Political Buzz May 26, 2011: President Obama Signs Patriot Act Extension Bill

POLITICAL BUZZ

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of History Musings. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University.

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

  • Obama, in Europe, signs Patriot Act extension: Minutes before a midnight deadline, President Barack Obama signed into law a four-year extension of post-Sept. 11 powers to search records and conduct roving wiretaps in pursuit of terrorists.

    “It’s an important tool for us to continue dealing with an ongoing terrorist threat,” Obama said Friday after a meeting with French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

    With Obama in France, the White House said the president used an autopen machine that holds a pen and signs his actual signature. It is only used with proper authorization of the president.

    Congress sent the bill to the president with only hours to go on Thursday before the provisions expired at midnight. Votes taken in rapid succession in the Senate and House came after lawmakers rejected attempts to temper the law enforcement powers to ensure that individual liberties are not abused.

    The Senate voted 72-23 for the legislation to renew three terrorism-fighting authorities. The House passed the measure 250-153 on an evening vote.

    A short-term expiration would not have interrupted ongoing operations but would have barred the government from seeking warrants for new investigations…. – CBS News, 5-27-11

  • President Obama, Congress passes bill to extend Patriot Act despite Sen. Rand Paul delay: The Patriot Act is here to stay. Congress passed a four-year extension Thursday of the controversial legislation, which allows a continuation of post-Sept. 11 powers to conduct roving wiretaps in pursuit of terrorists.

    President Obama signed the bill into law from France, just minutes before a midnight deadline.

    “It’s an important tool for us to continue dealing with an ongoing terrorist threat,” Obama said.

    The nail-biting finish was in large part due to Republican freshman Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky. The Tea Party favorite held up the legislation, arguing the Patriot Act is an invasion of privacy and gives the government too much power to monitor people’s lives.

    The Senate passed the bill 72-23, and the House voted in favor of it 250-153.

    The extension allows law enforcement officials to continue the use of roving wiretaps – those authorized for a person versus a communications line or device.

    It also allows for court-ordered searches of business records relevant to terrorist investigations and permits secret intelligence surveillance of non-Americans without confirmed ties to terrorist groups…. – NY Daily News, 5-27-11

  • Obama Uses Autopen to Sign Patriot Act Extension: Where in the world is President Obama? Turns out it doesn’t matter. For the first time in United States history, a bill has been signed into law by a mechanical autopen, which affixed the president’s signature at the direction of Mr. Obama, who is in Europe.

    Congress on Thursday passed legislation extending the Patriot Act for four years. (House vote | Senate vote) But with Mr. Obama abroad and the existing legal authorities set to expire, the White House concluded that a mechanical signature would do.

    “Failure to sign this legislation poses a significant risk to U.S. national security,” Nick Shapiro, an assistant press secretary in the White House, said before the vote on Thursday. “As long as Congress approves the extension, the president will direct the use of the autopen to sign it.”

    With that declaration, Mr. Obama turned a machine that is ubiquitous in government and business for routine transactions — letters, ceremonial photos, promotional materials — into the ultimate stand-in replacement for the leader of the free world…. – USA Today, 5-27-11

  • Obama Says World Needs U.S.-British Leadership: In a rare address to both houses of the British Parliament in the ancient Westminster Hall, President Obama said Wednesday that the United States and Britain remained “indispensable” nations for peace and stability and the “greatest catalysts for global action” in a time of war, terrorism and economic insecurity.

    Highlighting the need for a “new era of cooperation” between the nations that already enjoy a special relationship, Mr. Obama stressed their shared values in a speech that drew a straight line from the beaches of Normandy to the NATO bombing mission in Libya.

    “It is wrong to conclude that the rise of countries like China, India and Brazil means the end of American and European leadership,” he said. “Even as more nations take on the responsibilities of global leadership, our alliance will remain indispensable.”

    Mr. Obama’s speech came hours after a joint news conference with Prime Minister David Cameron in which the two leaders renewed their calls for Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi to leave office. Mr. Cameron said the two allies “should be turning up the heat” on the Libyan leader.

    After the pomp and ceremony of the previous day, with Queen Elizabeth II welcoming Mr. Obama to Britain and showing him around Buckingham Palace herself, the second day of Mr. Obama’s trip turned to geopolitics in meetings with Mr. Cameron, and his address to Parliament…. – NYT, 5-25-11

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