Thursday, May 26, 2011
In two lop-sided votes, the U.S. Congress voted on Thursday to approve a four-year extension of key provisions of the Patriot Act.
Because is President Obama is roaming through Europe, a White House official said the bill will quickly be signed into law using an autopen, a machine that replicates the president’s signature.
The Senate passed the extension by a 72-23 vote, with 19 Democrats and four Republicans voting no, mostly over concerns the Patriot Act violates personal privacy and civil liberties.
Hours later, the House voted 250-153 to renew three parts of the counter-terrorism surveillance law. Thirty-one House Republicans joined most Democrats in opposing the extension, while 54 Democrats supported it.
The controversial Patriot Act was passed in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorists attacks and provided federal law enforcement officials an unprecedented expansion of powers to conduct surveillance on suspected terrorists but also snoop into personal lives of ordinary Americans.
So far reaching is the Patriot Act’s powers, that government officials can collect data about the books we check out of the library to read, details about our checking account activity, our credit card and computer usage, and roving wiretaps of telephones.
In 2005, then-Sen Obama voted NO on extending the Patriot Act’s wiretap provision but as president, Mr. Obama flip-flopped on the issue and sided with former President George W. Bush on roving wiretaps.