- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 26, 2001

Attorney General John Ashcroft yesterday told a Senate panel that civil liberties will not be trampled in the Bush administration's effort to capture terrorists responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.
"I can assure the committee and the American people we are conducting this effort with a total commitment to protect the rights, the constitutional rights and the privacy of all Americans," Mr. Ashcroft told the Senate Judiciary Committee.
"The Justice Department will not waver in our defense of the Constitution nor will we relent in our defense of civil rights," Mr. Ashcroft said.
President Bush made his case for anti-terrorism legislation during a visit yesterday to the FBI.
"We're at war," Mr. Bush said. "In order to win the war, we must first make sure the men and women in law enforcement have the tools necessary."
Senate Democrats are skeptical about several provisions that they say will infringe upon civil liberties. Unlike a handful of House Republicans who also remain unconvinced, Senate Republicans said they are confident the legislation is constitutionally sound.
Led by Georgia Rep. Bob Barr, some House Republicans want the legislation stripped into several sections with the agreeable measures passing quickly and controversial components cast aside.
Mr. Barr has said the legislation "will ultimately harm those freedoms we have fought so hard to protect," and warned against efforts to "rush through legislation giving the federal government even more power."
Sen. Jon Kyl, Arizona Republican, defended the bill, saying the administration needed law-enforcement powers used to combat organized crime and drug trafficking to be expanded to fighting terrorism. "This doesn't raise civil liberties concerns," Mr. Kyl said.
Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, Utah Republican and ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, said the language can be adjusted to alleviate concerns and strengthen the bill. The changes should improve the bill, he said, and not be used as a roadblock to passage.
"I think we need to give the Justice Department virtually everything they asked for," Mr. Hatch said.
Sen. Jeff Sessions, Alabama Republican, said "we need to give them as much power as we can without eroding fundamental liberties."
The anti-terrorism proposal would allow federal courts to issue a single wiretap order that would apply to every form of communication that a targeted person uses, including those outside the region where the court is located.
Some fear such "roving wiretaps" would invade the privacy of citizens not under investigation.
The bill would eliminate the statute of limitations on terrorist acts and enhance the authority of the Immigration and Naturalization Service to detain or remove suspected alien terrorists from the country.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat, suggested putting a five-year sunset on controversial components and reviewing potential abuses.
Mr. Ashcroft has urged swift passage of the bill, and Vice President Richard B. Cheney has asked Republican senators to pass the legislation by Oct. 5. Senate Republican leaders predict the bill will be approved by next week.
Yesterday, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld briefed House Republicans on the administration's efforts to track down terrorists.

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