Senate backs Patriot Act extensions

Associated Press
Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Senate voted Tuesday to extend for 90 days the legal lifeof three post-Sept. 11 terrorism-fighting measures, including the use of roving wiretaps, that are set to expire at the end of the month.

The extension gives lawmakers a chance to review the measures, which critics on both the right and the left call unconstitutional infringements on personal liberties.

The Senate voted 86 to 12 a day after the House agreed to extend the three provisions, including two from the 2001 USA Patriot Act, until Dec. 8. The chambers must now agree on a common approach. With Congress in recess next week, there is pressure to reach a compromise this week.

The measures include the authority to initiate roving wiretaps on multiple electronic devices and the authority to obtain court-approved access to business records considered relevant to terrorist investigations. The "lone wolf" provision, part of a 2004 law, permits secret intelligence surveillance of foreign nationals without known links to a specific terrorist activity.

Without the provisions, said Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), "our law enforcement and intelligence agencies would lack important tools to protect this nation."

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