Wednesday, October 3, 2001

Remember 9-11-01

Protect civil liberties
from terrorist tools

The issue: Congress appears likely
to scale back White House proposals for
more authority in combating terrorism.

CONGRESS is responding promptly and responsibly to the need for new measures to wage war against terrorism, although perhaps not with the haste or deference that the Bush administration would have preferred. Much of the White House wish list has gained bipartisan support, but Congress is not willing to grant powers tantamount to martial law. Hawaii's congressional delegation should be diligent in protecting civil liberties in the present climate.

When Attorney General John Ashcroft complained that Congress was not acting quickly enough or with enough breadth to provide him the tools to fight terrorism, Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., chided his colleagues for the "paucity of debate" on serious issues. Complaints from both sides are indicators of a proper balance.

The best example of bipartisan compromise was in response to the administration's proposal to expand the authority to detain foreigners without charges. The administration asked that law-enforcement authorities be allowed to detain a foreigner indefinitely if they had "reason to believe" the person was involved in terrorism. Instead, Congress will consider a bill allowing a foreigner to be detained for up to seven days if there are "reasonable grounds" -- a higher threshold of evidence -- that the person was involved in terrorism. The foreigner could appeal detention in federal court.

Congress appears ready to allow wiretapping of a suspected terrorist regardless of what telephone is used and to obtain, by subpoena, Internet records of e-mail messages sent or received by suspects. Approval is likely for measures allowing military assistance in patrolling U.S. borders, tripling the number of agents on the Canadian border and limiting student visas.

A scaled back version of the administration proposal to treat crimes more harshly when regarded as acts of terrorism is warranted. The administration's proposal would have given authorities wide latitude to classify crimes, including computer hacking incidents, as related to terrorism.

The expanded wiretapping authority has a "sunset" provision that would curtail those powers after two years unless renewed by Congress. That change recognizes that civil liberties should not be permanently reduced, even in a seemingly small way.

Byrd, the supreme protector of congressional prerogatives, asked senators to "remain mindful of the somber history of this nation, of the blood that has been shed over the centuries to protect and defend the ideals enshrined in our Constitution. We must, therefore, be as constant in our vigilance of the Constitution as we are strong in our battle against terrorism."

Dengue fever needed
a quicker response

The issue: The swift-spreading disease
is a serious threat to the public's health.

ALTHOUGH state authorities have a full plate of concerns about Hawaii's economic health, the physical health of residents as well as visitors requires immediate attention as cases of dengue fever continue to multiply. Aggressive action, maybe even a quarantine, may be necessary.

The state Department of Health has been aware since mid-summer of the possibility that dengue fever may have infected Maui residents who had visited islands in the South Pacific. Last month, incidents of dengue began showing up in Hana. Now, there may be more than 100 people infected on Maui and as many as 27 others on Oahu, the Big Island and Kauai.

The state has begun spraying pesticides and limiting access to areas on Maui where people have been exposed. However, the rapid spread of the disease in the last few weeks suggests that the opportunity to nip this problem in the bud may have already passed. With people traveling from one island to another and from the state to the mainland, it is not difficult to imagine outbreaks in a wider area.

Dengue is spread by female mosquitoes who take in the virus with blood when they bite. The virus stays with the mosquito through its life cycle and its eggs, which can survive desiccation, are infected. Dengue is not often fatal, but causes severe headaches and fever, eye and joint pain, nausea and vomiting. Because symptoms may not show up for as many as 14 days and because mosquito infestation is so widespread in Hawaii, there clearly is a danger of the disease running out of control.

Authorities may place more severe restrictions on travel to the infested areas and insist that plants that can harbor larvae and eggs be treated or prohibited from leaving affected localities.

The tourism industry, already hit hard by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, will suffer more if word of the disease gets around. Already, tourist-dependent businesses in Hana are feeling the effects.

It may be the nature of government bureaucracy that slows necessary action when a problem develops. If quick solutions were sought when coqui frogs and miconia plants first established themselves in Hawaii, these matters would have been far easier to correct. Although no less serious, coqui and miconia are longer-term environmental issues. Dengue, however, poses an immediate threat to public health and demands a swift fix.

Published by Oahu Publications Inc., a subsidiary of Black Press.

Don Kendall, President

John Flanagan, publisher and editor in chief 529-4748;
Frank Bridgewater, managing editor 529-4791;
Michael Rovner,
assistant managing editor 529-4768;
Lucy Young-Oda, assistant managing editor 529-4762;

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