The measure would add four years to the legal life of roving wiretaps, authorized for a person rather than a communications line or device; court-ordered searches of business records; and surveillance of non-American "lone wolf" suspects without confirmed ties to terrorist groups.
What was strange about the process was the 100% about-face by the Democrats on the usefulness of the Patriot Act. The Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid was particularly hypocritical. Merely a few years ago he was scaremongering about the Republicans' ignorance of the Constitution and their shredding of individual liberties.
Now, for some reason, Reid was hyping up the threat of a terrorist attack on United States soil if these three provisions went unpassed. He even claimed that going merely hours without these provisions would "increase the risk of a retaliatory terrorist strike against the homeland and hamper our ability to deal a truly fatal blow to al-Qaeda." This is not true - and there are legitimate reforms that would be useful if made to the Patriot Act.
The hypocrisy of Harry Reid is really strange. As Spencer Ackerman explains
When the Senate debated renewing the Patriot Act in 2006, Reid, a supporter of the bill’s surveillance procedures, himself slowed up the bill’s passage to allow amendments to it — the better to allow “sensible checks on the arbitrary exercise of executive power.” Sounding a whole lot like Rand Paul, the 2006-vintage Reid registered his “objection to the procedural maneuver under which Senators have been blocked from offering any amendments to this bill” and reminded his colleagues, ”the hallmark of the Senate is free speech and open debate.”
Harry Reid did the exact same thing that Sen. Paul is doing. And he's demagogued Paul's actions as undermining our War on Terror.
Now, most of the GOP, including the leadership, was supportive of the reauthorization of the Patriot Act's provisions. But this time, it was the Democrats who insisted on the urgency of the law. And it's the Democrats who wanted to score cheap political points, in complete ignorance of their past actions.