Update, 751pm ET: The House has approved a 4-year USA PATRIOT act extension, 250-153.
The US Senate voted today to extend three key provisions of the Patriot Act which were scheduled to expire tonight at midnight. The measure is now before the House for debate, and is scheduled to complete its work tonight. Civil liberties advocates charge that the provisions, in particular portions related to electronic surveillance and wiretapping, are a violation of the Constitution. If Congress approves the extension, it goes before President Obama, who is currently in Europe. Reuters reports that White House spokesman Nick Shapiro says the President will use "the autopen to sign" the bill quickly into law. The autopen is a machine that replicates his signature.
One of the three provisions, Section 206 of the Patriot Act, provides for roving wiretap surveillance of targets who try to thwart Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) surveillance. Without such roving wiretap authority, investigators would be forced to seek a new court order each time they need to change the location, phone or computer that needs to be monitored.
Another provision, Section 215 of the Patriot Act, allows the FBI to apply to the FISA court to issue orders granting the government access to any tangible items in foreign intelligence, international terrorism and clandestine intelligence cases.
The third provision, Section 6001 of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorist Prevention Act of 2004, closes a loophole that could allow individual terrorists not affiliated with specific organizations to slip through the cracks of FISA surveillance. Law enforcement officials refer to it as the "lone wolf" provision.
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