US Senate passes six-month extension of anti-terror law

The U.S. Senate approved Wednesday night by a voice vote to extend for six months key provisions of the Patriot Act set to expire by the end of this month, following an earlier bipartisan agreement by Senate leaders.

The House of Representatives voted last week to make 14 of the act's 16 provisions set to expire on Dec. 31 permanent and extend the remaining two for four years, but the process to renew the provisions was stalled at the Senate by a group of bipartisan opponents.

It was unclear how the House would act on the six-month extension, which senators hoped would provide time for the Congress to try to resolve differences over safeguards for civil liberties before making most of the provisions the Bush administration deems necessary for its war on terror permanent.

Earlier on Wednesday, President George W. Bush renewed his call for the U.S. Senate to approve the extension of the Patriot Act, saying obstruction of its extension at the Senate "is inexcusable."

Calling the law an effective tool in the war against terror, Bush said that as the Patriot Act was scheduled to expire at the end of this year, "the terrorist threat is not going to expire at the end of this year."

The Patriot Act (Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act), which was passed by the Congress shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, expanded the federal government's powers to conduct secret searches, obtain private records, intercept telephone calls and take other action in the effort to track down suspected terrorists.

Fifty-two of the 100 senators, including eight Republicans, signed a letter Wednesday in support of a Democratic-led bid to extend the expiring provisions for just three months to provide time to resolve differences, but Senate leaders agreed, after talks, to the six-month extension.

Source: Xinhua

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