Anti-terror law clears hurdle, faces objections

By LAURIE KELLMAN | May 23, 2011 | 6:13 PM EDT

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate has advanced a four-year extension of the Patriot Act, the controversial law that governs the search for terrorists on American soil.

Lawmakers voted 74-8 to debate the legislation this week. Three provisions expire on Friday unless the House and Senate agree to renew them.

President Barack Obama is in Europe, so any bill Congress passes must be physically flown to him and signed into law by the deadline.

The expiring provisions would allow the government to wiretap multiple electronic devices and get court-approved access to business records relevant to terrorist investigations. A third provision would permit secret surveillance of non-U.S. individuals without showing a connection between the target and a specific terrorist group.

Several Democrats and Republicans say the law gives the government too much power.