February 9, 2011
The US House of Representatives has blocked a bill to extend some surveillance powers granted by the 2001 Patriot Act after the 9/11 attacks. The bill was opposed by most Democrats and some Republicans, and failed to win the two-thirds vote needed for passage. It would have extended until December provisions on wiretaps, access to business records and surveillance of terror suspects granted by the law. The White House backed the bill but said it favoured a longer extension.
In the 277-148 vote, 26 Republicans joined Democrats in opposing the bill, and 67 Democrats voted in favour. The bill had the support of the Republican leadership. The bill fell seven votes short under expedited rules requiring a two-thirds super-majority, but could still pass under normal procedural rules, in which case it would need only a simple majority for passage. The Patriot Act was shepherded through Congress by President George Bush shortly after the terror attacks of 11 September, 2001.
Mr Bush and other supporters argued that the legal safeguards traditionally granted to criminal suspects left the US ill-protected against further attacks. Critics say the broad powers the act grants US law enforcement agencies violate Americans’ privacy, and on Tuesday the American Civil Liberties Union applauded the bill’s rejection.
February 8, 2011
The House defeated a bid Tuesday to extend for nine months the government’s authority to conduct roving wiretaps of terror suspects, along with two other expiring provisions of the Patriot Act. The vote, 277 to 148, fell short of the two-thirds majority needed. Representative Lamar Smith said he hoped to bring up the legislation in two days under rules allowing passage by a simple majority.