Bush signs anti-terrorism bill
BY SONYA ROSS Associated Press
Oct 27, 2001
Attorney General John Aschroft (left), FBI director Robert Mueller (center) and Office of Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge huddle just before President Bush signed into law a bill expanding law enforcement powers in searching for terrorists.
J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE / Associated Press
The measure vastly increases police powers to combat
WASHINGTON -- President Bush signed an anti-terrorism bill Friday that gives police
unprecedented ability to search, seize, detain or eavesdrop in their pursuit of
possible terrorists. Attorney General John Ashcroft immediately ordered federal
prosecutors to put their new powers to work.
"This government will enforce this law with all the urgency of a nation at war,"
Civil libertarians voiced concern that cherished American freedoms will be
sacrificed in the interest of safety. The American Civil Liberties Union pledged to
monitor police actions closely, and scheduled a meeting with FBI Director Robert
"This bill goes light-years beyond what is necessary to combat terrorism," said
Laura Murphy, ACLU Washington director. "While we are ourselves concerned for the
country's safety, we are also concerned by the attorney general's apparent gusto to
implement certain provisions in the bill that threaten liberty."
Ashcroft, who pressed hard for the bill's passage, issued orders to 94 U.S.
attorney's offices and 56 FBI field offices. "Law enforcement is now empowered with
new tools and resources necessary to disrupt, weaken and eliminate the infrastructure
of terrorism organizations," Ashcroft said in a statement.
Bush said the legislation "upholds and respects" personal freedoms protected by the
Constitution. But given the magnitude of the Sept. 11 attacks, he said, the nation had
little choice but to update surveillance procedures "written in the era of rota
ry telephones" to better combat today's sophisticated terrorists.
"We may never know what horrors our country was spared by the diligent and
determined work of our police forces ... under the most trying conditions," Bush said.
"They deserve our full support and every means of
help that we can provide."
Lawmakers, concerned about possible abuse of power, put an expiration date on part
of it. Unless Congress renews the anti-terrorism law before Dec. 31, 2005, the eavesdropping sections expire.
The president, an American
flag pin on his lapel, signed the bill in an East Room ceremony along with Vice
President Dick Cheney, homeland security director Tom Ridge, Mueller, CIA Director
George Tenet and nine members of Congress.
He signed his name with one pen, handed it to House Judiciary Chairman Jim
Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., and distributed souvenir pens to everyone else. Senate
Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., took pictures from the stage with his own
Leahy told reporters afterward that it is up to Congress -- specifically their two
committees -- to make sure through "constant oversight" that federal authorities are
not too heavy-handed with their new enforcement powers.
Also, police would have greater ability to secretly search people's homes and
For bill text: thomas.loc.gov