Congress, still debating the USA Patriot Act, authorized a five-week extension of the existing act, instead of passing a more permanent reauthorization. The House approved the five week extension, to March 10, by voice vote Wednesday, and the Senate approved it 95-1 Thursday night, with Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) casting the single no vote. Update: President George W. Bush signed this extension Friday.
Feingold was the only Senator to vote against the original Patriot Act.
Sixteen provisions of the original Patriot Act were set to expire Dec. 31, 2005, but Congress had approved a five-week extension which was set to expire Friday. This will be the second five-week extension for the act.
Earlier in the week, Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, one of the negotiators who helped block the act’s renewal last year, told reporters almost all of his concerns had been worked out with the White House.
He and Sen. John Sununu, R-N.H., want parts of the act to be rewritten in several areas, including giving banks, libraries and Internet service providers the right to appeal when the FBI seeks financial and other records of their customers and clients. — Associated Press
As it turns out, the FBI is a little overaggressive and stupid when it comes to library computers — and computers in general. In a recent case in Massachusetts, they tried to seize 30 library computers without a warrant, when in fact they only needed to look at three of them. The librarian quite rightly told them to go get a warrant while she worked with FBI investigators to narrow down which computers might have been involved in the threat.
“We were able to both protect public safety and also protect the rights of people, the sense of privacy of many, many innocent users of the computers,” said Newton, Mass., mayor David Cohen. “Had we given them the computers, they would have gotten to see e-mails from ordinary citizens doing ordinary things and would not have preserved privacy.”