- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 9, 2006

A day before key elements of the USA Patriot Act were to expire, President Bush signed into law a renewal that will allow the government to keep using terror-fighting tools passed soon after the terror attacks on September 11.

Mr. Bush’s signature yesterday came two days after the House gave final approval to the legislation, quashing objections that it infringes on Americans’ privacy.

“The Patriot Act has accomplished exactly what it was designed to do,” Mr. Bush said during a signing ceremony in the White House East Room. “It has helped us detect terrorist cells, disrupt terrorist plots and save American lives.”

Sixteen provisions of the old law were set to expire today. To get the legislation renewed, Mr. Bush was forced to accept new curbs on the Patriot Act’s powers.

These new civil liberties protections for the first time say explicitly that people who receive subpoenas granted under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act for library, medical, computer and other records can challenge a gag order in court.

Some say the protections did not go far enough.

“Today marks, sadly, a missed opportunity to protect both the national security needs of this country and the rights and freedoms of its citizens,” Sen. Russell D. Feingold, Wisconsin Democrat, said yesterday.

But Republicans want to take the law into the upcoming midterm elections to show they are acting to protect national security.

The legislation renews the expiring provisions of the original Patriot Act, including one that lets federal officials obtain “tangible items,” such as business records, from libraries and bookstores, in connection with foreign intelligence and international terrorism investigations.

Other provisions clarify that foreign intelligence or counterintelligence officers should share information obtained as part of a criminal investigation with counterparts in domestic law-enforcement agencies.

Yet another provision is designed to strengthen port security by imposing strict punishments on crew members who impede or mislead law-enforcement officers trying to board their ships.

The law also takes aim at the methamphetamine trade by imposing new restrictions on the sale of over-the-counter cold and allergy medicines, which contain a key ingredient for the drug. Customers will be limited to buying a maximum of 120 30-milligram pills in a day with a limit of 300 such pills in a month. The measure would make an exception for “single-use” sales — individually packaged pseudoephedrine products.

By Sept. 30, retailers will be required to sell such medicines from behind the counter and purchasers would have to show ID and sign log books.

“Meth … is highly addictive. It is ruining too many lives across our country,” the president said.

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