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Senate Passes 'Anti-Terrorism' Bill

by ROBERT L. JACKSON, Times Staff Writer Saturday, Oct. 13, 2001 at 5:09 PM

Congress: Electronic eavesdropping, greater authority to detain suspects are among the broad measures passed, 96 to 1. " . . .would limit detention of suspects to seven days rather than the indefinite time period sought by the administration." Oh boy, that was close!

WASHINGTON -- The Senate responded to President Bush's request

for expanded anti-terrorist powers Thursday by approving a sweeping

program that would make it easier for U.S. law enforcement officials to

detect and detain suspected terrorists.

Satisfying the concerns of some civil liberties advocates, senators voted,

96 to 1, for broad measures that, among other provisions, would limit

detention of suspects to seven days rather than the indefinite time period

sought by the administration.

Senate leaders also began discussing an agreement with the House,

which is expected to pass its own similar legislation today, to put a

five-year limit on broadening the government's authority to conduct

electronic surveillance.

Among the powers approved by the Senate were measures allowing law

enforcement to eavesdrop on e-mail and other computer

communications without permission from a court, to obtain wiretapping

authority for multiple jurisdictions from a single court and to deploy

so-called "roving wiretaps" that permit investigators to monitor a

suspect's communications across multiple devices like cellular phones.

President Bush is expected to sign promptly the combined package that

Congress sends to his desk.

So urgent was the legislation that Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle

(D-S.D.) kept his colleagues in session until they passed the measures at

close to midnight.

Daschle also succeeded in getting the Senate overwhelmingly to reject

three amendments by Sen. Russell D. Feingold (D-Wis.), who argued

that his proposals would keep law enforcement officers from invading

the privacy of innocent people with no connection to terror suspects.

Feingold cast the lone dissenting vote.

Daschle said he sympathized with Feingold's aims but cautioned that the

Senate bill already was a delicate bipartisan compromise that gave

protection to individual liberties.

Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), liberal chairman of the Judiciary

Committee, said bipartisan efforts had produced "the best bill possible,

one requiring Republicans and Democrats to come together."

Leahy added: "We were able to remove a number of unconstitutional

parts the administration had proposed."

Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah), the committee's ranking minority

member, said far-reaching legislation was needed because "we live in a

dangerous and difficult world today with terrorist cells in this country."

To those concerned about the potential loss of civil liberties in increasing

the powers of the FBI and other agencies, Hatch advised them to

ponder "the loss of civil liberties of those who died" in the terrorist

attacks of Sept. 11.

But Hatch said the government cannot guarantee total protection of the

public "when you have people willing to commit suicide to do us harm."

Advocating the need for roving wiretap authority, Sen. Dianne Feinstein

(D-Calif.), a Judiciary Committee member, explained that "under current

law, law enforcement must get a wiretap order for each individual phone

line. Criminals and terrorists know this, so they often manage to defeat

surveillance by simply moving locations or exchanging countless

disposable or even stolen cell phones."

Besides expanding the government's power to eavesdrop on suspects

and detain suspects and potential witnesses for limited periods, the

Senate bill also mandates the sharing of investigative data between the

FBI and CIA when such information could pertain to terrorist activities.

Previously, such data often was protected by court order or by grand

jury secrecy.

In addition, the bill increases maximum penalties for terrorist-related

crimes that result in any deaths. It also triples the number of Border

Patrol officers, Customs Service agents and U.S. immigration inspectors

along the Canadian border, the boundary that some terrorists who

hijacked airliners last month are believed to have crossed. The bill

appropriates million to upgrade technology for those agents.

Additionally, the Senate legislation includes strict anti-money-laundering

provisions designed to prevent terrorists from using U.S. banks in

furtherance of their activities, and it improves the ability of federal agents

to detect such use.

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