Monday, May 30, 2011

Obama "autopens" Patriot Act extension into law

Following the 250-153 evening vote in the House, the legislation to renew three terrorism-fighting authorities was sent to the President's office for a signature with only hours to go before the provisions were due to expire at midnight.

With Obama currently in France at a G-8 summit, the White House said the president had instructed use of the autopen machine, which holds a pen and signs his actual signature. It is only used with proper authorization of the president.

Obama said he was pleased the act had been extended.

"It's an important tool for us to continue dealing with an ongoing terrorist threat," he said after a meeting with French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

The measure adds four years to the legal life of roving wiretaps — those authorized for a person rather than a communications line or device — of court-ordered searches of business records and of surveillance of non-American "lone wolf" suspects without confirmed ties to terrorist groups.

The roving wiretaps and access to business records are small parts of the USA Patriot Act enacted after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. But unlike most of the act, which is permanent law, those provisions must be renewed periodically because of concerns that they could be used to violate privacy rights. The same applies to the "lone wolf" provision, which was part of a 2004 intelligence law.

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