Sponsored by:

Comment, blog & share photos

Log in | Become a member
The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Friday, September 14, 2001

America's bloodiest day
Senate OKs meaure on terrorist wiretaps

Associated Press

WASHINGTON — People suspected of hijacking, bombing or other terrorist acts could for the first time find their telephones and computers wiretapped by the government under a measure passed by the Senate.

Currently, suspicion of terrorism isn't a valid legal reason to get a wiretap, lawmakers said after passing the bill late last night.

"When you go to a judge to ask for a wiretap to commence an investigation, today you have to find some other crime, like credit card fraud, or some other crime these people might be engaged in to do what you really want to do: which is to investigate their terrorism," said Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz. "Now, what you can assert in a request for a warrant is that we think this person is guilty of U.S. Code title such-and-such, a terrorist crime."

The measure comes in response to the destruction of the World Trade Center by terrorists, who slammed airliners into both towers on Tuesday.

A third plane crashed into the Pentagon and a fourth went down in a field in Pennsylvania.

Lawmakers have complained that the United States' intelligence community did not have any warning that the attack was going to occur.

The measure was approved as part of the Commerce-Justice-State appropriations bill, which provides about $42 billion for the Commerce, Justice and State departments.

As part of that bill, the measure now goes to a House-Senate conference committee, where the final version will be hammered out.

Not everyone thought the bill was a good idea. Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., argued that the expansion was too broad and could easily be abused.

"If we give up all our freedoms, if we turn our back on 200 years or more of constitutional history, of the things that make us strong as a nation, some would argue that the terrorists win," he said.