Senate OKs measure to renew Patriot Act

Sheryl Gay Stolberg New York Times New York Times Mar. 3, 2006 12:00 AM

WASHINGTON - The Senate overwhelmingly on Thursday passed legislation renewing the sweeping anti-terror law known as the USA Patriot Act, ending a months-long impasse on Capitol Hill and virtually guaranteeing that the measure will go to President Bush to be signed.

The vote of 89-10 followed an agreement last month by the White House to add more protections for individual privacy. That deal mollified four Senate Republicans, who had joined with Democrats last year in blocking the bill, an extension of a law enacted after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

The measure's 16 major provisions were set to expire March 10, but if the House approves the bill, as expected, 14 of the 16 will become permanent.

Renewing the Patriot Act was a priority for Bush, but resistance from some lawmakers had resulted in a series of short-term extensions as the debate dragged on.

But the vote on Thursday does not end the long-running debate on Capitol Hill over whether the Patriot Act, which greatly expanded the government's investigative powers in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, strikes the proper balance between government authority and civil liberties.

Some lawmakers who voted for the bill expressed deep reservations about it, and the Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, is already drafting further legislation to revise it.

Since its adoption in 2001, the Patriot Act has drawn complaints from advocates for civil liberties, who contend that provisions like those allowing the government to obtain library and medical records infringe on basic civil rights.

The revised measure passed Thursday adds additional judicial oversight to the original law. It would give recipients of subpoenas the right to challenge an accompanying judicial order not to discuss the case publicly, though they would have to wait one year while complying with the subpoena in the meantime.

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