Friday, March 03, 2006

Congress approves renewal of expiring PATRIOT Act provisions

After months of wrangling, Congress has approved the renewal the 16 expiring provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act by making 14 of them permanent and extending the other two by four years. The renewal also includes things like fighting methamphetamine abuse. This version of the bill is the last one passed by the House on December 14 of last year, so none of the delay accomplished anything to improve it.

A few reforms were included--libraries can't be subpoenaed without a court approval, recipients of subpoenas don't have to provide the names of their attorneys, and individuals subject to gag orders can challenge the orders--after waiting a year.

The Senate is considering passing an additional requirement that targets of "sneak-and-peek" searches be notified within seven days.

The bill, HR 3199, the USA PATRIOT Improvement and Reauthorization Act, was passed by an 89-10 vote in the Senate. Both of Arizona's Senators, Kyl and McCain, voted in favor of it. The ten no votes were from Sens. Akaka (D-HI), Bingaman (D-NM), Byrd (D-WV), Feingold (D-WI), Harkin (D-IA), Jeffords (I-VT), Leahy (D-VT), Levin (D-MI), Murray (D-WA), and Wyden (D-WA). Sen. Inouye (D-HI) did not vote.

The House passed the bill on December 14, 2005 with a 251-174 vote, the details of which are here. Arizona's Representatives voted along party lines: For: Flake (R-6th), Franks (R-2nd), Hayworth (R-5th), Kolbe (R-8th), Renzi (R-1st), Shadegg (R-3rd), Against: Grijalva (D-7th), Pastor (D-4th).

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