Senate OKs anti-terrorism legislation

Friday, November 30, 2001

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. -- Illinois officers would be able to use wiretaps and gain other new powers to investigate suspected terrorists under a bill passed Wednesday by the state Senate.

Under the bill, committing acts of terrorism would become a state felony punishable, in some cases, by the death penalty. Giving support to terrorists and making terrorist threats also would become state felonies.

Also, the bill gives officers power to wiretap any telephone or computer a suspect uses and enables them to get search warrants faster in terrorism investigations. The state Attorney General's office gains authority to freeze the assets of suspected terrorists.

Attorney General Jim Ryan, who proposed the legislation, said the measure is "an earnest effort to fashion legislation not only giving our state more authority during these uncertain times, but also maintaining that delicate balance necessary to protect our individual liberties."

Should be the bill become law, portions would have to be reauthorized three years later.

Bill co-sponsor Carl Hawkinson, R-Galesburg, said the version passed includes the tightest possible definition of terrorism and makes all efforts to avoid trampling anyone's rights.

"We're in the middle of a war and we need to give state law enforcement the tools they need to battle terrorism along with federal authorities," he said.

The bill passed 55-0 despite the concerns of critics worried it gives law officers overly broad powers. Sen. Bob Molaro, D-Chicago, said if the bill becomes law it should be used "to fight terrorism and terrorists, not other crimes."

Other provisions of the bill include making it a felony to take a firearm on an airplane, allowing the Attorney General to use the statewide grand jury to prosecute terrorism cases and limits the ability of nonresident immigrants to acquire a state Firearm Owners Identification Card.

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