- The Washington Times - Monday, October 1, 2001

Attorney General John Ashcroft says that new terrorist attacks on the United States are likely, and that Congress needs to pass legislation that keeps illegal aliens with ties to terrorists in jail.
"We've arrested and detained almost 500 people [since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks], and we do that for people who are out of [immigration] status they've violated the law. We need the ability to keep them in jail and not have them bonded out," Mr. Ashcroft said in an interview yesterday on CNN's "Late Edition."
He made the same argument in an appearance on CBS' "Face the Nation," saying that illegal aliens "who have links to those who are part of a terrorist network pose an increased risk."
"We've got to find a way to keep them in jail we don't want them on the streets," Mr. Ashcroft said.
But members of Congress on both sides of the aisle say they object to Mr. Ashcroft's proposal for what Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., Delaware Democrat, describes as the "indefinite detention of an alien here illegally," and lawmakers are working to find an alternative.
Modernizing anti-terrorism laws is "very important, but there is a problem detaining people without charges and for indefinite lengths of time," said Rep. Henry J. Hyde, Illinois Republican and chairman of the House International Relations Committee, yesterday on NBC's "Meet the Press."
Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat and Judiciary Committee chairman, said on CBS: "We have to have some kind of checks and balances. We don't want to be like countries that hold people who don't know why they are being held."
Mr. Biden, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, agreed. "We should have something in effect, like a speedy trial kind of provision, that requires them to be held only a certain amount of time and then released and/or the deportation matter taken care of because deportation can take so long to have them in jail," he said.
Mr. Hyde, who is also a member of the House Judiciary Committee, said the Ashcroft detention proposal is "under negotiation right now and probably will be shaped up to be satisfactory to almost everybody."
"As I understand it, they're negotiating over seven days as a definite length of time" for such a detention, he said.
It's uncertain whether the attorney general would find such a time limit acceptable. In both network interviews yesterday, Mr. Ashcroft said that the Justice Department believes more attacks are "likely," and that the risks of further terrorism will "escalate" if the United States retaliates against the perpetrators of the Sept. 11 assault.
At issue is a rule change the Immigration and Naturalization Service put into effect soon after the terrorist attacks, which Mr. Ashcroft wants Congress to enact into law as part of a package of statutes for fighting terrorism.
Under the new INS rules, illegal immigrants can be held by that agency for 48 hours, instead of one day, before officials decide whether to charge them. Also, the INS regulation permits illegal immigrants to be detained for an unlimited time in "extraordinary circumstances." That provision has been used to hold aliens considered to be suspected terrorists.
"As we've increased the tools [for fighting terrorism], we've reduced the risk. That's why this legislation is so important. We need something more than talk," Mr. Ashcroft said.
On CNN, Mr. Ashcroft denied that anyone's civil liberties are being violated under the new regulations. Of those who have been detained in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, he said, "Some have violated immigration laws; some are material witnesses; and some have violated state and local laws and are on a list as having contacts" with terrorist organizations.
"We seek to hold them as suspected terrorists, [while] their cases are being processed on other grounds," he said.
If charges against detainees are resolved in their favor, "they would be free to go," said Mr. Ashcroft. "But suspected terrorists, we should be able to detain, pending the resolution of other criminal charges against them or pending the resolution of immigration charges against those individuals."
The package of new laws Mr. Ashcroft is seeking would also give federal investigators greater wiretapping authority and would abolish the statute of limitations for terrorist attacks. President Bush has said he wants the legal reforms presented to him by Oct. 5.
Sen. Orrin G. Hatch of Utah, the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, questioned why the government shouldn't be permitted to detain illegal aliens "with links to Osama bin Laden" and other terrorists. "We've got to get this done I don't think we can delay this any longer," he said on CBS' "Face the Nation."
Administration officials and lawmakers, who appeared on news talk shows yesterday, also addressed growing public concern that the next terrorist attack against this country could involve chemical or biological weapons. No one discounted this threat.
"We must be very diligent," White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card said on "Fox News Sunday." He added: "I'm not trying to be an alarmist. But we know terrorist organizations have probably found the means to use chemical and biological warfare."
On "Meet the Press," Mr. Hyde said, "This scares me more than nuclear weapons, because these [chemical and biological weapons] are so portable and so can be introduced into the country rather easily it's so easy to get virulent anthrax into the country in a diplomatic pouch, poison water supplies."
Sen. Carl Levin, Michigan Democrat and chairman of the Armed Services Committee, interviewed on "Fox News Sunday," said that "biological and chemical threats are real."
Mr. Levin said that funding to prepare for bioterrorism should take precedence over funding for what he described as the "least likely threat" of a missile attack on this country.

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