Friday, May 20, 2011

US post-9/11 surveillance law renewed

Several controversial provisions of the nearly decade-old Patriot Act are about to expire, and US Congress has decided to extend them

Source: Press TV

US Congress lawmakers have agreed to extend a series of controversial surveillance and search powers, known as the Patriot Act, in force since the 9/11, 2001 attacks.

The agreement calls for the extension of key powers of the act for an additional five years, AFP reports.

Under the arrangement, the Senate and House of Representatives will hold a vote on extending the controversial powers at the core of the act before they lapse on May 27, according to several congressional aides.

The officials said the vote would be "a clean extension" to June 1, 2015, meaning it would not include new civil liberties safeguards sought by some senior lawmakers of the major parties of Republicans and Democrats.

Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Republican House Speaker John Boehner and Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell reached the accord with time running short before the provisions expire.

The measures include the use of wiretaps and tracking non-US citizens suspected of being "lone-wolf" terrorists, even if they are not affiliated to an extremist group.

It also allows law enforcement agencies to seize "any tangible thing" seen as critical evidence in an investigation, such as personal or business records.

The Patriot Act has generated a great deal of controversy since it came in force.

The American Civil Liberties Union says it undermines people's basic rights.

US Attorney General Eric Holder and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper urged top lawmakers in a January-28 letter to extend all three powers, and complained of frequent short-term renewals.

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