US Congress Extends Patriot Act without Privacy Improvements
WASHINGTON - US lawmakers voted to extend key parts of the Patriot Act law enacted after the September 11th attacks without adding privacy safeguards sought by the White House's Democratic allies.
The US House of Representatives, following the Senate, voted 315-97 to renew the counter-terrorism tools, sending the legislation to President Barack Obama to sign into law.
Lawmakers extended authorities' power to use roving wiretaps to track an individual on several telephones; to track a non-US national suspected of being a "lone-wolf" terrorist not tied to an extremist group; and to seize personal records seen as critical to an investigation.
While court approval is required for the wiretaps and the seizures, Democrats and civil liberties groups had hoped to beef up privacy and oversight safeguards, but lacked the votes to overcome Republican opposition.
The vote came after Obama's handling of the so-called Christmas Day bomb plotter drew fire from Republicans who insisted he should have been turned in to military custody instead of civilian law-enforcement officials.
Democrats shot back that the suspect, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, was treated the same way as similar extremists under Obama's Republican predecessor George W. Bush and was providing key intelligence.