The intelligence package that Congress approved this week includes measures to broaden government power to conduct terrorism investigations, including provisions to loosen standards for FBI surveillance warrants and allow the Justice Department to detain suspects more easily without bail. Other law-enforcement-related measures in the bill to be signed by President Bush next week include an expansion of the criteria that constitute “material support” to terrorist groups and the ability to share U.S. grand jury information with foreign governments in urgent terrorism cases.
These and other laws have long been sought by the Bush administration but have languished in Congress, in part because of opposition from civil liberties advocates. Justice Department spokesman Mark Corallo characterized the measures as “common-sense reforms aimed at preventing terrorist attacks.” Civil liberties advocates and some Democrats said they would do little to protect the public while further eroding constitutional protections for innocent people caught up in investigations. Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.) said, “I am troubled by some provisions that were added in conference that have nothing to do with reforming our intelligence network.” He added: “This Justice Department has a record of abusing its detention powers post-9/11 and of making terrorism allegations that turn out to have no merit.” Some of the changes were part of a legislative draft drawn up by Justice prosecutors in 2002 as a proposed expansion of the USA Patriot Act.