New FBI Charter To Investigate Political Groups

By Keith Tyler

On February 10, 1995 the Omnibus Counterterrorism Bill was introduced
as S. 390 into the Senate and as H.R. 896 in the House. It was
initiated by the FBI, and passed on by the Justice Department and the
White House. Senators Biden (D-DE) and Specter (R-PA) initiated it in
the Senate, Rep. Schumer (D-NY) and Dicks (D-WA) in the House. It has
bipartisan support and could get expedited action.


	This is a general charter for the FBI and other agencies,
including the military, to investigate political groups and causes at
will. The bill is a wide-ranging federalization of different kinds of
actions applying to both citizens and non-citizens. The range includes
acts of violence (attempts, threats and conspiracies) as well as
giving funds for humanitarian, legal activity.
	It would allow up to 10 year sentences for citizens and
deportation for permanent resident non-citizens for the "crime" of
supporting the lawful activities of an organization the President
declares to be "terrorist," as the African National Congress, FMLN in
El Salvador, IRA in Northern Ireland, and PLO have been labeled. It
broadens the definition of terrorism. The President's determination of
who is a terrorist is unappealable, and specifically can include
groups regardless of any legitimate activity they might pursue.
	It authorizes secret trials for immigrants who are not charged
with a crime but rather who are accused of supporting lawful activity
by organizations which have also been accused of committing illegal
acts. Immigrants could be deported: 1) using evidence they or their
lawyers would never see; 2) in secret proceedings; 3) with one sided
appeals; 4) using illegally obtained evidence.
	It suspends posse comitatus - allowing the use of the military
to aid the police regardless of other laws.
	It reverses the presumption of innocence - the accused is
presumed ineligible for bail and can be detained until trial.
	It loosens the rules for wiretaps.
	It would prohibit probation as a punishment under the act-even
for minor nonviolent offenses.


	Those who remember the McCarran Walter Act will recognize this
bill, only in some ways this is broader and potentially more
	This bill is highly political: the President can determine who
is a terrorist and change his/her mind at will and even for economic
reasons. Necessarily its choices would be targeted at organizations
the government found currently offensive. People to be deported would
be chosen specifically because of their political associations and
	The new Federal crime: international terrorism doesn't cover
anything that is not already a crime. As the Center for National
Security Studies notes: "Since the new offense does not cover anything
that is not already a crime, the main purpose of the proposal seems to
be to avoid certain constitutional and statutory protections that
would otherwise apply."
	While many provisions of this bill could well be found
unconstitutional after years of litigation, in the mean time the
damage could be enormous to the First Amendment and other
constitutional rights, including presumption of innocence and right to

The bill has been referred to judiciary committees
of each house.  For more information:
Kit Gage, Washington Liaison,
National Lawyers Guild
3321 12th St., NE, Washington DC 20017 USA 
Tel: 202-529-4225 Fax: 202-526-4611 

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