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
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
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.