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U.S. Attorney General Requests Expanded Anti-Terrorism Powers - 2003-06-05


U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft asked Congress Thursday for broader powers under the Patriot Act, the law that allows police and federal agents to detain suspected terrorists. As VOA-TV's David Cohler reports, Mr. Ashcroft wants the power to hold suspected terrorists indefinitely, and to seek capital punishment for convicted offenders.

JOHN ASHCROFT, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL
"Our ability to prevent another catastrophic attack on American soil would be more difficult if not impossible without the Patriot Act."

Attorney-General John Ashcroft told the House Judiciary Committee that the Patriot Act signed into law after the September 11 attacks, while highly effective, has what he termed “potentially dangerous shortcomings.” Holding up what he described an al-Qaida Fatwa, he said the Act should be expanded to let prosecutors bring charges against people who "materially support" suspected terrorists, to imprison suspects indefinitely before trial, and to provide the death penalty for terrorist acts.

JOHN ASHCROFT, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL
"We must not forget that al-Qaida's primary terrorist target is the United States of America. Even though recent attacks were overseas, the terrorist network is committed to killing innocent Americans, including women and children, by the thousands, or even the millions if they can."

Under questioning, Mr. Ashcroft denied allegations by the Justice Department's inspector general that agents acted improperly by jailing hundreds of illegal aliens without filing formal charges against them. He said 85 percent of the detainees would likely violate parole:

JOHN ASHCROFT, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL
“At that level of risk, 85 percent, you know, is a very high level of risk. And so we process these individuals as fast as we can. I hope we can do better. But we did not violate the law."

Hundreds of suspects continue to be held in facilities such as this one: the Brooklyn, New York, Metropolitain Detention Center. And every week, friends and relatives demonstrate for their release.

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