- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 27, 2001

The White House yesterday revealed that anthrax sent to the Senate last week could have been made in a small laboratory without the help of a nation-state sponsor, while President Bush approved a set of tough anti-terrorism measures that the Justice Department began using immediately.

"It could have been produced by a Ph.D. microbiologist at a small, well-equipped microbiology lab," said White House press secretary Ari Fleischer of the anthrax sent to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle,South Dakota Democrat.

"On the good news side of it, that would indicate that this is not necessarily state-sponsored," he said. "On the bad news side of it, it does indicate there is a broader universe of people, individuals, groups that have the know-how to produce it."

The administration's chief anti-terrorism official had conceded earlier yesterday that U.S. officials might never know the source of the anthrax in any of the letters that have infected at least 14 persons and killed three.

Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge on NBC's "Today" show said, "We may be able to identify the source. But I say just maybe. We may not be able to do that."

Meanwhile yesterday, President Bush signed an anti-terrorism bill that gives law enforcement officials broad new powers in wiretapping and detaining suspected terrorists and punishing convicts, powers that Attorney General John Ashcroft immediately ordered all 94 U.S. attorneys nationwide and the FBI's 56 field offices to begin using.

"Today, we take an essential step in defeating terrorism while protecting the constitutional rights of all Americans," Mr. Bush said in a bill-signing ceremony in the East Room of the White House.

"This bill met with an overwhelming agreement in Congress, because it upholds and respects the civil liberties guaranteed by our Constitution," he said. "This government will enforce this law with all the urgency of a nation at war."

Mr. Ashcroft said that with the enhanced provisions, the fight against terrorism will have the "full force of the law," while protecting constitutional rights.

"Law enforcement is now empowered with new tools and resources necessary to disrupt, weaken and eliminate the infrastructure of terrorist organizations, to prevent or thwart terrorist attacks, and to punish the perpetrators of terrorist acts," he said. "The American people can be assured law enforcement will use these new tools to protect our nation while upholding the sacred liberties expressed in the Constitution."

Federal law enforcement authorities so far have arrested or detained 977 persons in connection with the Sept. 11 attacks, including 172 who are being held on various immigration violations.

Mr. Ashcroft said the new provisions have two overarching principles: airtight surveillance of terrorists and speed in tracking down and intercepting terrorists. He said law enforcement has had similar provisions to fight drug traffickers and organized crime, but previously they did not apply to terrorism.

Seeking to capitalize on the urgency and momentum of a nation at war, Mr. Bush exhorted Congress to also pass new tax cuts, an energy plan and a measure that would give him trade-promotion authority. He said all three initiatives would help resuscitate the economy.

"Terrorists want to cast a shadow of fear on the businesses of America," the president said just hours after signing the anti-terrorism bill. "It's clear that our economy has been shocked."

He likened the war against terrorism to World War II and suggested he would follow in the footsteps of President Roosevelt in marching to victory.

"Franklin Roosevelt warned us 70 years ago that fear feeds on itself and contributes to the very problems that first gave it rise," Mr. Bush said. "Americans prevailed over fear in a Great Depression and in a global war. And we will do so again.

"The character of our country has not changed," he said. "Oh, the TV sets have changed, the telephones have changed, the cars have changed, but not the heart and soul of America."

Republicans hope the lofty rhetoric will help Mr. Bush enact some of the measures that had little hope of passage before Sept. 11, such as the opening of the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve to oil and gas drilling. While the GOP-controlled House has passed the president's energy plan, it is still languishing in the Democrat-controlled Senate.

"It is in our nation's national interest that we develop more energy supplies at home," the president said. "It's in our national interest to get a bill to my desk, and I urge the Senate to do so."

He also implored lawmakers to give him the ability to negotiate international trade deals that would be subject to all-or-nothing approval by Congress, but not tinkering.

"I need trade-promotion authority to expand opportunity for businesses large and small, for entrepreneurs in America," Mr. Bush said. "I need trade-promotion authority to expand the job base of this great nation."

While Mr. Bush cannot negotiate trade deals without such authority from Congress, he can unilaterally strengthen airport security if Congress fails to do so. The White House warned that the president is poised to do just that if lawmakers don't reach a compromise by next week on federalizing a portion of the work force at airports.

"The president has directly informed them that he wants very much for the Congress to pass an aviation-security measure," Mr. Fleischer said. "And he has broader authority. He hopes he will not have to use it."

Democrats want screeners of passengers and baggage to become federal employees. But Republicans want the federal role limited to the hiring and supervision of these screeners.

Mr. Fleischer recalled an incident in which a private screener failed to detect a gun that was smuggled past security.

"Well, that screener was immediately dismissed," he said. "If somebody joins the federal civil service, it's often impossible to take any disciplinary action in a prompt fashion."

•Jerry Seper and August Gribbin contributed to this report.

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