President Bush Friday signed legislation extending key provisions of the anti-terrorism USA Patriot Act until Feb. 3, despite earlier objecting to anything short of a permanent renewal.
Bush had strongly pushed for a permanent renewal before the provisions expired at year-end, but Congress passed a temporary extension to allow more time to consider civil liberties protections.
The Patriot Act expanded the authority of the federal government to conduct secret searches, obtain private records, intercept telephone calls, among other activities, to hunt for suspected terrorists.
“He’s going to work hard with the Congress to make sure that we get that important law renewed,” White House spokesman Trent Duffy said.
“Our law enforcement community needs this, he’s not satisfied with a one-month extension. But we’ve got to get that in place, and we’ve got to work with them to get it permanently re-extended,” he said.
The debate over whether some of the provisions infringe too much on civil liberties became more heated after the revelation that Bush authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on communications by Americans with suspected ties to terrorists without seeking a court order.
Hurricane aid, bird flu and skating goldThe president signed about a dozen other bills, including one funding government agencies and a defense measure that funnels extra money to Iraq, Afghanistan and the Gulf Coast.
The appropriations bill provides funds for the Departments of Labor and Health and Human Services. A provision would help ice dancer Tanith Belbin gain American citizenship in time to represent the United States in the Turin Olympics.
If eligible, Belbin and partner Ben Agosto are considered America’s best hope for figure skating gold in Turin. A medal of any color would be the country’s first in ice dancing since 1976.
The defense bill Bush signed keeps the Pentagon running, provides $50 billion more to military action in Iraq and Afghanistan, and gives $29 billion in hurricane aid to the Gulf Coast. The Gulf Coast aid includes $11.5 billion for community grants to spur economic development, along with money for schools and to start shoring up New Orleans’ levees.
The bill provides $3.8 billion to prepare for a possible outbreak of bird flu and liability protections for flu drug manufacturers.
Bush is spending the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day at his Texas ranch. He plans to return to Washington on Sunday after visiting wounded troops at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio.