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Attorney General Calls for Quick Passage of Anti-Terrorism Bill

Aired October 1, 2001 - 14:26   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: A little earlier this hour, President Bush continued to make his rounds of government agencies very much involved in the war on terrorism. Here you see him at the Federal Emergency Management Agency, known as FEMA. He made some remarks in which he thanked the employees there, said some of them, many of them, he said, still working 12-, 14-hour days. And as you can see, trying to touch base or shake hands with as many of them as he could.

He was introduced by his good friend Joe Allbaugh, who, of course, heads up FEMA.

Most of the attention in this war against terrorism is understandably focused on the White House and on the president. But a number of the measures the president is proposing need congressional approval. So we look to Capitol Hill to see where some of those stand. And for that, let's turn to our congressional correspondent, Jonathan Karl -- Jon.

JONATHAN KARL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Judy, you certainly had a -- a stepping up of the activities this weekend, when the attorney general came out, John Ashcroft came out, and said that he needs these new broad anti-terrorism powers soon because of an imminent threat of terrorism still in this country.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN ASHCROFT, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: We need a very serious and expeditious approach to providing the additional tools that are necessary to fight terrorism. Talk will not prevent terrorism. Tools can help us disrupt, interrupt, prevent, delay, otherwise make impossible terrorist activities here in the United States.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KARL: And that phrase "talk" will not fight terrorism was directly targeted to the members of Congress, who have been debating anti-terrorism measures for more than five years. The attorney general has got his broad package of broad new police powers that he wants the Congress to pass by the end of the week.

The very latest on those negotiations, Judy, is that the administration has dropped a number of the most controversial measures, controversial powers that John Ashcroft was seeking, because he wants to get this thing through. The two that have been specifically dropped -- one you may remember a lot of controversy about -- the attorney general asking for the ability to indefinitely detain noncitizens he thinks may pose a threat of committing terrorist acts. That provision now is no longer, we are told by sources, Democrats and Republicans, in the bill that is being negotiated on the Senate side.

Another very controversial version that has been dropped, the attorney general wanted to give prosecutors the ability to use wiretap information gathered by other governments even if the other governments gathered that information in violation of the U.S. Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure. That provision also dropped as the attorney general trying to work with Democrats and Republicans up here to find a bill that can pass and can pass quickly.

So, that's the latest state of play right now. We are expected on the House side to see that bill emerge, perhaps be announced tomorrow, with a joint announcement with John Conyers, the Democrat, ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, and with Jim Sensenbrenner, the Republican chairman of that committee. And they would then go on, to try to get this bill passed by the end of the week.

But it's still a Long shot. Remember, Judy, this is something that the Congress has debated -- been debating really for much of the 1990s after the '93 attack on the World Trade Center, after the '95 bombing of Oklahoma City. This is something that has come up over and over again. But now, of course, increased urgency, both sides saying they're working, trying to get this done this week.

WOODRUFF: All right, Jon Karl. And given the divisions on that, we can only imagine how hard it is to come to some sort of an agreement.

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