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Congress to VOTE on Extending Patriot Act

May 22, 2011

A measure to extend surveillance provisions of the Patriot Act is expected to pass despite concerns of many Democrats and some 'tea party' Republicans about privacy issues.

Congress is expected to vote next week to extend expiring provisions of the Patriot Act, which would allow the controversial anti-terrorism law to continue four more years despite opposition from an unusual coalition of Democrats and Republicans.

An earlier attempt to continue parts of the surveillance law suffered a surprise setback this year as "tea party" freshmen and veteran conservatives joined with Democrats to defeat the bill before passing a temporary extension.

The law, enacted after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, has been criticized by civil libertarians as well as conservatives as an undue overreach of governmental authority into private affairs.

At issue are three segments of the law that have come under scrutiny over concerns about invasion of privacy, including a provision that allows authorities to investigate any records pertaining to terrorism suspects.

Two other provisions up for renewal are the so-called roving wiretap, which allows authorities to continue surveillance on suspects as they switch phones or locations, and the "lone wolf" provision, which allows surveillance of foreigners without known ties to terrorist groups. All procedures must be approved by court orders.

Republicans in the House and Senate have pressed for a permanent extension of the expiring provisions, which Democrats largely oppose. The Obama administration had sought a two-year extension.

Congressional leaders reached an agreement late Thursday to vote on legislation that would continue the expiring provisions through 2015. The Senate is expected to take a test vote Monday, with House votes likely later in the week before the scheduled expiration on Friday.

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