Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, threw his weight Thursday behind a resolution calling for the protection of civil rights for Arab-Americans.
But then Sen. Alan Simpson, R-Wyo., decided - as Hatch had weeks earlier - that maybe that bill attacks the FBI too much for its interviews of Arab-Americans during the Persian Gulf war. He - as Hatch did - stopped the bill temporarily for a look.Simpson's objections came as the Senate Judiciary Committee was set to accept a substitute version Hatch had agreed to - after the National Association of American Arabs publicly noted that Hatch, who often vaunts his pro-civil rights record, was blocking a civil rights bill for them.
Hatch told the committee, "It is appropriate for Congress to go on record reasserting the rights of all Americans, including Arab Americans, to be free of hate crimes and discrimination. . . . Conflict abroad is no excuse for violence or discrimination at home."
Hatch also said he felt the FBI is "doing an outstanding job protecting the civil liberties of the American people," even though Arab groups wanted the resolution in the first place to protest FBI interviews during the war - which they felt made any Arab a terrorism suspect.
But Simpson wasn't so sure that the resolution is not still too critical of the FBI. "I want to look at it. . . . It contains some language that isn't even veiled criticism of the FBI," he said, prompting the committee to delay any vote on it.