Obama Extends the Patriot Act for Four More Years

Congress votes yes before deadline; president auto-signs it in France.

Posted: 05/27/2011 05:53 AM EDT
Filed Under Barack Obama

Barack Obama

For some, President Obama’s signing a four-year extension of the Patriot Act, which allows the federal government to conduct roving wiretaps, search records and impose surveillance on non-American “lone wolf” suspects when pursuing terrorists, may remind them of musicians with strong opinions about American liberty. Some critics of the Act, and federal abuse of power, will think of the Gil Scott-Heron song "No Knock."

For others who favor the Act, the president’s signing makes perfect sense in light of national security issues and brings to mind a Toby Keith song, "Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue." In the post 9-11 world, where the United States has real enemies that wish to do its citizens harm, they see the passage of the Act’s extension by Congress, 250-153, as appropriate and unjustly delayed.

Obama, in France meeting with French President Nicolas Sarkozy and the other leaders of the G-8, signed the Act, via autopen, as he wasn’t in Washington, D.C., before the midnight deadline. The president, the Associated Press reported, said of the Act after the signing, “It's an important tool for us to continue dealing with an ongoing terrorist threat."

The hold-up in the Act’s extension was due resistance from Sen. Paul Rand of Kentucky. The Republican freshman legislator, a strong advocate of privacy rights, wanted to restrict “ the government's ability to monitor individual actions.”

A February 2011 Pew Research Center poll showed that the nation was divided about the Act. About 42 percent of those polled felt that it was a “necessary tool that helps the government find terrorists, while somewhat fewer (34 percent) say the Patriot Act goes too far and poses a threat to civil liberties.”

In the post-Osama Bin Laden era, the division over the Act’s value and efficacy may be now be different, but a nation of individuals have the right to lean either way, and listen to musicians that voice their opinions.

(Photo: REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)

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