Just hours before the midnight deadline, the bill to extend the USA Patriot Act passed Congress 250-153. The 4-year extension passed the Senate earlier yesterday 72-23 and was signed by Barack Obama using an auto-pen as he is in France attending the G-8 summit. The terrorism fighting act was opposed by many, including Tea Party favorite, Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), critical of provisions effecting the right to privacy. But Harry Reid and John Boehner rallied sufficient support the extend the law for another four years.

rand paul

There are three provisions which require renewal votes by Congress. One law allows for surveillance on individuals who switch to using disposable cell phones. The other provisions cover ′one-wolf′ suspects and getting access to credit card transactions. Rand Paul led the opposition, delaying the Senate vote until yesterday. One amendment he tried to tag unto the bill would have restricted the government′s power to examine records of gun owners, but it went nowhere.

Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Mark Udall (D-CO) attempted an amendment which would have restricted the government′s power to access information in bulk from the private sector, including businesses, hospitals, medical clinics, banks and even universities. On top of the list of such data sources would have been phone and Internet providers. Otherwise, the government can access a provider′s entire customer base.

Since the 9/11 attacks, the USA Patriot Act has been perhaps the most controversial aspect of the War on Terrorism. As Rand Paul and others say, the law gives the government too much power to invade the privacy of individual citizens. The bill to extend the USA Patriot Act passed late yesterday with just hours to spare before expiring. Barack Obama signed the 4-year extension using an auto-pen while in France for a G-8 summit meeting.

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