When the Patriot Act was originally passed in the days following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Congress put time limits on three of its most far-reaching provisions:
You might not have heard, but some key parts of the nation's most important anti-terrorism law are set to expire in December.
1. "Roving wiretaps," which allow investigators to keep up with suspects who use dozens of cell phones to avoid being traced.
2. Business records authority, which lets investigators ask a special national-security court for access to records of a suspect's dealings with private businesses.
3. The “lone wolf" provision, which allows investigators to track individual terror suspects even if they are not a member of a terrorist group, like al Qaeda.
Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) echoes the conservative view by saying he is very worried that we could end up weakening the act when we should be considering what we can do to make it stronger.
Congress renewed those provisions in 2005 and now must give them another four-year renewal, or they will disappear.
Some Democrat lawmakers have long wanted to weaken the act, and now, with big majorities in the House and Senate, they have their chance.
But the renewal debate just happens to come at a time when recently uncovered domestic terror plots -- most notably the Denver shuttle bus driver and his colleagues caught with bomb-making materials and a list of specific targets in New York City -- are highlighting the very threats the act was designed to counter.
Republicans are fighting to keep the law in its current form.
By weakening the Patriot Act, Democrats in Washington may just become allies of the terrorists. Terrorists will not be nice to us just because we are nice to them.