Return civil liberties stolen by Patriot Act
Congress is considering making permanent or extending parts of the USA Patriot Act.
CONGRESS was prompt in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attack on America to enacted the USA Patriot Act to give the government broad authority to combat terrorism. The law is scheduled to expire at the end of this year, and Congress is poised to make most of its provisions permanent. Others that infringe on people's liberties should be allowed to expire.
A House-passed version of the bill to extend the Patriot Act contains a new provision that corrects the original legislation's failure to base distribution of federal security money on the basis of risks and vulnerabilities. As a result, the $8 billion provided to police departments, firefighters and other first responders has been treated as government pork.
House and Senate negotiators agreed last week to make 14 of the Patriot Act's 16 provisions permanent. Those essentially expanded surveillance and investigative powers of the federal government.
The other two sections would be extended for four years, although some House leaders wanted a seven-year extension. One of those gives the government the power to demand records from various institutions, including titles of books that people checked out from libraries or purchased at bookstores. The other provision allows the government to use a "roving wiretap" to secretly tap any cellular phone used by a suspect.
A bipartisan group of six senators has vowed to fight the bill on the Senate floor, with Sen. Russell Feingold, D-Wis., threatening to use a filibuster to block a vote. Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, proposed a three-month extension to work out a better compromise.
Proponents of the bill, including the White House, refer to it as a compromise, but no Democratic negotiator went along with it. Further Republican concessions are needed to gain bipartisan and public support.
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