Aug. 16, 2006 – US Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff is already using the uncovering of an alleged airplane bombing plot in the United Kingdom to push for increased electronic surveillance in the United States.
In recent television interviews, Chertoff discussed his admiration for British anti-terror laws, which allow police and security agencies more authority to conduct domestic surveillance and detain suspected terrorists. Under a new law passed early this year, the UK can hold terrorism suspects for up to 28 days without charges.
Asked by Chris Wallaceâ€™s on Fox News Sunday last week if he planned to call for any powers enjoyed by British authorities, Chertoff answered: "Well, I think certainly making sure that we have the ability to be as nimble as possible with our surveillance is very important. And frankly, their ability to hold people for a period of time gives them a tremendous advantage."
On ABC News's This Week with George Stephanopoulos, Chertoff urged increased surveillance authority. "We have to make sure our legal system allows us to do that," he said. "It's not like the 20th century, where you had time to get warrants."
Congress has yet to approve warrantless wiretapping, and current laws require suspects in the US to be charged within 48 hours of arrest. Recent changes to immigration laws, however, allow suspected terrorists to be held for "visa violations" indefinitely. And most of the detainees held at GuantÃ¡namo Bay, who were detained overseas, have never been charged with a crime.