House bill adds power for police

Republican package based on 9/11 panel suggestions excessive, Democrats say

September 25, 2004|By Mary Curtius | Mary Curtius,LOS ANGELES TIMES

WASHINGTON - House Republican leaders introduced legislation yesterday that grafts broadened police powers onto a plan to reform the nation's intelligence gathering agencies.

Like a bill passed by a Senate committee, the proposal adopts recommendations of the Sept. 11 Commission for establishing a national intelligence director and center for counterterrorism.

But it also calls for police powers that would, among other things, set new federal standards for state driver's licenses and step up inspections of travelers to the United States.

Democrats and some Republicans said the additions needlessly politicized what had been a remarkably bipartisan effort in the Senate, dimming prospects that a bill would be signed into law before the Nov. 2 election.

But the House Republican leadership said it was confident a bill would be on President Bush's desk before then.

They predicted that Democrats would find it hard to vote against reforms that, by centralizing authority over government intelligence agencies, would strengthen the nation's ability to defend itself against terrorists.

The House bill would give an intelligence director and a counterterrorism center less power than the bill passed by the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee on Wednesday.

In that respect, the House leadership more closely reflected the White House vision of the new director and center than did the Senate or the Sept. 11 Commission.

But it is the law enforcement aspects of the 335-page House bill that quickly proved the most controversial. The bill would:

Make it easier to deport aliens who help or join terrorist groups.

Give the government warrant powers to help track "lone wolf" terrorists unconnected to a terrorist group.

Set minimal federal standards for state-issued drivers' licenses and identity cards.

Increase the number of border patrol agents and immigration and customs agents.

Expand inspection by U.S. agents at foreign airports of travelers to the United States.

Establish a national database for government agencies to more easily share information on citizens.

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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