July 29, 1996 in Nation/World

Clinton Pushes Lawmakers To Toughen Anti-Terror Laws

New York Times

Spurred by the bombing at the Atlanta Olympics, President Clinton on Sunday called on Congress to pass expanded measures against terrorism - including new federal wiretapping authority - that were dropped from the anti-terrorism bill passed last spring.

Clinton called on the congressional leadership from both parties to join him and the director of the FBI, Louis J. Freeh, at the White House today to discuss additional steps the government might take to combat terrorism. Speaker Newt Gingrich expressed willingness to consider such measures.

Here in New Orleans, Clinton told a meeting of the Disabled Veterans of America, “As Americans, we can and must join together to defeat terrorism wherever it strikes and whoever practices it.” Among other things, he asked Congress to require chemical markers - known as taggants - to be placed in the most common kinds of explosives, black and smokeless powder. Such markers create a chemical “fingerprint” that make the source of explosives easier to trace after a blast.

Clinton originally proposed such markers, and expanded authority to let the FBI wiretap suspected terrorists or groups who are moving from place to place, after the Oklahoma City bombing in April 1995, but the measures were among those that fell out of the final bill. In an unusual alliance, civil liberties groups and advocates of gun rights joined forces to argue that the wiretapping expansion, in particular, would violate constitutional rights of privacy and free association.

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