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PATRIOT Act Grants Law Enforcement New Powers

Aired December 15, 2001 - 07:14   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Well, back in the United States, federal agents swept through two business offices yesterday armed with a new weapon. Dubbed the PATRIOT Act, the law grants law enforcement officers sweeping new powers against groups suspected of taking part in terrorism or its funding.

CNN Financial News reporter Allan Dodds Frank explains.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ALLAN DODDS FRANK, CNN FINANCIAL NEWS (voice-over): Federal agents in Illinois and New Jersey raided the offices of two Islamic charity organizations as the government moved to freeze their assets. Agents from Customs, the FBI, and Treasury carted out truckloads of potential evidence, including office computers and files from the Global Relief Foundation and the Benevolence International Foundation.

The searches were conducted under warrants issued by a federal judge following the newly passed PATRIOTS Act, and according to Global Relief's lawyer, the warrants are largely classified.

ROGER SIMMONS, ATTORNEY FOR GLOBAL RELIEF FOUNDATION: They spent the next what seems to be eight and a half or nine hours going through all the documents themselves without our aid, without our assistance, and collecting them up and packaging them and putting them in trucks and boxes to take out of here, which obviously will shut down the organization and stop critical -- critically needed food and medical supplies in the dead of winter in areas that desperately need it right now.

FRANK: The Bridgeview, Illinois-based Global Relief Foundation raised more than $5 million last year to fund its operations in 20 countries. Incorporated in 1992, Global Relief's first operations were in Afghanistan.

Global Relief, in a lawsuit filed against major news organizations a month ago, claims it has been defamed by being labeled as a terrorist organization.

The Benevolence International Foundation's East Coast office in Newark, New Jersey, as well as its headquarters near Chicago, were also raided. That group, with operations in six Islamic countries, raised more than $3 million last year. At the Newark building housing the Benevolence Foundation's East Coast office, the custodian said he called a foundation official when federal agents arrived.

AKRAM ABDUL MAJEED, BUILDING CUSTODIAN: The Custom authorities, they came in and wanted to get access to the office of Benevolence. They were able to -- they spoke to the director, and he said it was fine, that they could come in, and he let -- you know, he said, "Open the door and let them in." He had nothing to hide. So basically, that was his attitude.

FRANK: A Benevolence Foundation spokesman said the asset freeze by the Treasury Department will at least temporarily shut down the foundation's relief to the poor.

(on camera): Both foundations have been visited by federal agents before. This latest action took place just as their key fund- raising season during the Ramadan religious holiday was drawing to a close.

Allan Dodds Frank, CNN Financial News, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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