The Bush Administration urged Congress to pass by Friday legislation that would significantly increase the federal government’s criminal investigation authority. The proposed legislation would allow the government to detain non-citizens suspected of terrorist activity for an unlimited time, trace internet use as it currently traces telephone use, make it illegal to financially support someone or an organization that one knew or should have known was involved in terrorism, and allow law enforcement access to student records and tax information in certain circumstances. The legislation is being opposed by some civil rights organizations and those interested in computer privacy. Senator Leahy (D-Vt.) has offered his own anti-terrorism legislation which grants the administration some of the power it seeks but is more limited.
After the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City, the Clinton administration advocated similar laws; legislation passed in 1996 increased counter-terrorism funding to the FBI and created special courts for deportation proceedings that could use secret evidence. Because of lobbying by civil rights groups and the Nation Rifle Association at that time, the federal government was not permitted to enhance its wire-tapping and surveillance powers, nor was it able to get chemical identifiers placed in explosives and black powder. Obviously, the increased authority did not prevent the September 11, 2001 attack.
While attention is focused on the terrorists involved in the hijacking attacks of September 11, 2001, the threat of domestic terrorism remains. Escaped convict and anti-abortion extremist Clayton Waagner is still at large. The FBI has added Waagner to its 10 Most Wanted List, and clinics all over the country remain on high alert. Philip Tomas, Special Agent in Charge of the Memphis FBI office, said of Waagner, “[h]e is trying to change social principles in the United States according to his philosophy and he would meet the definition of domestic terrorism.”