Even as they vow to work together against terrorism, Republicans led by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Democrats led by President Clinton are squabbling over what provisions a new anti-terrorism bill should include.
And civil rights groups complain that both may be about to trample on some groups' constitutional rights in a rush for action after the Oklahoma City bombing.Democrats were miffed that a new anti-terrorism bill introduced Thursday by Hatch and Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole included limiting death-sentence appeals to ensure swift punishment - which the GOP has sought for years but Democrats have blocked.
Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., said that should be considered separately. "The president wants a clean anti-terrorism bill," he said, adding the provision could kill the bill or delay it as others may try to piggyback other provisions ranging from banning "cop-killer" bullets to guns.
Administration witnesses at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing chaired by Hatch also said limits on death-row appeals are not needed to combat terrorism and may move the Senate away from a "nonpartisan, bipartisan road" all sides started on.
But freshman Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., bristled at that and said it "doesn't have anything to do with partisanship. . . . My constituents are extraordinarily upset at what has occurred here. And they want the swift kind of justice that the president talked about."
Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., who just returned from the bomb site, added he "can't imagine passing anything" without such reform of the appeals process. He added, "If our citizens live in fear, there is no freedom" - and such steps are needed to restore confidence in the system and erase fear.
FBI and Justice Department officials also sought new powers and more agents to combat terrorism.
FBI Director Louis Freeh asked to hire 1,000 more personnel - and for legal changes to require placing traceable materials in chemicals, making phone calls easier to trace, allowing checks on credit and phone records and making terrorism a federal crime - including putting the FBI in charge of investigating it.
That would cost $1.25 billion over five years.
Freeh noted holes exist in current law. "If a terrorist or terrorist organization acting within a single state constructed bombs . . . with ingredients that did not cross state lines and proceeded to bomb or burn non-government-owned abandoned buildings, or many private residences, the FBI probably could not investigate."
Ronald K. Noble, under secretary of the treasury for enforcement, added changes proposed are needed to track "several hundred violent white-supremacist groups" in the nation, and paramilitary militia groups challenging the legitimacy of the federal government that "have been formed in 34 states."
But groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union complained GOP and Democratic proposals would allow the FBI to infiltrate organizations without any clear evidence to raise suspicion that they are violating federal law.
"We have gone down this hysterical path before," said ACLU Executive Director Ira Glasser. "Whenever we have . . . we have violated the rights of tens of thousands of American citizens without making any of us safer."
Freeh disagreed, saying the FBI would obey the Constitution. "Intelligence serves a very useful purpose and helps to protect the American people. It should not be considered a dirty word."
Hatch said that despite such differences, Republicans and Democrats are trying to work closely on anti-terrorism - and his new bill incorporates most key provisions that both sides seek.
"This legislation will enhance and extend the penalties for terrorist acts, add the crime of conspiracy to certain offenses and increase the ability to deport suspected terrorists," he said.