Congress approves Patriot Act extension absent new privacy measures

The US House of Representatives on Feb. 25 approved a measure to extend expiring provisions of the USA Patriot Act with no new privacy measures. Representatives voted 315-97 in favor of the measure, which would allow federal authorities to conduct “roving” wiretaps; to compel the production of business, medical, and library records; and to track so-called “lone wolf” suspects who are not affiliated with an organization or country, so long as they are not US citizens. The vote came just one day after the Senate approved the extension.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) criticized the extension, with director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office Laura Murphy saying:

Congress refuses to make reforming the Patriot Act a priority and continues to punt this crucial issue down the road. Once again, we have missed an opportunity to put the proper civil liberties and privacy protections into this bill. Congress should respect the rule of law and should have taken this opportunity to better protect the privacy and freedom of innocent Americans. We shouldn’t have to live under these unconstitutional provisions for another year.

The extension will go into effect after approval from US President Barack Obama.

In September, the Obama administration asked the Senate Judiciary Committee to extend the Patriot Act. The Judiciary Committee voted to reauthorize the three provisions in question in October. In December, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit dismissed a constitutional challenge to the Patriot Act by Brandon Mayfield, an attorney arrested in 2004 based on FBI error in connection with the 2004 Madrid train bombings. The US District Court for the District of Oregon had previously ruled that certain provisions of the act were unconstitutional in his case, as had the District Court for the Southern District of New York in a separate case.

From Jurist, Feb. 26. Used with permission.

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