Patriot Act Reauthorization To Be Pushed Back
By Andrew Ramonas | December 16, 2009 12:43 pm

House leaders will not accept a Senate plan to include the reauthorization of expiring Patriot Act provisions in a Department of Defense spending bill that must pass this month, Politico reported today.

The Defense appropriations bill will instead include a two-month extension on the three powers that would otherwise sunset at the end of the year, according to McClatchy newspapers. The House and Senate have yet to iron out their differences on whether Congress should reauthorize the “lone wolf,” records and “roving wiretap” powers.

The Senate Patriot Act bill would renew all of the powers. The House version would only reauthorize the records and “roving wiretap” provisions, and not the “lone wolf” power, which lets the government track targets who don’t have any discernible affiliation with terrorist or other foreign groups. The government has never used the “lone wolf” power.

Attorney General Eric Holder has said he backs the Senate bill, but he hasn’t publicly commented on the House legislation.

“I am disappointed that House and Senate leaders were not able to reach an agreement to enact the USA PATRIOT Act Sunset Extension Act before December 31,” Leahy said in a statement. “More than two months ago, the Senate Judiciary Committee reported legislation to extend these expiring provisions for four years, and to strengthen congressional oversight of these intelligence and law enforcement tools.”

Rep. Anthony Weiner (D- N.Y.), a House Judiciary Committee member, told McClatchy the extra time would help Congress work out its differences on the bill.

“A lot of people don’t want to extend it without giving [the Patriot Act] a good scrubbing,” Weiner told McClatchy. “A lot of guys on Judiciary want a full debate on it.”

Here is a summary of the provisions:

  • Lone wolf: Allows government to track a target without any discernible affiliation to a foreign power, such as an international terrorist group. The provision only applies only to non-U.S. persons. It has never been used by the government.
  • Business records: Allows investigators to compel third parties, including financial services and travel and telephone companies, to provide them access to a suspect’s records without the suspect’s knowledge.
  • Roving wiretaps: Allows the government to monitor phone lines or Internet accounts that a terrorism suspect may be using, whether or not others who are not suspects also regularly use them. The government must provide the FISA court with specific information showing the suspect is purposely switching means of communication to evade detection.
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  1. [...] vote Wednesday night legislation that would temporarily extend three Patriot Act provisions set to expire at the end of this month. The bill would keep in place the Patriot Act’s “lone wolf,” [...]