Tags: Ashcroft | Asks | for | Speed | New | Authority

Ashcroft Asks for Speed on New Authority

Monday, 24 September 2001 12:00 AM

Ashcroft said a Federal Aviation Administration decision to temporarily ground all domestic crop-dusting aircraft until midnight was based on an FBI "nationwide alert," that the planes could be used to spread chemical or biological weapons.

According to Ashcroft, Mohamed Atta, the terrorist suspected of steering the first of two aircraft to hit the World Trade Center towers, "was acquiring knowledge of crop-dusting aircraft prior to the attacks on Sept. 11."

He also said that the search of "computers, computer disks and personal baggage of another individuals whom we have in custody" showed he had researched crop dusting.

"We have no clear indication of the time or place of any such attack," Ashcroft said, but added that, "The American people do not have the luxury of unlimited time in erecting the necessary defenses to future terrorist acts."

"Terrorism is a clear and present danger to Americans today."

Democrats said they agree with much of what Ashcroft wants, but said some of the administration's requests appear to conflict with the Constitution.

Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., has set a markup of a bill based on Ashcroft's request for later this week. Committee Ranking Member John Conyers said Congress needs enough time to work out the constitutionally "troubling" aspects of what the administration wants.

Ashcroft asked the House Judiciary Committee Monday for new power to tap cell phones and trace computer correspondence, use immigration laws to detain or deport threatening individuals, and infiltrate and steal terrorists' financial assets.

But Democrats signaled concern over the administration's request to use immigration law to detain indefinitely and deport dangerous individuals without judicial oversight.

"Indefinite detention is unconstitutional," Conyers said. "Indefinite detention has not been upheld by the courts."

Conyers also said some of the expanded wire-tapping authority Ashcroft wants could also prove unworkable. For example, the administration wants to use information gained from wiretaps in other countries that if performed here would violate the Constitution. "We are deeply troubled by that," Conyers said.

Civil liberties groups have also complained that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act allows the government to skip legal hurdles and quickly tap phones so long as the action is designed to prevent espionage. While Ashcroft has asked for a broad expansion of that authority, it remains unclear if the government would restrict the use of it only to terrorist investigations.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said his panel would take whatever time was necessary to work out the kinks. Leahy noted that on the heels of the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995, the Senate quickly moved on anti-terrorism legislation. Now, Congress is being asked to come back and do it again.

"We want to do it right," Leahy said. "After Oklahoma City, we rammed through a bill in two months, and we still had to go back and repair it."

Copyright 2001 by United Press International. All rights reserved.

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Ashcroft said a Federal Aviation Administration decision to temporarily ground all domestic crop-dusting aircraft until midnight was based on an FBI nationwide alert, that the planes could be used to spread chemical or biological weapons. According to Ashcroft, Mohamed...
Ashcroft,Asks,for,Speed,New,Authority
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2001-00-24
Monday, 24 September 2001 12:00 AM
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