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Bush promotes anti-terrorism bills

President Bush
President Bush spoke to employees at FBI headquarters Tuesday.  

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush made a pitch for a new package of anti-terrorism laws Tuesday, saying the proposed legislation is a "measured" and "constitutional" response to the September 11 attacks.

"In order to win the war, we must make sure that the law enforcement men and women have got the tools necessary, within the Constitution, to defeat the enemy," Bush said in a speech to employees at FBI headquarters.

Attorney General John Ashcroft has proposed legislation that would, among other things, broaden wiretap laws to make it easier to track suspects using multiple phones and allow the Immigration and Naturalization Service to indefinitely detain non-citizens linked to terrorist organizations.

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"If a suspected terrorist is detained and our nation has decided to deport the person, then they ought to be held in custody until the action actually takes place," Bush said. "The only alternative is to let suspected terrorists loose in our country. I don't think anybody wants to do that. I certainly hope not."

The president said the expanded wiretap authority would give the FBI the same powers to investigate terrorists that it already is allowed to use on suspected drug dealers and organized crime figures.

"If it's good enough for the FBI to use these techniques for facing down those threats to America ... we ought to give the FBI the tools necessary to track down terrorists," he said.

Civil liberties groups, some conservative groups and some Democrats in Congress have expressed reservations about the constitutionality of some elements in the proposed anti-terrorism package. But Bush insisted that what is being proposed will pass constitutional muster.

"They are measured requests. They are responsible requests. They are constitutional requests," he said. "Ours is a land that values the constitutional rights of every citizen, and we will honor those rights, of course. But we're at war -- a war we're going to win."

In his speech to FBI employees, the president praised them for their work on the massive criminal investigation into the terrorist attacks, calling them "an incredibly important part of the army that is going to win the war on terrorism."

Bush also called those who perpetrated the September 11 attacks "flat evil."


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