White House wants longer extension of Patriot Act than House Republicans

The Obama administration said Tuesday it wants a three-year extension of Patriot Act surveillance authorities, far longer than the timeline proposed by House Republicans.

The White House released a Statement of Administration Policy that says it "would strongly prefer enactment of reauthorizing legislation that would extend these authorities until December 2013."

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House Republicans are considering an extension until December of this year.

A longer extension, the administration's statement said, "would ensure appropriate congressional oversight by maintaining a sunset, but the longer duration provides the necessary certainty and predictability that our Nation’s intelligence and law enforcement agencies require as they continue to protect our national security."

At the same time, the statement said the White House does not object to the Republican proposal.

The Republican proposal will be taken up Tuesday under a suspension of House rules, and would extend the authority that allows U.S. agents to conduct "roving surveillance" of targets, collect business records and other tangible intelligence records, and surveil solo operators who are not tied to a specific terrorist group but may pose a threat to the United States.

While the White House has said it can live with a short-term extension, House passage of the Republican bill is expected to complicate the issue in the Senate, which seems to support a three-year extension, at least.

There are three Senate proposals, including two from Democrats that would extend the Patriot Act authorities until December 2013. A third, from Senate Republicans, would permanently extend these authorities.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Tuesday that this issue is a "must" for the Senate to address before it leaves for its February 21-25 Presidents' Day break. "We have got to take care of that before we leave.”

The House and Senate are moving quickly because the surveillance authorities at issue expire on February 28.

This story was updated at 12:57 p.m.