Caution on Terrorism Bill

COUNTERTERRORISM legislation is again gathering momentum in Congress. But the current bills need extensive fixing before they pass into law.

The House began that process this week by amending its version of the legislation to remove some objectionable elements.

Greatly expanded wire-tape authority for the FBI is gone, for example, as is a provision to summarily deport aliens suspected of terrorist sympathies.

Gone, too, are some useful provisions for controlling weapons and explosives used by terrorists.

But that's a price worth paying to end up with legislation that doesn't damage fundamental freedoms in the name of fighting terrorism. In fact, the Senate and House bills still include such highly questionable items as giving the attorney general power to redefine common crime as terrorism and restricting habeas corpus rights in federal courts.

Vigor is called for in the battle against terrorism. But basic rights of privacy, association, and due process should be vigorously protected at the same time. Otherwise, terrorists could be granted even broader destructiveness.

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