- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 13, 2001

The House yesterday approved overwhelmingly a counterterrorism bill similar to a Senate version, and the legislation expanding police powers could be ready for President Bush's signature next week.
"The rules of this war are vastly different," said Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., Wisconsin Republican and chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. "Terrorists have weapons that law enforcement cannot protect against right now."
The bill was approved on a vote of 337-79 and closely follows a measure adopted by the Senate near midnight Thursday. Only three Republicans voted no: Reps. Ray LaHood of Illinois, Ron Paul of Texas and C.L. "Butch" Otter of Idaho.
Some differences with the Senate remain to be worked out. The House version lacks a Senate-passed measure to tighten money-laundering laws, and Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, said yesterday the legislation is unacceptable without it.
The House version would require expanded wiretap powers to expire after five years; the Senate version has no such sunset provision.
The legislation would give the FBI broad new powers to conduct wiretaps and unannounced searches, calls for tougher penalties for crimes of terror and allows federal authorities to detain aliens for up to seven days without filing charges, instead of the current 48 hours.
"Today, Congress sent a message to terrorists that they will find no safe haven in America. These tough new laws aid our anti-terrorism task forces to help defeat terrorists," Attorney General John Ashcroft said.
Mr. Bush and Mr. Ashcroft have been urging Congress to give the Justice Department and the FBI greater powers to investigate the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks that killed more than 5,000 people and to prevent future attacks.
The lopsided House vote belied lawmakers' unhappiness with a last-minute power play by the White House. Many lawmakers complained that House Republican leaders gave in to late-night pressure from the administration to abandon the bill approved unanimously by the House Judiciary Committee and adopt instead the Senate bill with fewer safeguards on civil liberties.
House lawmakers originally wanted the new wiretap powers to expire after only two years. Mr. Ashcroft is opposed to any sunset provision.
Rep. Maxine Waters, California Democrat, said Mr. Ashcroft "is using this unfortunate situation to extract extraordinary powers."
"We had a bipartisan bill, and John Ashcroft destroyed it," Mrs. Waters said.
White House officials negotiated late into the night Thursday with Mr. Sensenbrenner and other Republican leaders to extend the expiration date and incorporate other features of the Senate bill, including more leeway for federal agents to search homes without first notifying a suspect.
The talks were so secretive that even many Republicans on the Judiciary Committee knew nothing of the deal when they came to the Capitol yesterday morning. Several lawmakers said it became clear that the Senate version had momentum and they were loath to vote against any anti-terrorism bill.
"I don't even know if it was arm-twisting," said Mr. LaHood. "[The administration] just said, 'This is the way we're going to do it.' It's the only train leaving the station. It's what the president wants, and it's what the attorney general wants. They got their way."
"Am I happy? No," said Rep. Bob Barr, Georgia Republican. "But I do think, on balance, it's important to pass this piece of legislation."
The bill would authorize "roving wiretaps," permitting authorities with a court order to wiretap any phone a suspected foreign terrorist might use, instead of a specific phone. It would also make it easier for U.S. criminal investigators and intelligence officers to share information.
The measure would also allow law enforcement officials to obtain a subpoena to get records from Internet providers about the e-mail transmissions of suspected terrorists.
Under the bill, federal judges could sentence anyone convicted of a crime of terror to life imprisonment.
Supporters of the bill said federal authorities urgently need the new powers to stop further terrorist acts.
"These measures are smart, proactive steps we can take to safeguard our nation and protect the American public from terrorist threats," said House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, Illinois Republican.
"With this new bill, we have added another layer of security to our nation."
Mr. Sensenbrenner said changes to the House bill were made to get the legislation to the president as quickly as possible.
"With a clear and present danger facing our country, I believe it is imperative that we act expeditiously," he said.
Opponents said the process was unfair and that the bill would infringe on Americans' civil liberties.
"We cannot let terrorists rewrite our Constitution," said Rep. Barbara Lee, California Democrat and the only House member to vote against a resolution last month granting Mr. Bush war powers.
Said Rep. Bobby L. Rush, Illinois Democrat, "I fear we may be returning to the days of McCarthyism and Hooverism," references to the late Wisconsin Sen. Joseph McCarthy and the late FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover.

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