President Bush has signed a revised anti-terrorism law first enacted following the September 11th, 2001 attacks in New York and Washington. The signing follows months of negotiations with Congressional opponents concerned about protecting American civil liberties.
President Bush signed the law a day before 16 of its major provisions were due to expire. The enhanced police powers were already temporarily extended twice after Congress failed to agree on a permanent continuation amid concerns about privacy rights.
At a desk with a sign saying, "Protecting the Homeland," President Bush said the law improves American security while safeguarding civil liberties.
"It is a piece of legislation that is vital to win the war on terror and to protect the American people," he said.
The act allows federal officials to seize business records from libraries and bookstores as part of investigations into international terrorism. It also allows greater cooperation between agencies responsible for foreign intelligence, such as the CIA, and those responsible for domestic law enforcement, such as the FBI
President Bush says the law known as the Patriot Act closes dangerous gaps in American law enforcement, gaps that he says terrorists exploited on September 11th.
"Before the Patriot Act, criminal investigators were often separated from intelligence officers by a legal and bureaucratic wall," he said. "The Patriot Act tore down the wall, and as a result, law enforcement and intelligence officers are sharing information, working together, and bringing terrorists to justice."
Civil libertarians criticize the Patriot Act for giving the government too much power to gather information about Americans when no formal charges have been made against them.
During debate about the extension of the law, the head of the American Bar Association wrote Congress asking for greater legislative oversight to ensure that the act does not violate constitutional freedoms of speech and due process as well as protections against unreasonable search and seizure.
The Bush administration did make concessions to get the Patriot Act extended. It now allows people who are secretly subpoenaed in terrorist investigations to challenge the requirement that they not tell anyone about the subpoena.
It also stops the FBI from requiring that people who receive those secret subpoenas identify their lawyers.
The FBI this week reported that it has received hundreds of complaints about the Patriot Act over the last six months. Only four of those complaints warranted investigation. Two were referred to the Bureau of Prisons. The FBI says two are still pending.