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USA PATRIOT and Terrorism Prevention Reauthorization Act of 2005

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC


USA PATRIOT AND TERRORISM PREVENTION REAUTHORIZATION ACT OF 2005 -- (House of Representatives - July 21, 2005)

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Ms. ZOE LOFGREN of California. Mr. Chairman, I ask unanimous consent to claim the time in opposition, although I do not oppose the amendment.

The Acting CHAIRMAN. Is there objection to the request of the gentlewoman from California?

There was no objection.

Ms. ZOE LOFGREN of California. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Chairman, although I plan to support this amendment to protect aircraft in U.S. airspace, I do want to rise and express my disappointment that the majority refused to accept an amendment that I offered in committee to further protect civilian aircraft.

In committee, I offered an amendment that would punish those who sell dangerous 50 caliber sniper rifles to known terrorists. Unfortunately, some in the majority viewed this as a gun control measure, but it is not. This is a national security issue.

Mr. Chairman, 50 caliber anti-armor sniper rifles are an ideal tool for terrorists because civil aircraft may be vulnerable to them. In fact, even early promotional materials for the 50 caliber rifle reference their threat to civilian aircraft. The promotional material states that the weapon could ``target the compression section of jet engines making it capable of destroying multimillion aircraft with a single hit delivered to a vital area.''

The rifle's brochure goes on to say: ``The cost-effectiveness of the 50 caliber cannot be overemphasized when a round of ammunition purchased for less than $10 can be used to destroy or disable a modern jet aircraft.''

Since 9/11 our country has made great efforts to secure our civilian airplanes and airports. Terrorists will obviously adapt to our tactics; so it is vital that we plan and think ahead.

It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out that if we make it difficult to get weapons on a plane or into an airport, terrorists may look to destroy airplanes from longer distances. That is what the 50 caliber rifle is designed to do. These rifles are accurate at ranges of at least 1,000 yards and even further in the hands of a trained marksman. In essence, these weapons could give a terrorist the ability to take a shot at an aircraft from beyond most airports' security perimeter.

There is already evidence that terrorists have sought these weapons. According to the Violence Policy Center, al Qaeda bought twenty-five 50 caliber anti-armor sniper rifles in the 1980s.

My amendment in the Committee on the Judiciary simply said that if someone sells a 50 caliber sniper rifle to someone who they know is a member of al Qaeda they have broken the law. That amendment was defeated, and I think it is a shame. We should have passed my amendment and made it more difficult for terrorists to get ahold of these weapons. Unfortunately, we did not do so.

I will certainly support the gentleman's amendment but with regret that we did not do more.

Mr. Chairman, I reserve the balance of my time.

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Ms. ZOE LOFGREN of California. Mr. Chairman, I ask unanimous consent to claim the time in opposition, although I do not oppose the amendment.

The Acting CHAIRMAN. Is there objection to the request of the gentlewoman from New York?

There was no objection.

Ms. ZOE LOFGREN of California. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

I support the amendment. No American should be investigated solely for membership in a nonviolent political organization or for engaging in other lawful political activity. This is important to all of us, but I wanted to note that in California we recently learned of the danger of not living up to the standard.

It has been reported by several media sources that the California National Guard was spying on the Mothers of Dead Soldiers and a group called the Raging Grannies, who are average age 75 years old, who were having a peaceful demonstration on the grounds of the State Capital on Mother's Day. I requested hearings in the Committee on Homeland Security. I have written to the California National Guard regarding this very serious allegation of a breach of first amendment protected activity. Federal funds may have been used.

I will vote for this amendment. It is the right thing, but we also need to have very aggressive investigative action when we hear about allegations of misconduct.

Mr. Chairman, I yield 3 minutes to the gentlewoman from Florida (Ms. Wasserman Schultz), a member of our committee.

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Ms. ZOE LOFGREN of California. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Although the gentleman from Texas (Mr. Paul) and I do not always vote together, I think he speaks wisdom this evening on the need to move beyond the narrow confines of this act. Clearly we do need to and we have broken down the walls between law enforcement and the intelligence community so that we can piece together the full picture and connect the dots. We need to do a much better job of protecting America from terrorists by taking those steps we can. He is right to offer this sense of the Congress amendment. We need to have more vigorous action in addition to the sense of the Congress activity.

All of us believe we ought to fight terrorism. Many of us are concerned that we have failed to do the balance of privacy and the Constitution in some parts of the 16 provisions that are before us this evening.

As we know, most of the PATRIOT Act is actually not before the House of Representatives this evening. It is only 16 provisions, and of those 16 provisions, there are concerns about a few of them. But those are serious concerns, and we believe that those concerns can be dealt with. We are hopeful that, as this process moves forward, that the Senate that has taken these issues of civil liberties more to heart on a bipartisan and I would add unanimous basis may in the end prevail so that those who are troubled by the failure to really deal with some of the constitutional issues will in the end be able to support a bill at least at the end of a conference process.

But I do commend the gentleman for offering his amendment. It does not solve the other problems, but it is the right thing to do, and I look forward to supporting it.

Mr. Chairman, I yield back the balance of my time.

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