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Clinton Criticizes Terrorism Bill As Weak But President Says He Will Sign Measure Despite Missing Provisions

Sun., April 21, 1996

A day after the one-year anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing, President Clinton said Saturday he will sign Congress’ new anti-terrorism bill but complained that important parts of the measure “were left on the cutting room floor.”

The president, broadcasting his weekly radio address from Russia, said he was disappointed Congress dropped provisions that would have made it easier for authorities to wiretap all phones used by suspected terrorists.

He also said police should have more leeway to investigate and prosecute terrorists who use machine guns, sawed-off shotguns and explosive devices.

And back home, Clinton’s FBI director was upset about a provision creating a special commission to study the activities of federal law enforcement agencies. In a letter last week to several House and Senate leaders, FBI Director Louis Freeh said he feared that inquiries by the five-member commission would have “a chilling effect on those charged with vigorously enforcing the law.”

Freeh also telephoned Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware, the Senate Judiciary Committee’s senior Democrat, to express his concern.

In a statement Wednesday on the Senate floor, Biden - who otherwise supports the anti-terrorism measure - said the creation of a special commission is “pandering to this concern of some Americans that the bad guys are the cops, the bad guys are the government, the bad guys are the FBI or the (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms) or the Justice Department.”

But Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, countered that the new commission “will assess our efforts to prevent and investigate future acts of domestic and international terrorism … (and) will help law enforcement.”

Under the bill, the commission members are to be appointed by the speaker of the House, the president pro tem of the Senate, the minority leaders of the House and Senate, and the chief justice of the Supreme Court.

Clinton, while complaining that the broader wiretap authority and other anti-terrorism measures “were left on the cutting room floor,” said the bill still makes important progress.

The bill, which passed Congress this past week, will allow deportation of alien terrorists without disclosing classified evidence against them, prevent fund raising in the United States for terrorists, and require chemical labels in plastic explosives so they can be traced.


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