Obama’s autopen signs Patriot Act extension before midnight deadline

Isn’t technology wonderful? Yes, but is it constitutional?

President Barack Obama, or rather a machine impersonating the president, signed a bill late Thursday extending certain expiring provisions of the Patriot Act, the anti-terrorism law enacted in the wake of September 11.

Obama, 3,725 miles and six time zones removed across the Atlantic Ocean in France at a meeting of G-8 leaders, did not sign the bill personally.

Because directions from Washington to Deauville, France, are tricky (“We could not calculate directions between Washington D.C., and Deauville, France.,” claims Google Maps), an autopen replicated Obama’s signature, White House spokesman Nick Shapiro told ABC News in a statement.

“Failure to sign this legislation poses a significant risk to U.S. national security. As long as Congress approves the extension, the President will direct the use of the autopen to sign it,” Shapiro said Thursday afternoon.

A White House statement just before midnight confirmed that the bill is now law.

The provisions — including giving law enforcement power to conduct roving wiretaps and examinations of business record in search of terrorists — were set to expire at midnight.

Despite liberal and conservative objections fearing government overreach, the bill passed the House early Thursday evening and the Senate around 8 p.m., 2 a.m. in France.

ABC News pointed out that the issue of the constitutionality of the autopen was studied in 1995 and that then-Deputy Attorney General Howard C. Nielson confirmed that using an autopen to sign a bill into law is indeed constitutional.

“We examine the legal understanding of the word ‘sign’ at the time the Constitution was drafted and ratified and during the early years of the Republic,” Nielson wrote in an Office of Legal Counsel opinion. “We find that, pursuant to this understanding, a person may sign a document by directing that his signature be affixed to it by another. … Reading the constitutional text in light of this established legal understanding, we conclude that the President need not personally perform the physical act of affixing his signature to a bill to sign it within the meaning of Article I, Section 7 [of the Constitution.]”

Sen. Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican, challenged the notion on the Senate floor that the federal government should be allowed to conduct wiretaps and peruse business records, saying that it is a violation of personal liberties.

Rep. Michele Bachmann, who chose to stay in Washington rather than fly to Iowa for a fundraiser, acknowledged that her office had received numerous pleas to vote against the bill. She spent five minutes on the House floor explaining her “yes” vote.

“We have had calls, we’ve had requests on our Facebook, Twitter and on our email urging a no vote tonight on the Patriot Act,” she said on the floor. “I cast a yes vote on this act.”

  • Kurtis D. Davis

    Since when does the law matter to Soetoro/Obama? The law says he must be eligible—is he? He certainly has not proven so, beyond ordinary, reasonable doubt. The law says only Congress can initiate war—so what about Libya? We could go on and on…but the point is made. The oath he swore, and the law, mean nothing to Barry Soetoro Barack Hussein Obama, and neither does the truth.

    By the way; the issue of the birth certificate is most interesting—especially the latest one from Kenya.

  • gambinonyc1

    He has been phoning in the presidency since Jan 08-why not a pen that signs by itself. I wish he would stay in France

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  • Mapache

    If Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid can “DEEM” a bill as passed without a vote, I do not see any reason why the President can have a billed signed without a signature…..people do it all the time on loan documents, mortgages and to vote….uh, wait a minute,…they can’t do that, they must actually sign the damn things…curses! Been Baracked again!

  • rick57

    What’s the big deal? I guess he should have signed an executive order stating I b.o. authorize autopen to sign bill blah blah during my absence from the country The bill will be affixed with my signature immediatly upon my return.

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  • bobtheump

    A machine tells him what to say; Why shouldn’t a machine complete the paperwork? Just another way for the boy President to vote “present”.

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  • jjsmithers

    It is not even possible to imagine the uproar that would have followed, had Bush ever used an autopen to sign a bill into law.

    What will Diane Sawyer say about this ? What would Katie Couric say if she had an anchor job ?

    Let me take a wild guess:

    “President Obama, possibly the most innovative and techno-savvy President in the history of this country, has embraced the technology of the 21st century. With a key bill about to expire due to the Republicans delaying tactics, and the President out of the country, it was up to President Obama to find a modern day solution– and he came through with flying colors to save the bill.”

    There will be no mention of the Constitution

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Conor-McCartney/16802823 Conor McCartney

      President Bush used an auto-pen all the time. It didn’t generate controversy then because the conservative media didn’t care to make it into an issue. Why they are making it into an issue now is beyond me.
      There are actual things to be upset about, the cost of gas, Obama’s health care plan.

      The auto-pen is just non-sense.

      • 8second.ride

        No he didn’t. Where’s your proof?

    • tommiec

      Hi jj,

      How ya doin’? Boy, great weather here and did I get some color today. Wow!

      Oh yeah, you say no mention of the Conmstitution?

      Ok, well then I will. Back in 1995 the issue of the constitutionally of the use of an autopen was studied. Deputy Attorney General Howard C. Nielson confirmed that the use of an autopen to sign a bill into law is constitutional.

      But jj, that was ’95 when Clinton was President so I know you and all the other wackjobs on this site will never consider it legal.

      Don’t eat too many hot dogs tomorrow, ok?