TITLE:COUNTERTERRORISM LEGISLATION WINNING BIPARTISAN SUPPORT
(Laws must guard against domestic, foreign terrorism) (590)
By Rick Marshall
USIA Staff Writer
Washington -- The sorrow and tragedy of last week's Oklahoma City
bombing has added a new sense of urgency to the Clinton
Administration's drive to pass new comprehensive counterterrorism
legislation, and has pushed both parties together to fashion new
bipartisan tools to combat domestic and foreign-based terrorism.
A packed Senate Judiciary Committee heard Deputy Attorney General
Jamie Gorelick say April 27 that the bombing had tested the nation's
resolve like few other events in U.S. history. It "challenges all of
us," she said, "to prove that we have the will and the power to
fulfill a fundamental responsibility set out for us in the first
sentence of our Constitution: to 'insure domestic tranquility.'"
Several senators testified before her, including Majority Leader
Robert Dole (Republican, Kansas), who spoke of the "good meeting" he
and other congressional leaders had with President Clinton the
previous day to map out a response to the Oklahoma City disaster and
craft new counterterrorism legislation.
Dole stressed that partisan politics should play no role in countering
terrorist attacks against U.S. citizens.
In conjunction with Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Orin Hatch
(Republican, Utah) and Oklahoma's Republican Senator Don Nickles, Dole
submitted a proposed Comprehensive Terrorism Prevention Act to the
committee, one of many such bills it has received during the past few
Sen. Joe Biden (Democrat), the ranking Democrat on the committee, also
attended the White House meeting and predicted that the
counterterrorism bills pending before the committee, including the
Omnibus Counterterrorism Act the Administration has submitted, would
all be integrated. Those present at the meeting, he added, all agreed
on the need for careful deliberation so as to balance the needs of law
enforcement with established American civil liberties.
A number of U.S. groups, such as the American Civil Liberties Union,
the National Association of Arab-Americans and the Irish National
Caucus oppose the Administration's counterterrorism plans on the
grounds that it may curtail the civil liberties, particularly of
certain ethnic groups.
Such fears about restrictions on civil liberties are unfounded,
Gorelick said. "We can take decisive and forceful action against
terrorism without sacrificing our nation's fundamental liberties. The
choice between civil liberties and a safe society is a false choice.
We need not -- and we will not -- trade off the guarantees of the Bill
of Rights in order to uphold our duty to 'insure domestic
tranquility,'" she stated.
Her view was shared by Louis Freeh, director of the Federal Bureau of
Investigation (FBI). He stressed that "if the Congress confers
additional authorities upon the FBI, they will be applied
"They will be applied constitutionally," Freeh stated, "in the broad
daylight of the peoples' oversight."
Freeh noted that the Oklahoma City bombing had led U.S. authorities to
be sure that American citizens were included in their definition of
terrorism. "We cannot protect our country...if we fail to take
seriously the threat of terrorism from all sources -- foreign and
domestic," he said. "There is no real difference between attacks
planned or perpetrated against U.S. citizens here or abroad. Our law
enforcement must be the same."
"For two decades the FBI has been at an extreme disadvantage with
regard to domestic groups which advocate violence," Freeh continued.
"We have no intelligence or background information on them until their
violent talk becomes deadly action.... Law enforcement has to know
something about those individuals and groups advocating deadly
violence in the furtherance of their causes."
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