President Bush on Friday signed legislation giving Vice President Dick Cheney and future vice presidents six months of Secret Service protection after they leave office.

The measure, which passed through Congress earlier this month, also extends protection to the spouse of the vice president and their children under age 16, and allows the Homeland Security secretary to extend the Secret Service guard if the situation warrants.

Since Hubert Humphrey left office in 1969 it has been common practice for the White House or Congress to extend temporary protection, usually for half a year, to former vice presidents. The measure Bush signed makes it permanent law.

Former presidents up through President Clinton could, if they so chose, receive lifetime Secret Service protection. Congress changed that in 1997 with an act limiting protection for future ex-presidents and their families to 10 years, barring exceptions for specific threats.

The House passed the bill last June, but had to vote on it again because the Senate coupled it with legislation providing prosecutors with new tools to fight identity theft and other cyber crimes.

The measure Bush signed allows identity theft victims to seek restitution in federal court for the loss of time and money spent restoring their credit. It also allows the prosecution of computer fraud not involving interstate or foreign communications and makes it a felony to damage with spyware 10 or more computers used by or for the federal government or a financial institution.