Attorney General John Ashcroft indicated Sunday the Justice Department could loosen some restrictions on the FBI's ability to put domestic groups, including religious organizations, under surveillance to thwart terrorist activity.
The attorney general also said "several hundred" National Guard troops and possibly helicopters would be used to patrol the U.S.-Canadian border, allowing them "to observe the border better."
Ashcroft, in an interview with "Fox News Sunday," said the troops are being deployed to relieve overworked Border Patrol agents and speed up inspections at the border, but he insisted the move does not signal that the United States is "militarizing" the border. Canadian officials have been consulted, he said.
"In order to let those people go back to their ordinary course of operations, their other duties, we've asked that we get several hundred National Guard people to help us with inspections at the border," said Ashcroft, who said the deployment should speed up the movement of goods between the two countries.
The Justice Department issued a statement saying 419 National Guard troops would be deployed in 12 states bordering Canada. The Immigration and Naturalization Service, the parent agency of the Border Patrol, has already detailed an additional 120 agents to the northern U.S. border.