(Artwork: Wiretap Studios)
More than a dozen of the GOP's most conservative members on Thursday introduced a bill to reauthorize controversial Patriot Act provisions set to expire later this year.
The group of House Republicans - who include Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.), Conference Chairman Mike Pence (R-Ind.) and Judiciary Ranking Member Lamar Smith (R-Texas) - want to extend for an additional 10 years the ability of national security agencies to conduct "roving" wiretaps, have access to library patron information and greatly expand the reach of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
Those provisions of the Patriot Act were set to expire this year.
"If there's one thing we can predict about terrorism it's that it's unpredictable," said Smith, the lead sponsor of the Safe and Secure America Act of 2009. "That's why law enforcement and intelligence officials must remain vigilant."
"The national security provisions we're seeking to reauthorize are proven and effective," Smith continued. "They have helped investigators track down terrorists and prevent attacks."
Those provisions in particular drew the ire of liberals and privacy groups who said they trampled on Americans' civil liberties.
But the GOP members who introduced the reauthorization bill shot back that the threat of domestic terrorism is still as real as it was eight years ago.
"Critics of these provisions claim that the terrorist threat has diminished since 2001," Smith said. "But such claims ignore the deadly attacks in London, Madrid, Mumbai and Yemen. If we want to keep Americans - both here and abroad - safe and secure from future terrorist attacks, we need to extend these provisions."
Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) did not sign on as an original cosponsor.
"I've not seen the proposal," Boehner told reporters Thursday. "But the Patriot Act is a part of helping to keep America safe and we've got to do everything we can in this time of economic crisis to protect our citizens from those who'd want to harm us."
Those House Republicans who joined some GOP leaders to introduce the bill include: Judiciary Committee Members: Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.); Rep. Howard Coble (R-N.C.); Rep. Elton Gallegly (R-Calif.); Rep. Daniel Lungren (R-Calif.); Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa); Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.); Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio); Rep. Tom Rooney (R-Fla.); and Rep. Gregg Harper (R-Miss.); and GOP Reps. John Sullivan (R-Okla.); Rep. John Shadegg (R-Ariz.); Rep. Duncan Hunter (Calif.); Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-Minn.); and Rep. Mary Fallin (R-Okla.).