- The Washington Times - Friday, October 26, 2001

The Senate yesterday approved broad new police powers for the Justice Department, and Attorney General John Ashcroft vowed to begin using them against terrorists within an hour of President Bush signing the measure into law today.
The vote to give federal agents expanded surveillance and search powers was 98-1. The lone "no" vote was Sen. Russell D. Feingold, Wisconsin Democrat.
"On September 11th, almost 6,000 people lost their lives, and they lost their civil liberties," said Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, Utah Republican. "It's our job to make sure nobody else loses their lives or their civil liberties."
Under the bill, federal authorities can detain illegal immigrants suspected of terrorism for up to seven days instead of the current 48 hours. Mr. Ashcroft wanted the power to detain such suspects indefinitely.
The measure also tightens money-laundering laws in an effort to dry up the illicit financial networks that fund terrorist operations. The Treasury Department could prohibit U.S. banks from doing business with foreign countries or banks deemed to present a major money-laundering threat.
The attorney general said he will order law enforcement to begin using the new powers today, immediately after Mr. Bush signs the measure into law.
"A new era in America's fight against terrorism is about to begin," said Mr. Ashcroft. "I will issue directives requiring law enforcement to make use of new powers in intelligence gathering, criminal procedure and immigration violations."
Mr. Bush applauded the passage of the bill and repeated his pledge to sign it "so that we can combat terrorism and prevent future attacks."
The House approved the package Wednesday by a vote of 357 to 66, after negotiators agreed on a provision that requires expanded wiretap powers to expire after four years unless Congress specifically acts to renew the legislation. The administration opposed such a "sunset" provision; the House wanted a two-year expiration date.
Investigators will be able to read e-mail, collect data on computers and track suspects via the Internet. The legislation also triples funding, to $400 million, for guarding the 4,000-mile-long border with Canada.
Mr. Ashcroft and the administration had asked for the expanded authority immediately after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. But lawmakers moved deliberately, with liberals and conservatives alike expressing concern about infringing on civil liberties.
In the end, only Mr. Feingold in the Senate felt the law went too far. He said it places the burden on "innocent associates" of terrorists to prove they were not involved in a plot or face deportation.
"This really amounts to guilt by association," said Mr. Feingold.
The measure also allows law enforcement and intelligence agencies to share information, a feature that Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott called crucial.
"This legislation ensures that every law enforcement and intelligence agency with information on terrorist activities can readily share it with others who need to know," said Mr. Lott.
Two of the prime movers of the bill in the Senate, Mr. Hatch and Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat, differed sharply on whether the new measures would have prevented the Sept. 11 suicide hijackings. Mr. Hatch said it "very well may have."
"Had we been able to share information between the intelligence agencies of our government and law enforcement, we may very well have been able to have prevented this," he said.
"Had we been able to wiretap terrorists we may very well have been able to find these people. I've been told by people at [Justice] that right now, even as we sit here, without this bill signed into law, that they cannot pick up people because they don't have the intelligence-sharing between various agencies of government as of right now."
Mr. Leahy, standing next to Mr. Hatch at a news conference, disputed him and said, "You're obviously referring to something I'm not aware of."
Mr. Leahy urged the FBI and the CIA to look at another option that he said would improve counterterrorism operations.
"Start hiring people who speak more than English," Mr. Leahy said. "If we're going to deal with worldwide terrorism, we have to understand, if we gather information about terrorists, or listen to wiretaps, or anything else, or talk to people in different parts of the world, they're not going to speak English for our convenience, especially if they're plotting to blow us up. And maybe we ought to start spending a little bit more time being able to translate the information we have."
The new law will allow authorities to search suspects' homes without notification. It also updates electronic-surveillance capabilities to permit agents to obtain wiretaps on any telephone used by a suspect, rather than on just a particular telephone.
Further, the measure eliminates the requirement to show to a special court that the target of a wiretap is in contact with an "agent of a foreign power."
Instead, agents must prove their request is relevant to an investigation to protect against international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities, or to obtain foreign intelligence information not concerning Americans.

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