US Congress votes to renew Patriot Act provisions

Image caption,
The Patriot Act was strongly backed by President George W Bush

The US Congress has voted to renew three expiring provisions of the anti-terrorism Patriot Act which increase surveillance powers.

The four-year extension was approved in the Senate just hours before the deadline at midnight (0400 GMT).

The bill was then sent to the House of Representatives, where it passed by a 250-153 vote.

The Patriot Act was brought in under President George W Bush in 2001 after the 9/11 attacks.

US President Barack Obama is now due to ratify the bill, officials said.

With Mr Obama currently in France for a G8 summit, a spokesperson said the president would use an autopen machine that holds a pen and signs his actual signature.

The provisions enable law-enforcement officials to conduct continued surveillance on suspects who switch phones, monitor "lone-wolf" suspects who are not linked to known terrorist groups, and gain access to suspects' business transactions.

While supporters of the law say it is necessary for US security, critics argue that it infringes upon civil liberties and could be abused.

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