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Jewish Groups Blast Gutting of Counterterrorism Legislation

March 14, 1996
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Counterterrorism legislation long hoped for by many Jewish groups has all but died in Congress.

The House Representatives on Thursday passed a bare bones bill, 229-191, with none of the teeth championed as effective means to combat terrorists and their support networks on American soil.

Jewish organizations, which had made the measure a centerpiece of their legislative agenda during the past year, were reeling from the passage of a bill they widely described as “eviscerated.”

Jewish officials here lambasted Congress for “abdicating” their responsibility as elected officials.

“You don’t even have the illusion of effective anti-terrorism legislation,” said Jess Hordes, directors of the Anti-Defamation League’s Washington office.

Lawmakers and their supporters in the Jewish community once hailed the measure as a means to stop Hamas and other terrorist groups from fund raising in the United States. The bill was also supposed to allow for expedited deportations of aliens suspected of terrorism.

Instead, the House passed a measure with few anti-terrorism provisions. Even the name of the bill was changed to reflect the priorities of the lawmakers. It was changed from the Omnibus Counterterrorism Act to the Effective Death Penalty and Personal Security Act.

Attention has now shifted to House and Senate negotiators who will seek to hammer out differences in each chamber’s versions.

But with a gutted House bill and a Senate bill widely described as “ineffective,” activists hold little hope of winning approval for a law that would designate groups as terrorists and ban material support, including funds, to them.

In a statement issued from Jerusalem, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations said, “It is a terrible irony that while the president convened 30 heads of state to secure their commitment to fight terrorism on a global scale, the Congress of the United States has failed to provide U.S. law enforcement agencies with the necessary mandate and means to prosecute the battle in our own country.”

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