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Posted at 6:30 PM ET, 02/ 4/2011

House to take up Patriot Act extension next week

By Felicia Sonmez

The House is poised to vote next week on legislation renewing key provisions of the counterterrorism surveillance law known as the Patriot Act that are set to expire this month.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's (R-Va.) office announced Friday that the House will consider a bill sponsored by Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) that would extend three provisions of the law enacted after the 9/11 terror attacks through Dec. 8, 2011.

One of the provisions authorizes the FBI to continue using roving wiretaps on surveillance targets; the second allows the government to access "any tangible items," such as library records, in the course of surveillance; and the third is a "lone wolf" provision of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorist Prevention Act that allows for surveillance of targets who are not connected to an identified terrorist group.

All three would expire on Monday, Feb. 28, unless Congress moves to extend them.

Civil liberties advocates have contended that the Patriot Act gives the government too much latitude in conducting surveillance activities, intruding into the lives of private citizens. Proponents of the law argue that it is essential to national security in an era of evolving terrorist threats.

Attorney General Eric Holder and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper last week wrote a letter to congressional leaders in which they urged for reauthorization of the Patriot Act's three provisions through 2013.

"It is essential that these intelligence tools be reauthorized before they expire, and we are committed to working with Congress to ensure the speedy enactment of legislation to achieve this result," they wrote, according to National Journal.

In Congress, debate over the Patriot Act has often, but not always, been conducted along party lines. Former Wisconsin Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold was one of the measure's strongest critics, but libertarians such as Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) have also firmly opposed it. As the Senate debate unfolds, it will be worth watching whether Paul's son, freshman Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), follows in his father's footsteps.

When it comes to the timing of the vote, Congress faces a tricky situation.

The Sensenbrenner bill is expected to easily pass the Republican-led House next week. The measure would then go on to the Senate, which will be in recess the latter part of next week. The Senate would next be able to take up the bill when it comes back during the week of Feb. 14.

Both chambers are in recess during the week of Feb. 21 for the President's Day holiday, and by the day they come back -- Feb. 28 -- the provisions will have already expired.

That means that if the Senate doesn't act on the House-passed legislation during the week of Feb. 14, the provisions would either expire or both chambers might be forced to call a pro-forma session during their President's Day recess.

All of that is assuming the Senate takes up the House legislation. But the Senate has its own measure - or rather, three measures - all of which vary significantly from the Sensenbrenner bill.

One of the Senate bills, sponsored by Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), would permanently reauthorize the entire Patriot Act.

Another, by Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Pat Leahy (D-Vt.), would extend the three provisions until Dec. 31, 2013, and include additional oversight language.

The third bill, by Senate Intelligence Committee chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), would extend the three key provisions until the end of 2013 and would not include the changes proposed by Leahy.

If the Senate decides to proceed on any one of those bills, the measure would have to pass by Feb. 17 in order to make it back to the House before both chambers recess. And even then, that would give the House only a day to consider the measure.

According to a House Judiciary Committee aide, the thinking behind the Sensenbrenner bill is that the extending the three key Patriot Act provisions until Dec. 8, 2011 -- tentatively the last day of the 112th Congress -- would give the House enough time to arrange for hearings on the actual reauthorization of the provisions and get the large number of incoming freshmen up to speed on the specifics of the measure.

By Felicia Sonmez  | February 4, 2011; 6:30 PM ET
Categories:  44 The Obama Presidency  
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Comments

re: Repeal the Patriot Act. It is not lawfully possible to extend its provisions.
Congressman:

You honor your oath to support and defend our Constitution and hold it dear.
Yet, error may still occur unknowingly.
For that reason I write to remind you that “Any scheme or artifice to defraud” the citizens of the United States of America of the full immunities and benefits of our
Fourth Amendment to the Constitution,
. . "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and
. . effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be
. . violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported
. . by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be
. . searched, and the persons or things to be seized."
By enacting a vote to continue the Patriot Act even for one day is a felony 18USC1341->1346 “Frauds & Swindles” (NOT subject of the Art.I Sect.6 immunity) given the inevitable communication of that vote’s effect.

I trust that you will take care to do your duty.

Yet I am concerned that other less knowledgeable members of Congress might bring you into danger by their vote to extend the Patriot Act.
Your witness of their enacting a vote to extend will establish a 18USC4 “Misprision of Felony” burden upon you.
Please advise your fellow Congressmen of the burden that our penal code places upon them.
The expiration of the unconstitutional Patriot Act needs to occur by either default or unanimous rejection of extension – Our country does not need the burden of broad criminal indictment on Congressmen at this time.

There is evidence that prior votes for the Patriot Act were made in ignorance and so were without criminal intent. This vote is different.

The nature of the Patriot Act’s scheme to defraud us of our Constitution’s Fourth Amendment is now evidenced as being known by all Congressmen so criminal intent will be conclusively established and the criminal act would be a mater established by public record.

When delivering that warning to Congress I ask that you call for a record of each Congressman's vote so you clear yourself of any taint of criminal culpability in this mater.

Thanks again for becoming my Congressional Representative. I know that takes courage even if your love of freedom makes the courage seem small to you.

Sincerely,

Posted by: Russell_P_Davis | February 7, 2011 10:27 PM | Report abuse

If Obama wants it, turn it down and vice-versa. The main job of the GOP is to ensure this marxist, muslim apologist is pounded in 2012.

Posted by: nomobarry | February 5, 2011 2:51 PM | Report abuse

Welcome to the surveillance society, a land in which the politicians promote fear in order to advance their agendas.

Posted by: sage5 | February 5, 2011 1:20 PM | Report abuse

The Patriot Act gives the government way too much latitude in conducting surveillance activities, intruding and disrupting the lives of American citizens.

After the immediate national hysteria of 9-11, a bi-partisan congress authorized a new agency of the government to spy on her citizens and destroy air travel as we knew it. It is time to repeal the Patriot Act.

Posted by: alance | February 5, 2011 9:33 AM | Report abuse

Patriot is a word that has lost meaning.
Patriot is to politics as a baseball is to baseball.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-pacific-12371965

Posted by: shrink2 | February 4, 2011 11:32 PM | Report abuse

The BIGGEST scam perpetrated on the American public... and it was voted on with out reading it. Such patriots.

Posted by: whocares666 | February 4, 2011 11:26 PM | Report abuse

Rand Paul will vote no.
Doctors can certify themselves and individuals are best equipped to fight terror.

Posted by: shrink2 | February 4, 2011 11:11 PM | Report abuse

Please take a moment to fax your senators and representatives with a petition against the renewal of the unconstitutional "Patriot Act" here: http://chooseliberty.org/patriotact.aspx?pid=nd2

I think most would agree on the left and the right that allowing this bill to be passed and renewed was and will continue to be the greatest assault on our liberty and way of life in the history of our nation. Please come together to support the opposition of this bill.

The other mainstream news outlets will only cover this story on the eve of its passing.

Posted by: sovereignhominin | February 4, 2011 9:10 PM | Report abuse

Gutting our Constitution with this extension means enthusiastically appeasing terrorists.

Posted by: kingcranky | February 4, 2011 8:08 PM | Report abuse

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