DOJ Seeks to Expand Anti-Terror Powers

The Justice Department is asking Congress to expand its anti-terror powers.

Daniel Bryant, assistant attorney general for legal policy... said Congress should change the definition of "material support or resources" to include virtually any "tangible or intangible" money, property or service except medicine or religious materials. The current law includes a finite list of actions that could be criminal, ranging from financial services to provision of safe houses to making false identification.

The Justice Department also wants lawmakers to expand the scope of terrorism acts covered by the law beyond those that terrorists are believed most likely to commit, such as a chemical weapons attack, to include virtually any act of violence or destruction linked to them.

We don't need to give law enforcement more powers. We need to rein them in. We need the Safe Act to correct the flaws in the Patriot Act. We agree with the critics who say:

Critics say the law already is murky and that it could invite prosecutors to go after people who innocently make a donation or provide a service to a group they didn't know had terrorist ties. Two federal court rulings in California have ruled as impermissibly vague the law's definitions of "expert advice and assistance," "personnel" and "training."

Sen. Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said similar questions surround cases such as that of Sami Omar Al-Hussayen, a University of Idaho computer science graduate student on trial for using his skills to create Web sites for terrorist recruitment and to draw financing. "Could you go after a repairman who comes by to fix the computers?" Mr. Leahy asked.

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