Lawmakers in the House of Representatives were slated to polish up an anti-terrorism bill drafted by the Department of Justice this week but decided to put it off until they have given the expanded police power provisions a closer look.
The House Judiciary Committee heard from privacy advocates and from Attorney General John Ashcroft Monday on the administrations request for expanded electronic surveillance authority. While the Senate passed enhanced wiretapping power provisions swiftly Sept. 13 in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks, many members of the House have called for more deliberation and debate before enacting legislation.
Members of both parties expressed reservations about some of the DOJs requests and their impact on civil liberties. Following hearings in the Judiciary Committee Monday, Rep. Chris Cannon, R-Wis., said he was concerned about the breadth of the administrations requests. "Specifically, I am concerned about the intrusiveness of new procedures regarding electronic communications, as well as procedures for automatic incarceration of certain immigrants," Cannon said. "Nevertheless, I generally support the White House in its quest to provide additional tools to law enforcement and the soon-to-be-created Office of Homeland Security."
Reps. John Conyers, D-Mich., and Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, also cautioned against abridging the rights of Americans in a rush to respond to the Sept. 11 tragedies. Several lawmakers are considering the possibility of placing a timeframe around expanded surveillance powers, sources said.
Other anti-terrorism measures are circulating on Capitol Hill, including a bill sponsored by senators Bob Graham, D-Fla., and Diane Feinstein, D-Calif.