The legislation was first passed by the Senate, 72-23, followed by the House, 250-153. Because Obama was in France for meetings of the Group of Eight nations, he directed that an autopen machine, which holds a pen and replicates his signature, be used to sign the bill, the White House said.
The bill was signed yesterday before a previous extension, approved by Congress in February, expired at midnight, the White House said. The new law continues the surveillance powers until June 1, 2015.
The measure "will safeguard us from future attacks," Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said before his chamber's vote. "By extending this invaluable terror- fighting tool, we're staying ahead" of terrorists who want to attack the U.S., he said.
The bill's roving-wiretap section allows federal agents to obtain a single warrant to monitor telephone calls of suspects using a series of mobile phones.
Other provisions allow authorities to obtain business and library records, and to target so-called "lone wolf" suspects who aren't affiliated with any terrorist group.
Senator Rand Paul, a bill opponent, tried to delay the Senate vote, pressing for the bill to be amended. The Kentucky Republican said the legislation goes too far in violating privacy rights to keep the U.S. secure.
"Do we want a government that looks at our Visa bill?" he said in a May 24 floor speech. "Do we want a government that looks at all of our records and is finding out what our reading habits are?"
The Patriot Act was passed after the Sept. 11 attacks, and many of its provisions are permanent law. Some of its surveillance powers have been opposed by some lawmakers and outside groups, including civil liberties activists.
I tried writing a letter to Obama describing my feelings on his decision but it came off as too venomous so I decided to post here instead. What the fuck, Obama? What was the point of all that talk about change and hope if you keep or strengthen the worst of your predecessor's policies?
The President doesn't want to appear weak on terror for the sake of the same howling ninnies who insist that he's a Nazi terrorist Islamic Christian socialist. There's no satisfying those people. It seems like Obama spends more time courting the people who hate him than satisfying the people who put him into office.
I took an environmental history class once and the professor (the spitting image of Clint Eastwood) growled, "I don't like Obama. He's too conservative for me." He got a few good laughs with that one, but I'm not laughing anymore. The worst part is, there's no viable alternative. I could vote for Jon Huntsman in 2012 to punish Obama, but as much as I like Huntsman, there's no way he'd ever repeal the Patriot Act. I thought the recent hit on bin Laden would make America feel safer and more confident, but it seems like it's only convinced Congress that the War on Terror is a really great idea that must be pursued vigorously.