Madinat al-Muslimeen Islamic Message Board
|10/26/01 at 15:51:37|
|Terror Act Has Lasting Effects |
By Declan McCullagh
2:00 a.m. Oct. 26, 2001 PDT
WASHINGTON -- Legislators who sent a sweeping anti-terrorism bill to President Bush this week proudly say that the most controversial surveillance sections will expire in 2005.
Senate Judiciary chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) said that a four-year expiration date "will be crucial in making sure that these new law enforcement powers are not abused." In the House, Bob Barr (R-Georgia) stressed that "we take very seriously the sunset provisions in this bill."
But the Dec. 2005 expiration date embedded in the USA Act -- which the Senate approved 98 to 1 on Thursday -- applies only to a tiny part of the mammoth bill.
After the president signs the measure on Friday, police will have the permanent ability to conduct Internet surveillance without a court order in some circumstances, secretly search homes and offices without notifying the owner, and share confidential grand jury information with the CIA.
Also exempt from the expiration date are investigations underway by Dec. 2005, and any future investigations of crimes that took place before that date.
On Thursday, Attorney General John Ashcroft vowed to publish new guidelines as soon as the president signs the bill, which is expected to happen Friday. "I will issue directives requiring law enforcement to make use of new powers in intelligence gathering, criminal procedure and immigration violations," Ashcroft said.
President Bush said this week that he looks forward to signing the USA Act, which his administration requested in response to the Sep. 11 hijackings, "so that we can combat terrorism and prevent future attacks."
During the Senate debate Thursday, the lone critic of the bill was Russ Feingold (D-Wisconsin), who introduced an unsuccessful series of pro-privacy amendments earlier this month.
"We in this body have a duty to analyze, to test, to weigh new laws that the zealous and often sincere advocates of security would suggest to us," Feingold said. "This is what I have tried to do with this anti-terrorism bill. And that is why I will vote against this bill."
Feingold said the USA Act "does not strike the right balance between empowering law enforcement and protecting constitutional freedoms."
But not one of his colleagues joined him in dissent. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-New York) seemed to speak for the rest of the Senate when saying "the homefront is a war front" and arguing that police needed new surveillance powers.
Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-Louisiana) did not vote.
Other sections of the USA Act, which the House approved by a 357 to 66 vote on Wednesday, that do not expire include the following:
-- Police can sneak into someone's house or office, search the contents, and leave without ever telling the owner. This would be supervised by a court, and the notification of the surreptitious search "may be delayed" indefinitely. (Section 213)
-- Any U.S. attorney or state attorney general can order the installation of the FBI's Carnivore surveillance system and record addresses of Web pages visited and e-mail correspondents -- without going to a judge. Previously, there were stiffer legal restrictions on Carnivore and other Internet surveillance techniques. (Section 216)
-- Any American "with intent to defraud" who scans in an image of a foreign currency note or e-mails or transmits such an image will go to jail for up to 20 years. (Section 375)
-- An accused terrorist who is a foreign citizen and who cannot be deported can be held for an unspecified series of "periods of up to six months" with the attorney general's approval. (Section 412)
-- Biometric technology, such as fingerprint readers or iris scanners, will become part of an "integrated entry and exit data system" with the identities of visa holders who hope to enter the U.S. (Section 414)
-- Any Internet provider or telephone company must turn over customer information, including phone numbers called -- no court order required -- if the FBI claims the "records sought are relevant to an authorized investigation to protect against international terrorism." The company contacted may not "disclose to any person" that the FBI is doing an investigation. (Section 505)
-- Credit reporting firms like Equifax must disclose to the FBI any information that agents request in connection with a terrorist investigation -- without police needing to seek a court order first. Current law permits this only in espionage cases. (Section 505)
-- The current definition of terrorism is radically expanded to include biochemical attacks and computer hacking. Some current computer crimes -- such as hacking a U.S. government system or breaking into and damaging any Internet-connected computer -- are covered. (Section 808)
-- A new crime of "cyberterrorism" is added, which covers hacking attempts causing damage "aggregating at least $5,000 in value" in one year, any damage to medical equipment or "physical injury to any person." Prison terms range between five and 20 years. (Section 814)
-- New computer forensics labs will be created to inspect "seized or intercepted computer evidence relating to criminal activity (including cyberterrorism)" and to train federal agents. (Section 816)
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