Three provisions of the Patriot Act set to expire at the end of the month will see a vote for their continued authorization today in the House. The provisions allow for use of roving wiretaps; access to “tangible” items that a target has (such as library records) and the ability to monitor suspected targets even if they are not affiliated with any recognized terrorist group. The bill would keep these provisions in effect through December 8, 2011.
The Patriot Act has had a checkered history with charges of gross mistreatment leveled at its users. A report by the Department of Justice in January 2010 found that members of the FBI routinely requested information without filing the necessary legal orders for approval, claiming that the paperwork would be filed later. In many of these instances there were no legal processes to ask for this information. There were also numerous reports of FBI agents skipping even this made up process and instead opting to make requests with post-it notes left on monitors.
The Patriot Act was contentious enough for then Senator Obama to make the law an issue in his presidential campaign, promising reform. No such reforms have come and last year President Obama signed the law authorizing its extension.
There has been no indication that the new authorization will fail to pass. A Senate vote is expected later this month.