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Congress approves extension of key Patriot Act provisions

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • The U.S. House has voted to extend three provisions in the Patriot Act
  • The extensions will last for three months
  • The provisions relate to wiretapping authority, among other things
  • The White House was pushing for a longer extension of the provisions

Washington (CNN) -- The U.S. House of Representatives voted Thursday to extend three provisions of the Patriot Act and Intelligence Reform bill that are due to expire next month.

The bill, which extends the provisions for another three months, passed in a 279-143 vote. Republicans overwhelmingly backed the extensions, while a majority of Democrats were opposed.

The measure now goes to President Barack Obama's desk to be signed into law.

A similar measure extending the provisions for a longer period of time failed last week by a vote of 277-148 -- seven votes shy of the 284 needed to pass under a House rule requiring a two-thirds majority.

Thursday's House vote required only a simple majority. The Senate approved the final version of the measure earlier this week.

One of the three provisions, Section 206 of the Patriot Act, provides for roving wiretap surveillance of targets who try to thwart Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) surveillance. Without such roving wiretap authority, investigators would be forced to seek a new court order each time they need to change the location, phone or computer that needs to be monitored.

Another provision, Section 215, allows the FBI to apply to the FISA court to issue orders granting the government access to any tangible items in foreign intelligence, international terrorism and clandestine intelligence cases.

The third provision, Section 6001 of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorist Prevention Act of 2004, closes a loophole that could allow individual terrorists not affiliated with specific organizations to slip through the cracks of FISA surveillance. Law enforcement officials refer to it as the "lone wolf" provision.

Legislators opposed to the extensions claim the provisions -- particularly related to wiretapping -- are intrusive and unconstitutional. Supporters argue they are a critical component of U.S. anti-terror operations.

The White House has indicated it would have preferred a longer extension of the three provisions, through 2013.