Bush Signs Temporary Patriot Act Renewal, Defense Bill
CRAWFORD, Texas – President Bush, unhappy with Congress for not permanently extending the Patriot Act, on Friday signed a bill that renews the anti-terrorism law for a few weeks and pushes lawmakers to take up the debate over its measures.
The president signed about a dozen other bills, including one funding government agencies and a defense measure that funnels extra money to Iraq, Afghanistan and the Gulf Coast.
Bush is spending the week between Christmas and New Year's Day at his Texas ranch. He plans to return to Washington on Sunday after visiting wounded troops at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio.
Bush is urging lawmakers to extend permanently parts of the Patriot Act set to expire.
"Suffice it to say, our law enforcement community needs this," White House spokesman Trent Duffy said. "He's not satisfied with a one-month extension. But we've got to get that in place and we've got to work with them to get it permanently re-extended."
The Patriot Act extension keeps anti-terrorism laws that were due to expire Dec. 31 in place until Feb. 3. The one-month extension means lawmakers must debate again in January the merits of government anti-terrorism powers that some critics fault for not protecting Americans' civil liberties.
The extension allows the FBI to continue to investigate terrorism cases using powers granted in 2001, including roving wiretaps and the authority to intercept wire, spoken and electronic communications relating to terrorism.
Bush and GOP leaders pushed hard for a permanent extension of the expiring provisions but could not overcome a Senate filibuster.
The appropriations bill provides funds for the Departments of Labor and Health and Human Services. A provision would help ice dancer Tanith Belbin gain American citizenship in time to represent the United States in the Turin Olympics.
If eligible, Belbin and partner Ben Agosto are considered America's best hope for figure skating gold in Turin. A medal of any color would be the country's first in ice dancing since 1976.
The defense bill Bush signed keeps the Pentagon running, provides $50 billion more to military action in Iraq and Afghanistan, and gives $29 billion in hurricane aid to the Gulf Coast. The Gulf Coast aid includes $11.5 billion for community grants to spur economic development, along with money for schools and to start shoring up New Orleans' levees.
The bill provides $3.8 billion to prepare for a possible outbreak of bird flu and liability protections for flu drug manufacturers.
The defense measure also requires the humane treatment of foreign terrorism suspects. The Bush administration initially threatened to veto any bill limiting how the United States detains, interrogates or prosecutes terror suspects, but then reluctantly endorsed the legislation amid pressure from the Republican-controlled Congress and U.S. allies.
The chief sponsor, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., had the votes in both the House and Senate to override a veto despite early lobbying against the ban by Vice President Dick Cheney.
"The detention and interrogation of captured terrorists are critical tools in the war on terror," Bush said in a statement released by the White House Friday night in Crawford.
"U.S. law and policy already prohibit torture," he said. "Our policy has also been not to use cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, at home or abroad. This legislation now makes that a matter of statute for practices abroad."
In addition, the measure takes aim at a 2004 Supreme Court ruling that gave Guantanamo detainees the right to fight the legality of their detentions in any federal court. The bill limits their ability to appeal their detention status and punishments to a federal appeals court in Washington.