- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 7, 2006

The House approved the final disputed provisions of the USA Patriot Act yesterday and sent the bill to President Bush for his signature more than three months after the provisions had been scheduled to expire.

“It’s an important tool that we have used to track down terrorists,” Majority Leader John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, told reporters. “I found the controversy over this bill the last several years interesting because basically what we did was we gave law enforcement the same tools they already have to go after the mob and others involved in racketeering. We gave that same ability to law enforcement to go after terrorists and suspected terrorists.”

The 280-138 vote extended the law three days before the latest deadline for 16 law-enforcement provisions to expire.

Republicans voted 214-13 in favor of extending the bill, while Democrats opposed it by a vote of 124-66. The House’s one Democrat-leaning independent was opposed, while 11 Democrats and three Republicans did not vote.

Mr. Bush has long hailed the Patriot Act as an integral tool in fighting the war on terror and has warned Congress about taking too long to reauthorize it.

“The president looks forward to signing the bill into law,” said White House spokeswoman Dana Perino.

The Senate voted overwhelmingly last week to approve the measure. A few Republicans and most Democrats in the Senate delayed reauthorization because of civil liberties concerns about key provisions that were set to expire at the end of last year.

Law-enforcement officers and security officials have been operating under temporary extensions of the bill until lawmakers could resolve differences.

“The Patriot Act has been an effective tool against terrorists and other criminals,” said Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., Wisconsin Republican and chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. “At the same time, intense congressional and public scrutiny has not produced a single substantiated claim that the Patriot Act has been misused to violate Americans’ civil liberties.”

Some lawmakers are not pleased with the reauthorization.

“The Patriot Act threatens the civil liberties of every citizen of this nation, and is a full frontal assault on the Bill of Rights and our Constitution,” said Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich, Ohio Democrat. “Like every other member of Congress, I take an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States of America. To vote for this bill would violate this sacred oath.”

Mr. Kucinich said the act specifically violates the First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Eighth and 14th amendments to the Constitution.

“The Patriot Act permits the government to continue to conduct criminal investigations without probable cause, to conduct secret searches, to gain wide powers of phone and Internet surveillance, and access highly personal medical, financial, mental health and student records with minimal judicial oversight,” he said. “This bill threatens to turn back the clock on over 200 years of progress in the protection of civil liberties in this nation.”

Mr. Sensenbrenner said the bill “has been the focus of virtually unprecedented congressional and public scrutiny.”

“Opponents of the legislation have relied upon exaggeration and hyperbole to distort a demonstrated record of accomplishment and success,” he said. “The Justice Department and other agencies have properly utilized the Patriot Act to detect, disrupt and dismantle terrorist cells in New York, Virginia and Oregon before they strike.”

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