Posted 10:58p.m. September 17
by Ilana Weinberg
U-WIRE Washington Bureau
On the second anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, President Bush rallied Congress to implement new provisions to the Patriot Act, expanding power to the Justice Department and other government agencies over individual citizens and suspected terrorists.
“The Patriot Act imposed tough new penalties on terrorists and those who support them. But as the fight against terror progressed, we have found areas where more help is required,” said Bush.
These new provisions have been voiced by Attorney General John Ashcroft, who wants to pursue the death penalty in more terrorism-related cases, to hold suspects without bail and to remove the grand jury from the steps needed to issue a subpoena.
President Bush pressured Congress to act quickly to pass this legislation.
“For the sake of the American people, Congress should change the law and give law enforcement officials the same tools they have to fight terror that they have to fight other crime,” he said.
Many argue that it will be hard to sell these proposals to Congress. They argue the political climate of the nation has changed considerably since the passage of the first Patriot Act, as the pro-American fervor which arose after the Sept. 11 attacks is beginning to wear off.
The ACLU launched a backlash against Bush’s endorsement of the “unnecessarily broad surveillance and domestic spying powers” and “anti-democratic security measures” granted in the bill, according to a press release.
In launching the “Patriot II” Act, President Bush has even put himself at odds with some Republican legislators who have joined Democrats in an effort to tone down part of the original Patriot Act.
According to an Associated Press wire story, House Judiciary Committee chairman, James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wis.) said he has reservations about the new subpoena powers the President is seeking for anti-terrorism investigations.
However, a recent CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll found that only 22 percent of Americans thought the administration had gone “too far” in restricting civil liberties. The poll also found that two-thirds believe the government should not take anti-terrorism steps which violate civil liberties.
The President promoted the new measures during the second anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, calling the nation to action against future terrorists.
“We will not wait for further attacks on innocent Americans. The best way to protect the American people is to stay on the offensive,” he said.
Student groups in universities across the nation are rising up against the implications of the new Patriot Act.
“Expanding the Patriot Act is simply expanding the shame our president is bringing to this nation by attacking our principles in liberty,” said Timothy Kaldas of Students for Peace and Justice at The George Washington University.