AP sources: Hill leaders agree on Patriot Act

WASHINGTON (AP) — Top congressional leaders agreed Thursday to a four-year extension of the anti-terrorist Patriot Act, the controversial law passed after the Sept. 11 attacks that governs the search for terrorists on American soil.

The deal between Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker John Boehner calls for a vote before May 27, when parts of the current act expire, according to officials in both parties who spoke on condition of anonymity. The idea is to pass the extension with as little debate as possible to avoid a protracted and familiar argument over the expanded power the law gives to the government.

Support for the extension was unclear. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., wanted tighter restrictions on the government’s power and may seek to amend it. In the House, members of the freshman class elected on promises of making government smaller were skeptical.

“I still have some concerns, and at this point I’m leaning against (voting for) it,” said one, Rep. Andy Harris, R-Md.

The legislation would extend three expiring provisions until June 1, 2015, officials said.

The provisions at issue allow the government to use roving wiretaps on multiple electronic devices and across multiple carriers and get court-approved access to business records relevant to terrorist investigations. The third, a “lone wolf” provision that was part of a 2004 law, permits secret intelligence surveillance of non-U.S. individuals without having to show a connection between the target and a specific terrorist group.

From its inception, the law’s increased surveillance powers have been criticized by liberals and conservatives alike as infringements on free speech rights and protections against unwarranted searches and seizures.

Some Patriot Act opponents suggest that Osama bin Laden’s demise earlier this month should prompt Congress to reconsider the law, written when the terrorist leader was at the peak of his power. But the act’s supporters warn that al-Qaida splinter groups, scattered from Pakistan to the United States and beyond, may try to retaliate.

“Now more than ever, we need access to the crucial authorities in the Patriot Act,” Attorney General Eric Holder told the Senate Judiciary Committee.

AP Special Correspondent David Espo contributed to this report.

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  • loudog

    Just remember that your cell phone conversations and position is being monitored by the NSA. Of course, anyone who spoke out against this type of activity was called unpatriotic by the right 9 yrs ago.

  • jjsmithers

    I am real tired of Nancy Boehner (Or is it John Pelosi) being on the same side of these issues.

    The first hint that a piece of legislation might be very bad for America would be if Reid supports it.

  • gringott

    Headline should be “Bought and Paid for Politicos sell out American people and Constitution again.” Sub titled: “No Real Difference Between Republicans and Democrats Noted – both Hate Liberty”

  • virginiagentleman

    Damn! We are on the verge of being betrayed yet again by congressional leaders, Reid and Boehner. Under the pretence of protecting us, they are instead continuing the process of subjugation, and extending the governments unlawfully assumed powers. The loss of freedom and personal liberty continues. Many commenters on this site talk about Obama’s march to socialism. It would appear that he is getting quite a lot of help from establishment republicans…..Call your senator and rep and tell them not to extend the Patriot Act. Should they vote for it anyway, then you know who to vote out…..Frankly, you must decide if you are a government SUBJECT or an American CITIZEN. Your choice , your children and grandchildren’s future.

  • Mr.ManZ

    Has anyone other than myself noticed that cutting deals with deadbeat democrats seems to be all that John Boehner knows how to do ?……(well besides cry like some little girl that just wet her pants) I just dont think that he is showing the type of leadership that is needed in our government.