New York Times
October 25, 2001

Senate Clears Anti-Terror Bill for Bush's Signature

By Adam Clymer

WASHINGTON -- The Senate passed sweeping anti-terrorism legislation today, sending President Bush a measure that would expand the government's ability to conduct electronic surveillance, detain immigrants without charges and penetrate money-laundering banks.

The measure also permits the sharing of grand jury information to thwart terrorism and relaxes the conditions under which judges can authorize intelligence wiretaps. The White House welcomed the Senate vote and said that Mr. Bush would sign the bill on Friday.

The vote was 98 to 1, following a 356-to-66 vote in the House on Wednesday.

Only Senator Russ Feingold, Democrat of Wisconsin, voted against the bill, arguing that it would allow unconstitutional searches and punish individuals for vague associations with possible terrorists.

The bill provides most of the additional powers sought by Attorney General John Ashcroft on Sept. 19, eight days after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

But it added the money-laundering measures after a push by the Senate Banking Committee. And it curtailed some of the tools that Mr. Ashcroft sought, reflecting concerns in both parties and houses that the Bush administration proposal went too far.

For example, it denied the administration the power it sought to detain indefinitely without charges immigrants suspected of involvement in terrorist activity. The bill does expand the current limit of two days detention to seven days, though under some circumstances that could be extended by six-month periods.

Senator Feingold, while he praised his colleagues for denying Mr. Ashcroft all the powers he sought, complained of "relentless" pressure to move quickly, "without deliberation or debate." He criticized the bill for enabling the government to obtain business or medical records pertaining to anyone "who might have sat on an airplane" with a suspected terrorist, and for allowing intelligence wiretaps, which do not require a judge to find probable cause before allowing them, to be issued even if intelligence gathering is only a minor purpose of the tap.

"The Congress will fulfill its duty only when it protects both the American people and the freedoms at the foundation of American society," Senator Feingold said, adding that this bill failed to "preserve our heritage of basic rights." But he was the only dissenter.

The bill denied the administration power it sought to use foreign wiretaps that would not have been allowed in the United States in American courts. It also provides that authority for expanded surveillance of computers and telephones would expire after four years. The administration wanted the authority to be permanent.

Senator Patrick J. Leahy, the Vermont Democrat who heads the Judiciary Committee, observed that Mr. Ashcroft had asked that his legislation be passed by Sept. 21. Instead, Mr. Leahy said, "We took the time to look at it and we took the time to read it. And we took time to remove those parts that were unconstitutional and those parts that would have actually hurt the rights of all Americans."

Senator Mary Landrieu, Democrat of Louisiana, did not vote.

Mr. Leahy praised the addition of provisions to cope with money-laundering. They include barring American banks from doing business with "shell banks" overseas that have no physical facilities and are not part of a regulated banking system, and empowering the secretary of the Treasury to require American banks to exercise enhanced "due diligence" to find out who their private banking depositors are if they come from nations that will not assist American law enforcement officers.

He said that as a state prosecutor, he had learned the need to "follow the money."

Copyright 2001, New York Times Company. All rights reserved.

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