On May 26, 2011 three major provisions of the Patriot Act, which were set to expire, were instead extended until 2015. These provisions relate to roving wiretaps, searches of business records, and survelliance on individuals suspected of terrorist-related activities not linked to a terrorist group.
Dictorial regimes often declare and maintain a state of emergency for the life of the regime in order to suppress internal opposition. It is rare for democracies to maintain prolonged states of emergencies.
Now we go will go into the 2012 presidential election with these major provisions of the Patriot Act in place - how convenient!