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Bush signs sweeping anti-terrorism bill into law, promises stiff enforcement
By Jesse J. Holland, Associated Press, 10/26/01
WASHINGTON -- President Bush on Friday signed a sweeping anti-terrorism bill into law, giving police and intelligence agencies vast new powers to "counter a threat like no other our nation has ever faced."
"Today, we take an essential step in defeating terrorists while protecting the constitutional rights of all Americans," Bush said in an East Room ceremony even as the government grappled with a series of anthrax cases that may be linked to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
"This government will enforce this law with all the urgency of a nation at war," Bush said.
The legislation, while somewhat weakened from the administration's original proposal, expands the FBI's wiretapping and electronic surveillance authority and imposes stronger penalties for harboring or financing terrorists. It increases the number of crimes considered terrorist acts and toughens the punishment for committing them.
The bill also gives police wide-ranging new anti-terrorism powers to secretly search people's homes and business records and to eavesdrop on telephone and computer conversations.
"This law will give intelligence and law enforcement officials new tools to fight a present danger," Bush said.
The ceremony, attended by Vice President Dick Cheney, lawmakers and uniformed law enforcement officials, came one day after Attorney General John Ashcroft said the Justice Department will begin using the new powers immediately.
"Upon the president's signature, I will direct investigators and prosecutors to begin immediately seeking court orders to intercept communications related to an expanded list of crimes under the legislation," he said.
Lawmakers, worried about possible abuse of the new wiretapping and surveillance powers, placed a four-year cap on that part of the legislation.
"It gives us the time to i...
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