A high stakes political tug of war is underway between the upper and lower houses of the US Congress over the controversial Patriot Act.
The House of Representatives has passed a one-month extension for the parts of the legislation due to expire at the New Year, and that in turn forces the Senate to reconsider its six month extension.
Opposition Democrats and some rebel Republicans are calling for changes to protect civil liberties.
President George W Bush sidestepped the infighting, commenting: “It appears to me that the Congress understands that we have got to keep the Patriot Act in place, that we are still under threat, there’s still an enemy that wants to harm us and the Patriot Act is an important tool.”
Bush wants to make every part of the Act permanent, including the measures which have sparked the row.
They include giving investigators the power to listen in on any telephone call and tap any computer they think a terrorism suspect may use.
The rest of the legislation, which boosts the government’s ability to carry out searches and surveillance, has already been made permanent.