Tough Anti-Terrorism Legislation under Consideration by Congress

Article excerpt

WILL the bombing of the World Trade Center spur Congress to pass new and sweeping laws regarding domestic acts of terror?

Within two weeks of the explosion, Rep. Charles Schumer (D) of New York introduced legislation that makes domestic terrorism an offense potentially punishable by death. It makes providing support for terrorist activities a crime that could result in a 10-year jail sentence.

In its current draft form, however, the legislation goes further:

* It allows the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to obtain phone logs and other information without a warrant or subpoena.

* It requires that all explosives include a "taggant" - microscopic chemicals - that allows identification and detection. This would apply to most of the 4.1 billion pounds of explosives used in the United States each year.

* It sets up preinspection stations at foreign airports for the Immigration and Naturalization Service to catch visitors with falsified documents. The INS reports that a significant number of people claiming asylum in the US are arriving with fake documents.

Mr. Schumer introduced the legislation March 9 in the House Judiciary subcommittee on crime and criminal justice. Schumer may make the section on taggants a separate bill since it faces stiff opposition from the explosives industry and possibly the National Rifle Association (NRA). There is no companion bill in the Senate. But House staff members say the terrorism legislation could become part of a crime package introduced later this year.

The taggant issue will be difficult to get through Congress if it is opposed by the NRA. Trey Hodgkins, an NRA lobbyist, says the organization has no problem with identifications in explosives as long as the legislation exempts smokeless gunpowder and black gunpowder. The NRA is afraid that gunpowder with a taggant would be a form of registration since ammunition made with the gunpowder could be traced.

However, government officials say that exempting gunpowder would make it the explosive of choice for terrorists delivering pipe bombs. …