congress to further debate and hold hearings over the controversial counter-terrorism law. The American Civil Liberties Union [official website] released a statement [press release] chiding the Senate's decision, but urged Congress to use the time permitted by the extension wisely:
Every day that Congress continues to push back the February expiration deadline, the Patriot Act continues to erode one of Americans' most basic rights -- the freedom from unwarranted government intrusion into their privacy. If there has to be an extension of this law, we urge Congress to use the time well to finally rein in the pernicious impact of the intrusive provisions at stake.The bill will now be sent back to the US House of Representatives [official website] for approval.
Earlier this week, the House passed [JURIST report] a similar bill that would extend the three provisions until December. A vote on the bill [HR 514] to extend the provisions failed [JURIST report] last week under a special rule that required a two-thirds majority, but passed Monday with a simple majority. Earlier this month, the Obama administration released a statement of administration policy [text, PDF] vying for a three-year renewal of the provisions, but expressed support for the bill passed Monday. The provisions were previously extended in February 2010 after the Obama administration asked the Senate Judiciary Committee to extend [JURIST reports] the Patriot Act.