Congress to Extend Patriot Act Without Increased Privacy Protections

Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly version

On February 24, the Senate passed a one-year extension of the expiring sections of the USA Patriot Act with no changes. Without the requisite 60 votes to end a possible filibuster by Republican senators, Democratic leaders were forced to abandon changes designed to protect privacy previously agreed to by the Senate Judiciary Committee, according to the Washington Post.

The bill still must pass the House, but since important sections of the law are set to expire February 28, it's unlikely that any changes will occur.

"Of course, we are disappointed that Congress appears ready to extend the Patriot Act without changes," said Chris Finan, president of the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression (ABFFE). "Both the House and the Senate Judiciary Committees had agreed to add important protections for civil liberties, including safeguards for the privacy of bookstore and library records. The good news is that the extension is for only one year, and we can address this issue again soon. The fight for reader privacy will continue."

According to the WP, three sections of the Patriot act that would stay in force:

  • Authorize court-approved roving wiretaps that permit surveillance on multiple phones.
  • Allow court-approved seizure of records and property in anti-terrorism operations.
  • Permit surveillance of a non-U.S. citizen participating in terrorism who may be acting alone and not within a terrorist group.

The Judiciary Committee bill that was dropped would have provided additional protections for library records, restricted the use of national security letters, and increased Congressional oversight of the powers granted by the Patriot Act. The re-authorization bill approved by the House Judiciary Committee provided additional protections for both library and bookstore records.