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Obama (and His Autopen) Sign Patriot Act Extension

Congress passed four-year extension just hours before deadline
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted May 27, 2011 6:21 AM CDT
Updated May 27, 2011 7:55 AM CDT

(Newser) – With just hours to go before the Patriot Act expired at midnight, Congress passed a four-year extension last night—but with President Obama in France, how to get it signed? With something called an autopen machine, apparently. The machine holds a pen and signs the president’s real signature, and can only be used with his authorization, the AP reports. The bill was signed just minutes before the midnight deadline.

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Obama said he was glad the post-Sept. 11 act, which allows records searches and wiretaps in pursuit of terrorists, was extended because "it's an important tool for us to continue dealing with an ongoing terrorist threat.” Congress nearly hit the deadline because Sen. Rand Paul, who sees the bill as an invasion of privacy, wanted a chance to change portions of it. Ultimately, lawmakers rejected amendments that would temper the act’s powers and the bill passed the Senate 72-23 and the House 250-153. (In related news, Sen. Wyden says the real Patriot Act is classified.)

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