Senators agreed to continue the controversial USA Patriot Act it for six months to allow House and Senate negotiators to continue efforts to rewrite it for the longer term, the Washington Post reports. The question now is whether the House would agree, in order to prevent major provisions of the USA Patriot Act from expiring on Dec. 31. President Bush, who had repeatedly said he would not accept a short-term extension, embraced the Senate’s action.
Congress passed the law after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The statute makes it easier for FBI agents to monitor phone calls and e-mails, to search homes and offices, and to obtain the business records of terrorism suspects. Critics say the proposed four-year renewal favors the government too heavily regarding national security letters and special subpoenas that give the FBI significant leeway in obtaining records. Targeted people should have a greater opportunity to challenge subpoenas and the government should be required to show stronger evidence linking the items being sought to possible terrorism, they say.