The Senate voted earlier this evening to extend troublesome Patriot Act provisions through May 27, 2011. The provisions are set to expire at the end of this month. The House had passed a ten-month extension of the provisions earlier this week and is expected to vote on the Senate’s shorter extension later this week.
The provisions of the Patriot Act due to expire are the roving wiretap provision, which allows law enforcement to conduct surveillance without identifying the person or location to be wiretapped; Section 215, or the “library records” provision, which allows the government to gain access to “any tangible thing” during investigations; and the “lone wolf” provision, which permits surveillance of non-U.S. persons who are not affiliated with a terrorist group. Civil liberties advocates have had concerns about the provisions and had called for more privacy protections.
“Every day that Congress continues to push back the February expiration deadline, the Patriot Act continues to erode one of Americans’ most basic rights – the freedom from unwarranted government intrusion into their privacy, said Laura W. Murphy, director of the American Civil Liberties Union Washington Legislative Office. “If there has to be an extension of this law, we urge Congress to use the time well to finally rein in the pernicious impact of the intrusive provisions at stake.”