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California Governor Proposes New Security Measures - 2002-01-09


California governor Gray Davis is proposing expanded police powers to monitor the telephone lines and computer email of suspected terrorists. In his annual "state of the state" address, Mr. Davis also promises to resolve his state's budget crisis.

In a year when terrorist attacks have focused attention on security, Mr. Davis called for expanded police powers in California. "Since September 11, we acted swiftly protect our airports, bridges, highways and dams, to secure our water supplies and electricity grid, and to prepare our health facilities. But there is more we can and must do," Mr. Davis said.

Among Mr. Davis' proposals are so-called "roving" warrants through which judges allow police to monitor the telephone calls of criminal suspects. Such warrants now apply to "wiretaps" on a single telephone line. Under the governor's proposal, police could tap any number of lines used by a given suspect. Mr. Davis is also proposing expanded police powers to monitor email communications.

Critics, including some members of the governor's own Democratic Party, point out that most wiretaps are conducted under federal authorization. President Bush signed an expanded federal wiretap law in October. But supporters say the Davis proposal would allow local police to open investigations and then call in federal authorities if it is justified. Supporters say that New York state has adopted a similar statute, and comparable proposals are being considered in Arizona and Washington state.

Civil liberties groups oppose the expanded wiretaps, saying such laws undermine the principle that suspects are presumed innocent in the absence of clear evidence against them.

In the effort to thwart terrorism, the California official is also seeking tighter restrictions on the transport of toxic and hazardous materials. And he says that California officials are working with the Bush administration to develop a standardized system of public warnings to indicate just how serious a specific terrorist threat may be.

Mr. Davis also spoke of California's economic security in the face of a projected budget deficit of $12 billion. The shortfall was caused by soaring electricity prices, which were triggered by a failed plan to regulate the state's power industry. Mr. Davis promises to deal with the shortfall through $2 billion of budget cuts, deferring some state spending until California's bills are paid and revenues are higher.

And in this year when the California governor faces re-election, Mr. Davis says he will deal with the budget problem without raising taxes.

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