- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 4, 2001

NEW YORK (Agence France-Presse) The vast majority of Americans support increasing the powers of the FBI and police after the country's worst terrorist attack three weeks ago, a poll showed yesterday.

The Harris Interactive poll indicated that 90 percent of the 1,012 adults surveyed wanted to see the implementation of at least three tough new security measures, chosen from a list compiled by Harris.

Some 86 percent favored new face-recognition technology, which has been proposed for identifying airline passengers, while 81 percent wanted to see increased powers by officials to oversee banking transactions.

Another 68 percent wanted to see national identity cards introduced in the United States, and 63 percent called for boosted video surveillance of public places.

The phone poll also showed that 63 percent of respondents favored controls on Internet transactions, and 54 percent went as far as calling for greater monitoring of cell phone conversations and e-mail.

But between 68 percent and 79 percent of those polled said they were concerned the FBI and police could abuse such powers, while between 32 percent and 44 percent said they greatly feared such abuse.

A further 34 percent, however, said they were confident that the new powers, if introduced, would be used properly against terrorism, while 54 percent were relatively confident.

The poll was conducted Sept. 19-24 and has an error margin of at least three percentage points.

It was carried out after President Bush and Attorney General John Ashcroft called for boosted federal police powers to counter the threat of further terrorist attacks in the United States.

On Monday, negotiators at the House of Representatives agreed in principle to give expanded powers to fight terrorism.

But Mr. Ashcroft said on Tuesday he was concerned about slow progress in Congress of the bill designed to give law enforcement authorities new tools to fight terrorism.

The Justice Department wants to extend the period during which illegal immigrants suspected of having ties to terrorist groups can be detained without a court order and want boosted wiretapping powers.

But some lawmakers and human rights groups have expressed fears that such increased powers could erode civil liberties.

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