What: All Issues : Human Rights & Civil Liberties : Government Surveillance of Citizens : (H.R. 514) Final passage of legislation extending expiring provisions of a controversial government surveillance program known as the Patriot Act. Those provisions—which were set to expire on February 28, 2011—included allowing the federal government to wiretap terrorism suspects, authorizing intelligence officials to conduct surveillance of individuals who are not known to be affiliated with terrorist groups (known as the “lone wolf” provision), and providing federal investigators—after receiving permission from a judge—with access to business and library records.
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(H.R. 514) Final passage of legislation extending expiring provisions of a controversial government surveillance program known as the Patriot Act. Those provisions—which were set to expire on February 28, 2011—included allowing the federal government to wiretap terrorism suspects, authorizing intelligence officials to conduct surveillance of individuals who are not known to be affiliated with terrorist groups (known as the “lone wolf” provision), and providing federal investigators—after receiving permission from a judge—with access to business and library records.
house Roll Call 66     Feb 17, 2011
Y = Conservative
N = Progressive
Winning Side:
Conservative

This was a vote on final passage of legislation extending expiring provisions of a controversial government surveillance program known as the Patriot Act (a law designed to conduct surveillance on terrorists but which critics argued could be used against anyone). Those provisions—which were set to expire on February 28, 2011—included allowing the federal government to wiretap terrorism suspects, authorizing intelligence officials to conduct surveillance of individuals who are not known to be affiliated with terrorist groups (known as the “lone wolf” provision), and providing federal investigators—after receiving permission from a judge—with access to business and library records.  

The House had already passed a bill to extend these provisions for ten months. The Senate, however, amended the bill to shorten the extension to three months. This vote was on the Senate-passed, three-month extension of the three provisions described above. 

Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) urged support for the bill: “Just this week, the FBI announced that the probability that the U.S. will be attacked with a weapon of mass destruction at some point is 100 percent. The head of the FBI's WMD [Weapons of Mass Destruction] Directorate said that the type of attack that keeps him awake at night is an attack by a so-called `lone wolf.' With the likelihood of a weapons of mass destruction attack at 100 percent, we cannot afford to leave our intelligence officials without the tools they need to keep America safe. The war on terror is not over, but the terrorist threat is constantly evolving. We must fully arm our intelligence community with the resources they need to prevent another devastating and deadly terrorist attack.”

Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI) argued: “There is bipartisan consensus that these important tools for our Intelligence Community cannot be allowed to lapse. The…[bill],which was also supported by a wide bipartisan margin in the other body [the Senate], will keep these three needed priorities in place for the next 90 days, till May 27.”

Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA) opposed the bill: “ This dragnet approach allows the government to review personal records even if there is no reason to believe that the individual involved had anything to do with terrorism. This poses a threat to individual rights in the most sensitive areas of our lives with little restraint on government. Congress should either ensure that the things collected with this power have a meaningful connection to suspected terrorism activity or allow the provision to expire.”

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) argued: “To win the war on terror, the United States must remain true to the founding architects of this democracy who created a Constitution which enshrined an inalienable set of rights. These Bills Of Rights guarantee certain fundamental freedoms that cannot be limited by the government. One of these freedoms, the Fourth Amendment, is the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures. We do not circumvent the Fourth Amendment, or any other provision in the United States Constitution, merely because it is inconvenient.”

The House passed this bill by a vote of 279-143. Voting “yea” were 211 Republicans and 68 Democrats. 117 Democrats—including a majority of progressives—and 26 Republicans voted “nay.” As a result, the House passed legislation extending expiring provisions of a controversial government surveillance program known as the Patriot Act. Since the Senate had already passed this bill, House passage sent the bill to President Obama, who had publicly stated his support for the measure.

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