The Huntsville Times
Extra caution greets expansion of powers
By JOHN ANDERSON
Times Staff Writer
'Patriot II' on hold, but other bills may serve same end
Congress has reacted much more cautiously to Attorney General John Ashcroft's reported crafting of a "Patriot II'' act
than it did to the original law, which rode a bipartisan wave to passage soon after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. ...
... Ashcroft has yet to unveil "Patriot II,'' perhaps because the rally-round-the-flag emotion that gave the first act
its name seems to have ebbed. More than 200 U.S. cities and towns have passed resolutions opposing the Patriot Act, decrying
what they call the federal government's excessive reach into the lives of ordinary citizens, according to a list compiled
by the American Civil Liberties Union.
Congressional Quarterly, a weekly publication that monitors Capitol Hill, reported in September that several influential
congressional Republicans weren't enthusiastic about giving even more powers to federal prosecutors. ...
So President Bush and Ashcroft are expanding Patriot I with piecemeal legislation and executive orders. For instance,
last week the House approved a provision in the 2004 Intelligence Authorization bill that will permit the FBI to demand records
from a number of businesses, without the approval of a judge or grand jury, if the agency feels the records are relevant to
a terrorism investigation. Previously, only financial institutions were obliged to turn over such records to the FBI. Under
the Intelligence Authorization bill provision, securities dealers, currency exchanges, travel agents, car dealers, post offices,
casinos and pawnbrokers would face the same possibility.
Despite the approval of that measure by the House - it passed 263-163 with some conservative Republicans voting no -
some in Congress remain concerned that the war on terrorism may be stretching the nation's traditional concepts of civil liberties.
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