ATLANTA – The state Senate Wednesday passed a bill that would allow the Georgia Bureau Investigation (GBI) to independently investigate a wide range of terrorism cases.
The first bill to make it to the Senate floor this session – the “Georgia Fights Terrorism Act”— passed handily, with 49 senators voting for the bill and only three voting against it.
The bill would allow the GBI to open investigations of terrorism independently instead of solely at the request of government agencies or officials, as is typically the case now.
“This bill simply allows the Georgia Bureau of Investigation the ability to proactively, either independently or with our other agencies, both local and federal, go after and investigate crimes related to terrorism, nuclear, biological, chemical, cyber and domestic,” said Sen. John Albers, R-Roswell, the bill’s chief sponsor.
Under the bill, the GBI could open such investigations if the agency’s director finds that doing so “would not compromise the successful completion of cases.”
The GBI provides a number of services to the state, including forensic analysis, autopsies, investigations of serious crimes and tracking of crime statistics.
Though the bill breezed through the Senate, some advocates say the bill is unnecessary.
“Our main concern …. is that a lot of the conversations around protesting, around some of the complaints and issues that communities have … are starting to slowly be called things like domestic terrorism,” said Isabel Otero, Georgia policy director for the Southern Poverty Law Center Action Fund.
“We’re seeing this trend of trying to push the law in ways that make it a little bit easier to go after communities when they disagree with what it is that leaders have come up with,” Otero added. “I don’t think there’s been an issue with the GBI being left out of an important investigation … and so this seems like a sort of superfluous additional bill.”
The bill will now be taken up by the state House of Representatives.