Attorney General John Ashcroft says the United States remains under a terrorist threat and he is urging Congress to approve new laws that would make it easier to detect terrorist plots.
Attorney General Ashcroft told CBS television Sunday that a "very serious" terrorist threat remains, a threat that could increase should the United States respond with military force in Afghanistan.
Mr. Ashcroft says that more than 500 people have been arrested or detained for questioning in connection with the September 11th terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.
The attorney general is urging Congress to approve new laws that would allow indefinite detention of non-citizens being investigated for possible links with terrorists:
"This isn't a threat to the civil rights of individuals," stressed Mr. Ashcroft. "This is just saying that while the court proceedings are going on regarding violations of the immigration laws we will be able to keep suspected terrorists in jail. I think that is something we ought to be able to do. And I've got to find a way to do that. I don't want to be releasing suspected terrorists onto the streets of the United States of America who are being adjudicated as violators of the immigration laws already," he said.
Some Democrats in Congress have expressed concern about the Bush Administration's push for expanded law enforcement powers in the wake of the terrorist attacks.
Democrat Patrick Leahy is Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and one of those urging the administration not to restrict civil liberties as it seeks to broaden its investigation.
"I think everybody knows that we are going to have to make sure we have some kind of a check and balance in there. We don't want to be like countries that we criticize all the time where if an American goes there, they can hold him without telling him what they are holding him for. We want to have that kind of check and balance," Senator Leahy said.
U.S. investigators continue to piece together the terrorist plot that involved 19 hijackers taking control of four airliners on September 11. Authorities now believe that at least four of the suspected hijackers did spend time in terrorist training camps in Afghanistan prior to coming to the United States.