Nation in Brief

Congress set to vote on anti-terrorism bill

A sweeping anti-terrorism bill that would allow the government to conduct surveillance more freely on telephone and internet communications could pass Congress and be signed into law as early as this week.

The bill would permit the government to create easier access to internet and e-mail transmissions and increase their eavesdropping techniques. Among the provisions, investigators would have a less difficult time obtaining permission for secret wiretaps and previously classified information like evidence from a grand jury.

The House and Senate spent much of the past two weeks ironing out differences in the bill, but some privacy experts said it is too intrusive.

Opponents of the bill cite the ease with which government officials could monitor e-mail communications, tracking who sent a message and who received it.

The bill would also make it a crime to possess anthrax or a similar biological agent for non-peaceful purposes.

Congress denies ban on internet taxes

Congress declined to renew a ban on internet sales taxes Friday, a move that would soon allow states to collect taxes on purchases made over the internet.

The largely controversial ban prohibited state and local governments from collecting revenue from e-commerce transactions. With a surge in buying and selling on the internet in recent years, the ban translates into billions of dollars of lost revenue for states.

Businesses without an e-commerce venture said online sellers have an added advantage because consumers like not having to pay sales tax.

Congress imposed the moratorium in 1998, prohibiting taxes on internet access and any tax that focused solely on the Internet.

Many states want to be able to collect taxes on purchases made on out-of-state internet retailers. States are prohibited by a Supreme Court decision from requiring out-of-state businesses to collect sales tax unless the business has a physical presence in the state.

House Republicans and Democrats said they would likely pass an extension on the moratorium before the end of the fall term.

Ground troops aid military in Afghanistan

The government introduced ground troops into the conflict in Afghanistan last Friday, strengthening a two-week old bombing campaign and preparing for what could be a much larger and intense fight.

Special Forces teams began entering the country in small numbers, a departure from the massive troop deployments seen during the Persian Gulf War.

A military official told The Washington Post Friday the teams would be used mostly for intelligence and reconnaissance and to a far less extent for direct combat. A large part of the mission, the official said, is to persuade Taliban officials to leave the militia.

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld told reporters last week that “aircraft cannot really do sufficient damage.”

Ground troops have the ability to “crawl around on the ground and find people,” he said.
-Zeb Eckert

The Hatchet has disabled comments on our website. Learn more.