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Bush urges new power to pursue terrorists

By Wire services
© St. Petersburg Times
published September 11, 2003

WASHINGTON - President Bush told Congress on Wednesday to "untie the hands" of law enforcement officials and arm them with wider legal powers to combat terrorists.

He called for expanding use of the federal death penalty, tougher bail restrictions and greater subpoena powers that he said are available for other crimes, such as drug trafficking and embezzling, but can't be used against terrorism. "This disparity in the law makes no sense," Bush said.

Bush's appeal threw the White House into a growing debate over the antiterrorism USA Patriot Act enacted after the attacks of Sept.11, 2001. Critics say the law is too intrusive and a threat to civil liberties and fear that the administration is trying to pass a second version of the measure in piecemeal fashion. Even some House and Senate Republicans have talked about rolling back portions of the Patriot Act.

"For the sake of the American people," Bush said, "Congress should change the law and give law enforcement officials the same tools they have to fight terror that they have to fight other crime."

Bush acknowledged that not all members of Congress agree with the need to tighten the law but said a lot of them do.

An Associated Press poll released Wednesday found that most Americans do not believe their individual freedom has been eroded by post-Sept. 11 laws to combat terrorism, but two-thirds are worried that it could happen.

ABC may face charges in investigative report

WASHINGTON - Federal authorities are considering criminal charges against ABC News reporters who smuggled harmless depleted uranium into the country past screeners for a second straight year for an investigative piece on lax border security.

"We do not believe we are in violation of the law because it was not our intent to defraud the U.S. government, to smuggle in contraband or to avoid duties," ABC News vice president Jeffrey Schneider said. "It was to test the system."

The report by investigative correspondent Brian Ross and his producers is set to air today.

Law enforcement officials said the effort to smuggle about 15 pounds of depleted uranium into Los Angeles from Jakarta, Indonesia, appeared to violate laws, including falsely declaring the contents of the package. The decision on charges is expected to rest with the Justice Department.

Justice Department again defies judge on Moussaoui

ALEXANDRIA, Va. - The Justice Department on Wednesday defied a federal judge for the second time, refusing to allow Zacarias Moussaoui to question senior al-Qaida captives in preparation for his criminal trial. Judicial punishment that could damage the prosecution is likely to follow.

U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema has a range of options, including exclusion of government evidence, barring the death penalty and dismissing charges in the only case to arise from the attacks of Sept.11, 2001.

Allowing the questioning "would needlessly jeopardize national security at a time of war with an enemy who has already murdered thousands of our citizens," the government said.

Prosecutors said they recognize the objection could lead to dismissal of the indictment, but asked Brinkema to postpone any action pending an appellate ruling. If there is a dismissal, the government has the option of moving the case to a military tribunal.

Also ...

BALI BOMBING: An Islamic terrorist pumped his fist in defiance as he was led from court after being convicted and sentenced to death in last year's Bali, Indonesia, nightclub bombings that killed 202 people. "Go to hell, you infidels!" shouted Imam Samudra, after a panel of five judges ordered him to face a firing squad for his role in the Oct.12 attacks.

AFGHAN DEATHS: Suspected Taliban rebels stopped a car carrying Afghans working for a Danish aid organization, tied them up, then shot four of them to death.

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