Measures passed last week by the US Senate to allow wiretaps on the computers and phones of suspected terrorists are not enough, the Bush administration has said.
US Attorney General John Ashcroft and FBI director Robert Mueller have been lobbying for more wide ranging powers to make the suspect, and not their equipment, the focus of wiretapping authorisation.
Ashcroft also called for greater punishment for those collaborating with attackers.
In a televised address from Camp David, Ashcroft called for the US to "elevate the penalties for those who would harbour and assist terrorists to at least the same level as the penalties for those who would harbour and assist those who have been involved in espionage".
He said that wiretap laws needed to be "upgraded" again because current laws meant enforcement agencies had more powers to fight organised crime and illegal gambling than terrorism.
Ashcroft wants authorisation to be focused on the person rather than the equipment they use, as much of such equipment can now be used and then discarded.
The plans are likely to win the backing of US lawmakers, judging by an Associated Press report which quotes Orrin Hatch, one of the most senior Republican senators, as saying that "we need to modernise our laws to make sure that no stone goes unturned in this investigation".
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