House Votes to Renew Anti-Terrorism Provisions

Published February 17, 2011

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Legislation to renew three expiring provisions of the anti-terrorism USA Patriot Act won final congressional approval on Thursday.

The Republican-led House of Representatives passed the measure to extend the provisions for three months, 279-143, two days after it cleared the Democratic-led Senate, 86-12.

There's broad support for the provisions that expanded U.S. powers to track suspected terrorists after the September 11, 2001, attacks. But there's concern that these powers have been abused and that new safeguards are needed to protect civil liberties.

With these provisions set to expire in less than two weeks, the measure sent to President Barack Obama to sign into law would extend them through May 27.

"I am disappointed that the Senate refused to agree to the 10-month extension approved by the House earlier this week," said House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith. "Repeated short-term extensions of these authorities create uncertainty for our intelligence agencies."

The measure approved by Congress would allow law enforcement to continue to use these powers while Congress considers possible additional safeguards of civil liberties and an anticipated longer extension of up to a year or so or more.

Congress initially approved the Patriot Act shortly after the September 11 attacks on the United States.

The three provisions set to expire at the end of this month authorize U.S. law enforcement to: obtain "roving wiretaps" on suspected terrorists who switch their mode of communications; track foreigners who may have loose ties to militants but are acting as a "lone wolf" in plotting attacks; and accessing certain business records.

The House passed a bill earlier this week to renew the provisions for nine months. But the Senate refused to sign off on it and countered with the three-month extension.

(Reporting by Thomas Ferraro; editing by Philip Barbara)

Written by Reuters

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