Kucinich, Sensenbrenner spar over Patriot Act before, during House debate

But Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) replied in his own one-minute speech that the Patriot Act did not authorize national security letters, which were instead authorized in a 1986 bill authored by Sen. Pat Leahy (D-Vt.).

"It was [in] his national security letter authorization that the abuses were contained," Sensenbrenner said. "I would hope, as we debate the temporary reauthorization of three expiring provisions of the Patriot Act, that we not paint that act with a broad brush."

During the debate, Kucinich responded by saying the Patriot Act expanded the list of agencies that are authorized to issue national security letters. Sensenbrenner responded to that by saying the authority for the letters was made permanent in 2006, and that the Patriot Act actually gave recipients of these letters the option of judicial review.

Democrats who spoke today opposed extension of the Patriot Act, and in his opening remarks, Sensenbrenner noted that House Democrats such as then-House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) supported the extension last year and managed the debate over the bill. In his closing remarks in the debate, current Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) noted that the Obama administration supports the extension.

The bill 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. The House is expected to approve the extension in a vote scheduled for about 6:30 p.m.

-- Updated at 3:11 p.m.

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