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Revamped anti-terrorism bill hits House
From: InfoSec News <isn () c4i org>
Date: Wed, 3 Oct 2001 02:17:45 -0500 (CDT)
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By Robert Lemos
Special to CNET News.com
October 2, 2001, 1:00 p.m. PT
Update: U.S. lawmakers introduced a bipartisan bill Tuesday that could
greatly expand the electronic surveillance powers of police and
ratchet up penalties relating to certain computer crimes.
Known as the Provide Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and
Obstruct Terrorism (PATRIOT) Act, the bill was introduced into the
U.S. House of Representatives by F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., R-Wis.,
and John Conyers Jr., D-Mich., and is expected to be debated in
committee Wednesday afternoon.
"It's incredibly likely to make it through," said an aide to the House
Committee on the Judiciary.
An earlier version of the bill, known as the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA),
was held up over civil rights concerns last week. The members of the
House Judiciary Committee worked through the weekend and late Monday
to draft the new PATRIOT Act, said a staffer.
If enacted, the new bill would add to the powers of law enforcement
and intelligence communities, allowing them to gather and share
information, detain immigrants, pursue those who cooperate with
suspected terrorists, and freeze the bank accounts and financial
networks of terrorist organizations.
The bill was modified to include a narrower definition of "terrorism"
that could limit some powers granted in the previous draft highlighted
by civil rights advocates. Those powers include near-blanket rights to
wiretap any communications device used by a person in any way
connected to a suspected terrorist; the power to detain indefinitely
an immigrant connected to an act of terrorism; and the classification
of any computer hacking crime as a terrorist offense.
"McCarthy all over again"
Despite that change, the newest bill still falls short of clearly
defining what crimes should be considered terrorist acts, said Michael
Erbschloe, vice president and analyst at technology market researcher
The bill lists more than 40 criminal offenses, including computer
intrusion and damaging a computer, and defines those offenses as
terrorism if they are "calculated to influence or affect the conduct
of government by intimidation or coercion...or to retaliate against
Erbschloe, the author of "Information Warfare: How to Survive Cyber
Attacks," said that left a lot of leeway.
"It could be McCarthy all over again," he said, referring to the
political witch-hunts carried out a half-century ago by the House
Committee on Un-American Activities under Sen. Joseph McCarthy, whose
hearings on the "Communist threat" led to the jailing and blacklisting
of a number of Americans. "We need to more clearly define what a
Suicide hijackers on Sept. 11 used commercial jets to ram the World
Trade Center and the Pentagon, leaving some 6,000 people missing and
assumed dead, and sparking the largest criminal investigation in U.S.
Congress last week approved a $343 billion defense package, diverting
some funds from missile defense to counter-terrorism. More than 500
people already have been detained by the FBI in the terrorist dragnet.
The manhunt has thrown a spotlight on law enforcement surveillance
powers, including the potential expansion of eavesdropping technology
on the Internet. Several Internet service providers said they were
asked to install a wiretap device known as Carnivore after the
attacks. Carnivore, since renamed DCS1000, has the ability to capture
the contents of e-mail messages and other data.
Attorney General John Ashcroft has taken a hard line on the need for
new legislation to assist police in their investigations, calling for
hasty passage of anti-terrorism legislation that continued this
weekend. "Talk does not stop terrorism," Reuters quoted him as saying.
In comments last week before the Senate Judiciary Committee, he asked
for better "tools" to help the FBI chase terrorists, likening the
agency's current situation to "sending our troops into the modern
field of battle with antique weapons."
"Technology has dramatically outpaced our statutes," he said. "Law
enforcement tools created decades ago were crafted for rotary
telephones--not e-mail, the Internet, mobile communications and voice
Civil rights advocates, meanwhile, have cautioned against expanding
surveillance powers unnecessarily, arguing that there is little
evidence that tougher surveillance laws could have prevented last
A previous anti-terrorism bill was flawed, they said, because it would
declare hackers and online vandals "terrorists" and broaden the FBI's
ability to wiretap the Internet. The latest House version of the bill
steps back from completely allowing intelligence and FBI officials to
trade surveillance information on Americans.
Because of the controversy over the anti-terrorism bill, the measures
ran into a congressional wall last week, when key senators and
representatives refused to sign off on certain provisions of the
package. This past weekend, the members of the House and Senate
Judiciary committees met behind closed doors for repeated sessions
with the Bush administration and Department of Justice officials to
hammer out a compromise.
While the House Judiciary Committee will use the latest draft as a
foundation for its discussions, the Senate is moving more deliberately
on the legislation. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., postponed a Tuesday
Judiciary Committee hearing on its version of the bill so that members
could concentrate on rewriting problem sections.
Meanwhile, the Bush administration has been increasing pressure on
Congress to get the legislation passed.
Last week, Vice President Dick Cheney reportedly told Republican
senators that the president wanted legislation to sign by the end of
Reuters contributed to this report.
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- Revamped anti-terrorism bill hits House InfoSec News (Oct 03)