Bush asks for more power to fight terror

WASHINGTON — WASHINGTON - President Bush highlighted his administration's homeland security efforts yesterday and asked Congress for more law enforcement powers to fight terrorists.

"The best way to protect the American people is to stay on the offensive ... at home and to stay on the offensive overseas," he said. "And that is what this country is doing."


In a speech at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Va., the president said law enforcement agencies need the same tools to combat terrorism they use to fight embezzlers or drug traffickers.

For example, the government lacks the power to issue administrative subpoenas in certain terrorism cases, he said. The subpoenas, issued to obtain certain records quickly, are allowed in other types of investigations, such as health care fraud and child abuse cases, he said.


"If we can use these subpoenas to catch crooked doctors, the Congress should allow law enforcement officials to use them in catching terrorists," he said.

Bush also called for adding the death penalty in more terrorism cases, such as if someone sabotages a defense installation or a nuclear facility in a way that takes innocent life, an offense that currently does not carry a penalty of death.

The administration's push for more law enforcement powers since the Sept. 11 attacks has been controversial.

The Patriot Act, which gave the government unprecedented domestic surveillance authority, has been denounced by civil liberties groups, privacy advocates and some lawmakers on Capitol Hill as an affront to civil rights and to the Constitution's protection against unlawful searches.

His new efforts - dubbed Patriot 2 by opponents - received the same response.

"It is unfortunate that President Bush would use this tragic date to continue to endorse the increasingly unpopular anti-civil liberties policies of Attorney General [John] Ashcroft and the Department of Justice," said Anthony Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union.

In addition, Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, a Connecticut Democrat who is running for president, said that the American people have deep concerns about the administration abusing its current powers.

"Is the government snooping through people's library records? Inappropriately searching people's belongings? George W. Bush isn't answering these questions," he said in a written statement.