Congressional leaders reached agreement on extending the USA Patriot Act until June 1, 2015, providing law enforcement continued powers to track suspected terrorists that include the use of roving wiretaps.
The Senate will move the legislation on May 23 under a timetable Senate Majority Harry Reid established late today, and a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner said he plans to have a House vote on it before the law expires May 27.
“The speaker supports this common-sense proposal because this law has been crucial to detecting and disrupting terrorist plots and protecting the American people,” said Boehner spokesman Michael Steel.
The law was passed after the Sept. 11 attacks, and some of its surveillance powers have been controversial with lawmakers and outside groups, including civil liberties activists. The leaders who agreed to the four-year extension -- potentially removing it as an issue in 2012 elections -- include Boehner, an Ohio Republican, Reid, a Nevada Democrat, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican.
Both chambers approved a three-month extension in February. The measure agreed to by the leaders includes the wiretap power, as well as the government’s ability to get access to suspected terrorists’ business and other records and to monitor so-called “lone wolf” suspects.
The roving-wiretap provision enables federal agents to obtain a single warrant, from the secret court that supervises counter-intelligence investigations, to monitor the phone calls of suspected terrorists who use a series of mobile phones and other communications devices.
The records provision allows agents, with approval from the secret court, to obtain any “tangible item” that aids investigations of a suspected plot by foreign-based terrorists. It is known as the library records provision.
--With assistance from Jeff Bliss in Washington. Editors: Don Frederick, Mark McQuillan.
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