WASHINGTON – America will never forget the "servants of evil" behind the Sept. 11 attacks, President Bush said Wednesday in advocating expanded police powers to investigate and prosecute suspected terrorists.
"For two years, this nation has been on the offensive against global terror networks overseas and at home," Bush said. "We have taken unprecedented, effective measures to protect this homeland, yet our nation has more to do. We will never be complacent. We will defend our people and we will win this war."
Bush outlined his request at the FBI Academy (search) in Quantico, Va. He gave officials from the federal law enforcement agency and the Homeland Security Department, as well as local emergency workers, an update on efforts to improve homeland security.
Bush said he wants Congress to give law enforcement the same powers to pursue terrorists that they now have to go after many other criminals, including suspected drug-traffickers, embezzlers and mobsters. Many of the provisions that Bush is seeking are in proposals that have been introduced in Congress.
For example, suspected drug traffickers (search) are presumptively denied bail in some cases but those provisions do not apply to suspected terrorists. Similarly, the death penalty applies to some crimes such as drug-related offenses, but not to some terrorist crimes. Also, provisions for administrative subpoenas that are available in medical fraud cases and more than 300 other instances do not apply to terrorism, he said.
Bush also said that while capital punishment applies to many serious crimes, some terrorist crimes that result in death do not carry the death penalty.
"Sabotaging a defense installation or a nuclear facility in a way that takes innocent life does not carry the federal death penalty," Bush said in calling on Congress to make these type of crimes punishable by death. "This kind of technicality should never protect terrorists from the ultimate justice."
Laura Murphy, director of the legislative office of the American Civil Liberties Union in Washington, was critical of Bush's remarks.
"Politically and legally, further erosions of judicial oversight and the basic checks and balances that protect us and our democracy from political abuses of power -- against both the right and the left -- are the wrong path to take," Murphy said.
Bush spoke three days after delivering a progress report on his administration's efforts against terrorism abroad, in which he focused on the war in Iraq and described it as the central battleground of the global fight against terrorism.
The White House on Wednesday released a 22-page "Progress Report on the Global War on Terrorism (search)" as television networks were airing a new video of Al Qaeda leader Usama bin Laden (search) and his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri (search), called on guerrillas to "bury" American troops in Iraq.
"Haven't heard it yet," the president said about the tape as he was touring a ballistics room and a chemistry lab where he saw sensitive equipment used to identify material from explosions at the USS Cole, embassies in Africa and the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad.
Bush's homeland security speech came amid questions about whether the nation is better prepared now than on Sept. 11, 2001, when terrorists killed some 3,016 people in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania with four hijacked airplanes.
Before departing the White House for Quantico, the president met with the prime minister of Kuwait, a key Persian Gulf ally where thousands of American troops are deployed as part of the ongoing Iraq campaign. Sheik Sabah Al Ahmed Al Sabah was appointed prime minister of Kuwait in July by his brother, Kuwait's emir, Sheik Jaber Al Ahmed Al Sabah.
Wednesday evening, Bush was playing host to a private dinner and screening of the Academy Award-winning documentary "Twin Towers." Among his guests were to be the family of the New York police officer highlighted in the film, other police officers and some elected officials from the city.
For the anniversary, the president planned low-key appearances: a prayer service at a nearby church, a moment of silence on the White House's South Lawn at the hour of the first plane's crash into the World Trade Center towers in New York, and a visit with U.S. soldiers recovering at Walter Reed Army Medical Hospital (search) from wounds suffered in Iraq.
Before his speech Wednesday, Bush met briefly in the White House residence with the Dalai Lama. The exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, who has campaigned for the cause of a free Tibet since fleeing his land for India in 1959 after a failed revolt against Chinese rule, is on his first tour of the United States in more than two years.
Afterward, the Dalai Lama told reporters that Bush showed a "a genuine interest and a genuine sympathy, so I am quite sure that, whatever way, they will help us."