WASHINGTON — Acting with minutes to spare, President Barack Obama approved a four-year extension of expiring provisions of the Patriot Act after Congress overcame mounting opposition from both parties to narrowly avoid a lapse in the terrorist surveillance law.
Obama, attending an international summit in France, awoke early Friday to review and approve the bill, directing that it be signed in Washington by automatic pen before the provisions expired at midnight Thursday Eastern time.
The administration had warned Congress that any interruption in the surveillance authority would threaten national security.
Passage came late Thursday after a protracted political struggle that played out over several months, a sign of increased unease with powers granted to the federal government to investigate citizens and foreigners in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Conservative Republicans, many of them elected with backing from the “tea party” movement, and liberal Democrats resisted attempts to extend the three expiring provisions of the act.
Supporters said that extending the provisions would ensure no disruption in the government’s ability to conduct surveillance that they say has proved crucial to the ability of intelligence agencies to amass information vital to keeping the country safe.
By extending the measures through June 1, 2015, lawmakers codified a compromise with Republican leaders who preferred a permanent extension.