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|Posted: Wed Apr 14, 2004 4:02 am Post subject: More Ashcroft BS
|Ashcroft Takes Terror Case To Senate
Posted by FoM on September 25, 2001 at 10:38:53 PT
By Jesse J. Holland, Associated Press Writer
Source: Associated Press
Punishing terrorists as harshly as drug dealers and mafia dons and updating the FBI's wiretapping abilities are necessary for the Justice Department to battle terrorism, Attorney General John Ashcroft said Tuesday.
Ashcroft, who testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee, asked Congress to pass an entire anti-terrorism package before the end of the year. But when asked to pare down his proposed legislation to the most important items, Ashcroft picked increasing the terrorism penalties and updating the technology laws.
``Those are the two things that are priorities,'' Ashcroft said.
The Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., promised to work with Ashcroft on getting some parts of his legislation through the Senate, although Leahy has an anti-terrorism proposal of his own that he wants lawmakers to consider. ``There are a whole lot of things we can work on and we can agree on,'' he told Ashcroft.
This was Ashcroft's second day on Capitol Hill calling for his anti-terrorism legislation. The attorney general acknowledged in testimony to the House Judiciary Committee Monday that the proposals would not have prevented the attacks but said they are necessary for a safer future.
``The mere fact that we can't do everything shouldn't keep us from doing what we can do,'' he says.
``The American people do not have the luxury of unlimited time in erecting the necessary defenses to future terrorist acts,'' the attorney general said.
Questions about the constitutionality of his provisions and how they would affect Americans' civil liberties have prompted lawmakers to slow down the legislation.
The House committee had planned to vote on the legislation Tuesday, but Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., who chairs the panel, delayed it until late next week to give the panel time to work out worries aired by some lawmakers.
``We are very close to reaching a bill that has bipartisan support and that would pass the House of Representatives,'' Sensenbrenner said.
Ashcroft, a former senator, wants Congress to expand the FBI's wiretapping authority, impose stronger penalties on those who harbor or finance terrorists and increase punishments of terrorists. ``Every day that passes with outdated statutes and the old rules of engagement is a day that terrorists have a competitive advantage,'' Ashcroft said.
But he said the new powers would not necessarily have prevented the attacks two weeks ago that left more than 6,500 people dead or missing in New York City, at the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania. ``We do know that without them the occurrence took place, and we do know that each of them would strengthen our ability to curtail, disrupt and prevent terrorism,'' Ashcroft said. ``But we have absolutely no assurance.''
Both Democrats and Republicans on the committee said the issues are too important to rush the legislation.
Rep. John Conyers of Michigan, the panel's senior Democrat, said the parties had agreed on 16 items in Ashcroft's package, but that some others ``give us constitutional trouble.''
Ashcroft's proposal also would allow immigrants suspected of terrorism to be held indefinitely -- something Conyers said the courts already have viewed as unconstitutional.
Concerns also were raised about the proposed use in U.S. courts of electronic surveillance gathered by foreign governments with methods that violate the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure.
``While some would say that's unconstitutional on its face, let me be more polite: We're deeply troubled,'' Conyers said.
Ashcroft said he was sure his bill would pass constitutional muster. ``We are conducting this effort with a total commitment to protect the rights and privacy of all Americans and the constitutional protections we hold dear,'' he said.
On the Net:
Justice Department: http://www.usdoj.gov
Senate Committee: http://judiciary.senate.gov
House Committee: http://www.house.gov/judiciary
Source: Associated Press
Authors: Jesse J. Holland, Associated Press Writer
Published: Tuesday, September 25, 2001
Copyright: 2001 Associated Press
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