Obama renewing Bush’s Patriot Act Provisions

Martha R Gore|The Examiner

The Patriot Act, often criticized under President Bush, is now about to be renewed by the Obama administration.

Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director Robert S. Mueller III went before the U.S. Senate on March 26, 2009, asking that provisions in the USA Patriot Act be renewed.  It will expire at the end of the year.

The Patriot Act was passed in response to the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.  At the time, the Bush administration was loudly criticized by privacy advocates who said it trampled on Americans’ rights.

Two provisions in particular caused concern

  • Allowing investigators probing terrorism to seek suspect’s records from third parties such as financial services and travel and telephone companies without notifying the suspect.  It was criticized as a violation of First Amendment rights.
  • Permitting roving wiretaps of terrorism suspects.  In the past, authorities had to seek court approval for each electronic device carried by a suspect, from a telephone and BlackBerry to a ome computer. Under the Patriot Act, one warrant can cover all of these machines.

So far, Attorney General Eric H. Holder has expressed some support for renewing the provisions. However, Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin, (D-Md.) of the Senate Judiciary Committe said

It is important that [Congress} examine more specifics.  We want to make sure you have the tools that you need and that you have the proper oversight.  There may need to be modifications…a fine tuning of these provisions to make sure they are effective and used as intended by Congress.”

Democrats had roundly criticized the then Republican Congress and President Bush when the bills was passed.  Now they and Obama have to decide whether or not to renew the Patriot Act.  If it is renewed, it will bring down the wrath Democrats and civil libertarians.  If it is not passed, and there is a terrorist attack that might have been prevented by the Act, it will be used by Republicans as proof that they were right in passing it to protect national security.

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