Jewish World Review Oct. 17, 2001 / 30 Tishrei, 5762
Debra J. Saunders
ATTORNEY GENERAL John Ashcroft is angry at
how long it is taking for Congress to pass the
anti-terrorism bill known as the PATRIOT (Provide
Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and
Obstruct Terrorism) Act. Ashcroft ought to be
angrier about the fact that the House bill may not
last through the end of today's investigations; several
provisions would sunset on Dec. 31, 2003.
A two-year limit sends the wrong message to
Osama bin Laden.
Washington knows better. The world now knows
that bin Laden sent operatives to go after U.S.
troops deployed on a humanitarian mission to
Somalia in 1992. After an attack that left 18
soldiers dead, President Clinton recalled the
Bin Laden later told Time magazine that Clinton's
retreat changed how he and his followers saw the
United States: "The youth were surprised at the low
morale of the American soldiers and realized more
than before that the American soldier was a paper
tiger and after a few blows ran in defeat. . . . After a
few blows they forgot about (the U.S. role as leader
of the New World Order) and left, dragging their
corpses and their shameful defeat."
Bin Laden's dismissal of American will shows why
it's wrong for Congress to pass a bill that hints that
Americans aren't likely to stick with the program for
the long haul.
The Department of Justice is aware of the problem.
"We are concerned about it because terrorism is not
something that will end when the sunset rules end, "
said a department official.
When Ashcroft testified before the
Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Dianne Feinstein,
D-Calif., asked him what he thought of her idea, a
five- year sunset -- a less egregious bad idea.
Ashcroft still nixed it.
I should note here that at least the House Judiciary
Committee is moving with its bill, and was
deliberating on it as of this writing. In the Senate,
Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy,
D-Vt., is willing to take weeks or months to pass a
Jeff Lungren, spokesman for House Judiciary
Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner, said of
the two-year sunset, "This was a key compromise
that allowed us to move the bill forward and get a
lot of bipartisan support on this. Certainly, my boss
is not enthralled with the sunset provision."
Lungren explained that some members wanted the
two-year limit because the bill contains "new tools"
for law enforcement, including the ability for a
wiretap authorization to "rove" with a person from
land line to cell phone.
He's right about the new rules, but the answer is for
lawmakers to negotiate a bill that enables the
government to get the bad guys, without giving the
feds so much authority that they can turn into bad
guys. Democrats and Republican members were
right to fight some of the measures in the early
versions of the administration's bill.
The worst of it is that the sunset is something of a
ruse. Lawmakers say that they included a sunset so
that if the new laws are abused, they can more
easily repeal them. Fact is, the sunset exists so that
they can more easily pass these laws.
"Some of the civil libertarians were arguing for a
sunset, and I don't know why they did that," said
Jerry Berman of the civil libertarian Center for
Democracy and Technology. "In my view, nothing
He's right. In two years, very few politicians would
want to vote to revoke laws that are helping the FBI
and other agencies arrest terrorists. Whatever ends
up in this bill, lawmakers no doubt will reapprove
The whole world is watching. Will Americans show
they have this stomach to fight the war on terrorism
without flinching? Other countries will take, or not
take, a stand with America based on our show of
So why send the wrong
Comment JWR contributor Debra J. Saunders's column by clicking here.
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© 2000, Creators Syndicate