House May Revive Parts of Patriot Act II
London Guardian | September 23 2004
WASHINGTON (AP) - House Republicans plan to revive portions of the Justice Department's ``Patriot Act II'' draft in legislation to address the Sept. 11 commission's recommendations to strengthen America intelligence capabilities, The Associated Press has learned.
In a draft of the House GOP legislation obtained by The Associated Press, many of the provisions were similar to the draft copy of the ``Domestic Security Enhancement Act of 2003'' that a nonprofit group said had leaked out of the Justice Department in January 2003.
The Justice Department said then that they had made no final decision on the legislation, and never submitted it to Congress.
But many of the anti-terrorism provisions of that draft show up in the the House discussion draft section on terrorism prevention and prosecution that part of the proposed House legislation.
Among the provisions are measures on the deportation of aliens who become members of or help terrorist groups, required pretrial detention for terrorism suspects, warrants against non-citizens even when a target can't be tied directly to a foreign power, and enhanced penalties for threats or attempts to use chemical or nuclear weapons against the United States, including attacks through the mail system.
A spokesman for House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, said Wednesday that House members were still working on a final version of the legislation. A Justice Department spokesman said they had not seen the House draft.
Republicans have hailed the Patriot Act as a critical tool in the post-Sept. 11 war on terrorism, while many Democrats charge it authorizes heavy-handed infringements on civil liberties.
On Monday, a group of 9/11 widows went door to door trying to get lawmakers to sign a pledge to keep Patriot Act material out of the legislation, saying the politically explosive material could doom the measure.
The House is expected to begin marking up the far-reaching bill next week.
The Senate version concentrated on creating a national intelligence director and a national counterterrorism center and plans to add other 9/11 commission recommendations when the bill reaches the floor. But the House's draft deals with many facets of the intelligence and national security structure up front.
The Sept. 11 commission contended the nation's 15 military and civilian intelligence agencies' failure to cooperate precluded an effective defense that could have prevented the 2001 terror attacks on New York City and Washington. The panel recommended creation of a national intelligence director to control and coordinate all the agencies.
In addition, the commission called for more safeguards at home, such as setting national standards for issuance of drivers' licenses and other identification, improving ``no-fly'' and other terrorist watch lists and using more biometric identifiers to screen travelers at ports and borders.
House leaders are expected to take the White House's suggestions on creating a national intelligence director who would control the nation's 15 intelligence agencies. The House plan would let the intelligence chief coordinate nonmilitary spy agencies, but would limit the director's hiring and budgetary control - making that position weaker than envisioned by the 9/11 commission and the Senate.
The House draft also addresses the other recommendations by instituting tighter controls on birth certificates and creating an electronic birth and death registration system, tightening up driver license requirements and requiring states to link their license databases for get federal grants.
The draft obtained by the AP also shows House Republicans want increased border security and customs agents and crackdowns on illegal immigration, including fines of up to $10,000 and possible prison time for illegal immigrants, and penalties for states who don't allow their local law enforcement agents to help with immigration enforcement.