Tags: New | Police | Powers | Flow | from | 9/11 | Law

New Police Powers Flow from 9/11 Law

Friday, 10 December 2004 12:00 AM

Many of the provisions have been sought by the Bush administration for months, but they were tied up in Congress because of objections from civil rights groups.

Persistence, however — and healthy Republican victories in Congress and the White House Nov. 2 — has paid off and now the administration is looking forward to putting the new provisions into practice.

"We are very pleased that the Congress agreed with us that despite having passed the Patriot Act right after 9/11, we still had work to do," Justice Department spokesman Mark Corallo said. He described the new provisions as "common-sense reforms aimed at preventing terrorist attacks," adding they were necessary to better protect Americans.

Critics, however, believe the new provisions won't help the government broaden its counterterrorism powers as much as they will further erode constitutional protections.

"I am troubled by some provisions that were added in conference that have nothing to do with reforming our intelligence network," Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., told the Post. "This Justice Department has a record of abusing its detention powers post-9/11 and of making terrorism allegations that turn out to have no merit."

Still, he voted for the bill because of its intelligence reform provisions, not its expansion of government police powers, the latter of which he says were not contained in the federal 9/11 investigation panel's list of recommendations.

Earlier this week the American Civil Liberties Union sent a letter to each member of Congress, asking them to reject the bill because it would "increase the likelihood of government abuses" of freedoms.

"In its attempt to reform our intelligence systems by an artificial deadline, Congress appears willing to accept legislation that will diminish our freedom and privacy," said Laura W. Murphy, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office.

Adds Timothy H. Edgar, an ACLU Legislative Counsel, "While the bill could have been much worse, Congress should not pass a bad bill simply because it is there. Politics – not policy – has been the main driving force behind this bill. Politics should not be allowed to determine the shape of our national intelligence systems."

Yet, supporters argue the measure's expanded law enforcement provisions are needed to intercept cunning terrorists, whose tactics are always changing.

Some, such as "lone wolf" operatives who are not affiliated with any group like al-Qaida, could have escaped without scrutiny under old rules.

The new measure "would allow the FBI to obtain secret surveillance and search warrants of individuals without having to show a connection between the target of the warrant and a foreign government or terrorist group," the Post reported.

That provision, said analysts, aimed to fix a problem encountered by government authorities in the weeks and months leading to the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

Then, federal lawyers were not sure whether they could link Zacarias Moussaoui, suspected "20th hijacker," to a certain group and hence legally search is residence and belongings.

Other changes were also needed to fix other problems encountered by U.S. officials investigating terrorist activities.

For example under current rules, argued Paul Rosenzweig, Senior Legal Research Fellow in the Center for Legal and Judicial Studies at The Heritage Foundation, "it is not considered 'material support' if one personally receives training in an al-Qaida training camp.

"So shipping a gun to Afghanistan is illegal, but going there yourself and learning how to use it to fight American troops is not."

The new bill would fix that loophole.

Other specifics, which were to be part of what critics called "Patriot Act II," which was never introduces as a bill per-se, but whose parts have been fitted to the new 9/11 bill, include:

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Many of the provisions have been sought by the Bush administration for months, but they were tied up in Congress because of objections from civil rights groups. Persistence, however - and healthy Republican victories in Congress and the White House Nov. 2 - has paid off...
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2004-00-10
Friday, 10 December 2004 12:00 AM
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