WASHINGTON – House Republicans are clouding the attempt to adopt the Sept. 11 commission's (search) recommendations into law by bundling them with additional, more controversial anti-terror measures, Democrats complained Thursday.
House and Senate Democrats are opposing the plan, even before it is introduced in the House, because it includes provisions on the treatment of terrorist suspects, illegal immigration and identity theft that go beyond what the Sept. 11 commissioners sought.
"If we're going to maintain bipartisan spirit, provisions such as those could be extraordinarily counterproductive," said Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota.
House GOP leaders plan next week to start working on the legislation, which addresses the Sept. 11 commission's complaint that the nation's 15 intelligence agencies did not work together sufficiently before the Sept. 11, 2001 (search), attacks on New York's World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
The commission called on Congress to create a national intelligence director (search) and a national counterterrorism center to coordinate intelligence, as well as to set national standards for issuance of drivers' licenses and other identification; improve "no-fly" and other terrorist watch lists; and use biometric identifiers more to screen travelers at ports and borders.
A draft of the House Republican legislation, obtained by The Associated Press, would tackle all of those issues. It also includes measures on the deportation of immigrants who become members of or help terrorist groups; required pretrial detention for terrorism suspects; warrants against non-citizens even when a target can't be tied directly to a foreign power; and enhanced penalties for threats or attempts to use chemical or nuclear weapons against the United States, including attacks through the mail system.
Several groups have complained that many of those provisions are similar to a rumored expansion of the USA Patriot Act (search), which leaked out to the public last year but was never introduced in Congress.
"Nowhere in its recommendations does the 9/11 Commission ask Congress to pass a sequel to the Patriot Act," said Laura W. Murphy, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's (search) Washington legislative office.
House Judiciary Committee spokesman Jeff Lungren said the "draft bill deals directly with the recommendations of the 9/11 commission report."
But Reps. Christopher Shays, R-Conn., and Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., called on the House not to "cloud" the issue with things outside the Sept. 11 report.
"While additional proposals may have merit, they should be considered separately and not be used to cloud the debate on the commission recommendations, which deserve a straight up-or-down vote," Shays and Maloney said in a joint statement. They have introduced a bill that would make the commission recommendations into law almost verbatim.
House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California said Thursday that Democrats offered to work with Republicans to get a bipartisan bill through the House, but instead the GOP "have, in secret, written up their own bill."
Pelosi said she hadn't seen the exact language yet, but "it sounds rather menacing."
"How much better it would have been if we could have taken the course that the Senate did to act in ... a bipartisan manner, working together to produce the product that would meet the needs of the 9/11 commission recommendations," she said.
The Senate will take up its version of the legislation next week. Senators dealt mostly with the national intelligence director and national counterterrorism center in committee, and plan to work on the other Sept. 11 recommendations on the floor.