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Senate passes anti-terrorism bill

Anti-terrorism Bill

April 17, 1996
Web posted at: 8:30 p.m. EDT

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Senate overwhelmingly approved an anti-terrorism bill Wednesday, two days before the anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing. Congress is trying to fulfill President Clinton's request to give him the bill before the bombing's one-year anniversary.

The bill, passed 91-8, is a compromise between one passed by the Senate last June and a weaker version approved by the House of Representatives last month. It will now go back to the House for final approval, and then to President Clinton, who has indicated he will sign it.

The compromise bill will limit the number of appeals by death-row inmates and make the death penalty available in some international terrorism cases and in cases where a federal employee is killed because of his work.

The bill also makes it a federal crime to use the United States as a base of organization for acts of overseas terrorism.

But it drops a provision, backed by the Clinton administration, that would have made it easier to wiretap phones of suspected terrorists. Such wiretapping is already permitted in organized crime probes.

The compromise bill also removed Democratic provisions that would have lengthened the statute of limitations on illegally making a bomb, silencer, or sawed-off shotgun. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-California, argued in favor of the excised measures, noting that law enforcement has five years to track an arsonist down.

"But if you make a bomb they have three years, and you could have hidden that bomb for a year or more in your home somewhere -- and the clock starts ticking from the day you start making that bomb. This makes no sense whatsoever," she said.

But Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said the provision was unnecessary. "Anyone who uses a bomb ... or illegal weapon under this act will be persecuted under the criminal code and receive far larger penalties than are under this act," he said.

Also dropped: A provision that would have made posting bomb-making information on the Internet illegal.

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