HEADLINE: HEARING OF THE CRIME SUBCOMMITTEE OF THE HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE AND 6603 OF THE USA PATRIOT ACT
CHAIRED BY: REPRESENTATIVE HOWARD COBLE (R-NC)
WITNESSES: GLENN A. FINE, INSPECTOR GENERAL, DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE; GREGORY KATSAS, DEPUTY ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL; BARRY SABIN, CHIEF OF COUNTERTERRORISM SECTION, CRIMINAL DIVISION, DOJ; AHILAN ARULANANTHAM, AMERICAN CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION
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Mr. CHABOT. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Just one observation before I get into the questions. You know, there have been a lot of kind of wild allegations not in this Committee; I'm not referring to anybody here but much of them kind of inflamed over the Internet; you know, that Congress passed the PATRIOT Act a few years ago, a knee-jerk reaction to 9/11, and basically turned the Federal Government loose on the American public to trample on civil liberties and abuse people left and right. And you know, the facts, as have been coming out in this Committee, I think point to something very different.
And I think one of the wisest things that Congress did in passing that legislation was to sunset certain portions of the PATRIOT Act, so that Congress would have to exercise oversight. And this is the eighth hearing that we've had in this Subcommittee alone relative to that oversight. And I want to commend the Chairman for his diligence in utilizing this Committee to participate in that oversight process.
I think this has been a very helpful process. And if in fact portions of the PATRIOT Act if it's determined they should be modified or rejected and not you know, that they not remain law in this country, then so be it. But I just again want to say that I thought that was very important that we did require this oversight, and this whole process that we've been going through is part of that.
Let me in my first question here refer to section 6603J, and quote, ''No person may be prosecuted under this section in connection with the term 'personnel,' 'training,' or 'expert advice or assistance,' if the provision of that material support or resources to a foreign terrorist organization was approved by the Secretary of State with the concurrence of the Attorney General.''
So let me ask the panel, and any of the members are welcome to respond, if the humanitarian groups are concerned that they might be prosecuted or they might be at some risk, can they not go to the State Department and get permission to provide that aid? Mr. Katsas?
Mr. KATSAS. We think they can.
Mr. CHABOT. They can?
Mr. SABIN. The answer is ''Yes.''
Mr. CHABOT. Okay. Yes, sir?
Mr. ARULANANTHAM. Yes, Representative, a couple of features about this I think are important to note. The first is, it's only personnel, training, or expert advice or assistance. So as I said earlier, it doesn't cover a huge amount of the vital services that I saw that were necessary there and that humanitarian organizations I think would say are necessary. Food is not there. You know, clothing isn't there; tents; shelter. A whole set of vitally important services are not covered by this provision. Water purification is not here.
The second thing I would say is that this process was in place prior to the tsunami hitting. You know, this statute was already the law, you know, at the time that this had happened. And in fact, its constitutionality had already been considered in a preliminary way in the Ninth Circuit. Obviously, it's not necessarily going to be fast enough to deal with humanitarian crises.
When I was on the ground about 48 hours after the tsunami hit, doctors are having to make decisions about things to do right then; people are dying right then. And a process whereby the Secretary of State has to concur with the Attorney General and make a political decisionyou know, I think it was President Reagan who said, ''A hungry child knows no politics.'' And I continue to be somewhat disturbed by the idea that this humanitarian activity would be subordinated to political objectives; whether it be political objectives to undermine the legitimacy of one of these groups, or the political objectives of, you know, the Government in making foreign policy decisions. I mean, there ought to be.
Mr. CHABOT. Okay, let me stop you there, because my time is about out. Would one of the other gentlemen on the panel like to respond to any of the points made by the gentleman whose name has been mispronounced only more often than my name, I think?
Mr. KATSAS. With respect to food, let's say, we think there is a crucial distinction between what is permissible, which is providing food to starving individuals, and what is not permissible, which is providing something like food to, say, the terrorist group directly. One can imagine something like an al Qaeda training operation which would be aided were someone to donate to it the food services necessary to run that organization.
Mr. CHABOT. Would one of the other gentlemen like to respond? Mr. Sabin?
Mr. SABIN. On a variety of fronts. First, if the issue is timeliness and, following up on Mr. Delahunt's point, to the extent that there is a concern that somehow 2339B(J) won't be efficient enough in a crisis or disaster mechanism, we can work with the Congress to provide appropriate clarification. We're open to that kind of dialogue.
But if I have heard correctly, in that specific instance, there was not a type of food or other humanitarian assistance that was prevented from being provided that has been documented here today.
And let's not lose sight of the larger picture; that this structure is what Congress desired so that groups like Hamas would not have the ability to free up, through the humanitarian assistance, and have individuals have that escape hatch so that they could not be in violation of the law. And in case after case, it has proved to be of tremendous assistance.
And we have used the article III courts, the Justice Department has, including six trials in the last 90 days where terrorist-related prosecutions resulted in convictions of all defendants including.
Mr. COBLE. Mr. Sabin, the gentleman's time has expired. If you could, wrap it up.
Mr. SABIN. The bottom line is that I don't believe it's a constitutional argument that I'm hearing today. It is one in terms of the efficiency and timeliness. And we'll be able to work with you in order to provide a mechanism and procedure by which that can occur.
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