The intelligence package that Congress approved this week includes a series
of little-noticed measures that would broaden the government's power to
conduct terrorism investigations, including provisions to loosen standards
for FBI surveillance warrants and allow the Justice Department to more
easily detain suspects without bail.
Other law-enforcement-related measures in the bill -- expected to be signed
by President Bush next week -- include an expansion of the criteria that
constitute "material support" to terrorist groups and the ability to share
U.S. grand jury information with foreign governments in urgent terrorism
These and other changes designed to strengthen federal counterterrorism
programs have long been sought by the Bush administration and the Justice
Department but have languished in Congress, in part because of opposition
from civil liberties advocates…
But civil liberties advocates and some Democrats said the measures would do
little to protect the public while further eroding constitutional
protections for innocent people caught up in investigations.
Critics also say the proposed changes were overshadowed by the debate over
other aspects of the bill, which puts in place many intelligence agency
reforms proposed by the independent commission that investigated the Sept.
11, 2001, attacks. Some Democrats say they reluctantly approved the package
because they favored the broader intelligence changes.
Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.) said that while he voted for the bill
because of its intelligence reforms, he opposed much of the expansion of
law enforcement power. Most of it was not part of the Sept. 11 panel's
"I am troubled by some provisions that were added in conference that have
nothing to do with reforming our intelligence network," Feingold said. He
later added: "This Justice Department has a record of abusing its detention
powers post-9/11 and of making terrorism allegations that turn out to have
Charlie Mitchell, legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties
Union, said the law enforcement measures are "most troubling in terms of
the trend they represent." He added: "They keep pushing and pushing without
any attempt to review what they've done…"
One key change is a provision in the new intelligence package that targets
"lone wolf" terrorists not linked with established terrorist groups such as
al Qaeda. In language similar to earlier Senate legislation, the bill 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…
Other provisions in the bill include:
o Suspects in major terrorism crimes automatically would be denied bail
unless they show they are not a danger or a flight risk. Advocates say the
provision is modeled on similar rules for certain drug crimes, but Mitchell
said it would increase the possibility of indefinite detention in alleged
o Penalties would be increased for such crimes as harboring illegal
immigrants, perpetrating a terrorist hoax, and possessing smallpox,
anti-aircraft missile systems and radiological "dirty" bombs. The measure
also is more explicit than current statutes in making it illegal to attend
military-style training camps run by terrorist groups.
o Federal prosecutors would be allowed to share secret information obtained
by grand juries with states or foreign governments to protect against
terrorist attacks. German authorities, among others, have complained about
difficulties obtaining information from the FBI and other U.S. agencies
about foreign terrorist suspects.