Bush 'terror' laws condemned

Civil liberties groups have condemned President George Bush for proposing sweeping "anti-terrorism" legislation.

    Bush says he wants to stop further ''terrorist attacks''

    In a speech in Washington on Wednesday, Bush called for legislation to deny bail to "terror" suspects, expand the death penalty, and let investigators bypass grand juries to issue subpoenas.

    The proposals were quickly attacked by the American Civil Liberties Union.

    "Further erosions of judicial oversight and the basic checks and balances that protect us and our democracy from political abuses of power ... are the wrong path to take," said Laura W Murphy, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office.

    Bush's proposals are a follow-up to the hotly debated "USA Patriot Act" legislation passed after the 11 September attacks.

    Controversial act 

    He is taking a piecemeal approach of endorsing individual measures rather than submitting a "Patriot II" package which could meet criticism over heavy-handed enforcement.  

    White House spokesman Scott McClellan said the aim of the legislation was to prevent "further terrorist attacks".

    He said: "Over the course of the last two years as we've been taking significant steps to combat terrorism at home, we've come across some areas where additional authority is needed."

    "Further erosions of... the basic checks and balances that protect us and our democracy from political abuses of power ... are the wrong path to take"

    Laura W Murphy,
    American Civil Liberties Union

    The original Patriot Act drew fire from civil liberties groups and their supporters in Congress who said it let the government abuse its ability to conduct surveillance. 

    The Justice Department had reportedly been preparing a "Patriot II" package but, met wide criticism earlier this year when the consideration was made public.

    Broken promise

    A Senate Democratic source said Republicans had been seeking alternate ways to package new "anti-terror"measures.

    A Senate Democratic aide said he was unfamiliar with details of the legislation Bush was proposing, but said the action appeared to violate a pledge by US Attorney General John Ashcroft.

    "The attorney general has repeatedly promised to consult with Congress in drafting any sequel to the Patriot Act. To this point, that has not happened," said David Carle.

    SOURCE: Reuters


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