Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

U.S. Leaders Vow to Fight Terrorism but Some Warn of Overreaction

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

U.S. Leaders Vow to Fight Terrorism but Some Warn of Overreaction

Article excerpt

President Bill Clinton and Republican leaders vowed to work together to enact far-reaching measures to fight domestic terrorism, but their meeting at the White House failed to produce an agreement on the specifics.

Republican and Democratic congressional leaders left a White House meeting Monday afternoon and said they will give Clinton most of what he wants in terms of new wiretapping power and other provisions.

Among items discussed with congressional leaders and law-enforcement officials were expanded wiretapping authority for the FBI and chemical tagging of explosives.

"We need to move, and we need to move this week, and we need to get something done to prevent terrorist acts in our country," said Rep. Richard Gephardt, D-Mo.

Saturday's Olympic bombing occurred in an atmosphere already charged by the crash of Trans World Airlines Flight 800 off Long Island nearly two weeks ago.

But even as the mood appeared to favor measures rejected after the Oklahoma City bombing last year, some observers warned of an overreaction.

"The FBI has always asked for more power," said Gregory Nojeim, legislative counsel in Washington for the American Civil Liberties Union.

"Our problem is the powers they're asking for would infringe on people's freedoms, by interception of innocent conversations.

"The government is already conducting wiretapping at record levels, with record levels of innocent conversations being intercepted," Nojeim said.

"Already four-fifths of all the conversations intercepted by law enforcement are innocent. Twenty years ago, it was only half."

At the same time the "efficiency rate" of wiretaps has fallen to 20 percent from 50 percent, the number of federal wiretaps has more than tripled, he said.

The ACLU also opposes providing phone records without a legal showing of criminality and opposes emergency wiretaps, as too easy to abuse. …

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