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Bush Signs Short Extension of Patriot Act

One of President Bush's first legislative challenges in 2006 is getting Congress to continue domestic anti-terrorism laws. The president has signed a temporary measure extending those powers through February 3.

White House Spokesman Trent Duffy says President Bush is not satisfied with the short-term extension of the anti-terrorism laws, but he signed the measure because U.S. law enforcement needs expanded powers.

First passed following the September 2001, terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, the so-called Patriot Act was due to expire at the end of 2005. Senators approved a six-month extension, but the Republican-controlled House agreed to just one month.

President Bush failed to win a longer extension when some Republicans joined Congressional Democrats in holding-up the measure over concerns about protecting civil liberties.

Lawmakers return to the debate in January amid new concerns about expanded powers, following the president's admission that he authorized the surveillance of telephone calls without a court warrant.

President Bush says media reports that uncovered the operation have helped America's enemies by revealing U.S. intelligence techniques. The Justice Department is investigating how reporters learned of the program.

President Bush says the Patriot Act protects American civil liberties, because it has broad Congressional and judicial oversight. Speaking to reporters before the holidays, Mr. Bush said extending those powers is a matter of protecting America from further violence. "The terrorists still want to hit us again. There is an enemy that lurks - a dangerous group of people, who want to do harm to the American people, and we must have the tools necessary to protect the American people," he said.

President Bush said Democrats are playing politics with national security. "The Senators obstructing the Patriot Act need to understand that the expiration of this vital law will endanger America, and will leave us in a weaker position in the fight against brutal killers," he said.

Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid said his party resents having its patriotism questioned, because it is raising concerns about broader police powers to seize library records and conduct roving wiretaps.

White House officials initially said President Bush would not accept any temporary extension of the Patriot Act, and even threatened to veto a massive defense bill, unless the powers were fully reauthorized.

With a one-month extension now in place, Spokesman Trent Duffy says the president is going to work hard with Congress in 2006 to make sure the Patriot Act is fully renewed.