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Bush Calls for New Laws to Help in Terrorism Fight - 2003-09-10


President Bush is calling for changes in U.S. law to make it easier for law enforcement authorities to investigate and prosecute suspected terrorists. They include tools already used to get mobsters, drug-traffickers and embezzlers.

The president expects to observe the second anniversary of the September 11 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States in a quiet, solemn way.

But the day before all the prayer services, vigils and commemorative events, he spoke out about the lives lost, and the resulting war on terrorism.

"The attacks on this nation revealed the intentions of a determined and ruthless enemy that still plots against our people," he said. "The forces of global terror cannot be appeased, and they cannot be ignored."

Mr. Bush noted that shortly after the September 11 attacks he signed legislation strengthening the hand of law enforcement in tracking down and prosecuting suspected terrorists. Mr. Bush said time has shown more steps are needed.

"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.

He outlined his request during a visit to an FBI facility in Quantico, Virginia, a short helicopter ride from the White House. Mr. Bush said there are certain disparities in the law that make no sense.

He said in cases of medical fraud and drug trafficking, investigators can bypass a judge when they need authority to conduct a search quickly or obtain documents that could be destroyed. He said law enforcement needs that tool to fight terrorism. To help prosecutors, the president wants bail revoked for terror suspects, and the federal death penalty expanded to include terror-related crimes.

"Under existing law, the death penalty applies to many serious crimes that result in death including sexual abuse and certain drug related offenses. Some terrorist crimes that result in death do not qualify for capital punishment," he said.

Critics have argued such steps would erode civil liberties. But the president said they are needed to combat terrorism, and can withstand any legal challenge.

"These and other measures have long been on the books for other crimes," he said. "They have been tested by time, affirmed by the court and what we are proposing is fully consistent with the United States Constitution."

His comments came shortly after the White House released a 22 page booklet outlining progress in the war on terrorism. It lists all the steps taken since September 11, 2001 to fight the terrorist threat, including military intervention in Afghanistan and Iraq. And it concludes by saying victory will only come through a sustained international effort.

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