Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Tuesday introduced a short bill that would extend key expiring provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act, a sign this extension could happen without any substantive talk about whether and how to reform these provisions.
The bill from McConnell and Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) would extend sections of the PATRIOT Act through 2020 that allow access to business records and roving surveillance. The business records provision is found in the controversial Section 215 of the bill, which has been used to justify access to phone records.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has proposed legislation to extend key PATRIOT Act authorities, a sign that extension may take place quickly without a debate on how to reform them. Image: AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta
Roving surveillance refers to language elsewhere in the PATRIOT Act that makes it easier to surveil suspects using different methods, without having to get approval each time the method changes.
McConnell's bill would also extend Section 6001 of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act through 2020. That's the "lone wolf" language that lets the government surveil suspects as terrorists even when they have no clear association with a known terrorism group.
All of these authorities expire June 1 of this year.
National Security Agency surveillance through the PATRIOT Act has become controversial ever since a contractor, Edward Snowden, revealed that it was being used to collect bulk phone data on millions of Americans. That started a debate about how to pare back the NSA's authorities.
However, reform efforts have failed so far, and GOP leaders in the House and Senate have indicated they support no changes in order to ensure effective surveillance of terrorist threats to the United States.
Earlier this month, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) told Republicans that some legislation to extend these surveillance authorities could be considered this month. It's unclear if the House will come up with its own plan, or whether it might take language the Senate passes first.
Read a copy of McConnell's bill here: