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Patriot Act Reauthorization

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Location: Washington, DC


PATRIOT ACT REAUTHORIZATION -- (House of Representatives - July 19, 2005)

The SPEAKER pro tempore (Mr. Fortenberry). Under the Speaker's announced policy of January 4, 2005, the gentleman from Texas (Mr. Carter) is recognized for 60 minutes as the designee of the majority leader.

Mr. CARTER. Mr. Speaker, I rise this evening to talk about something we are going to be going into this week, something that is of major importance to every man, woman, and child in the United States of America and around the world, and that is the USA PATRIOT Act, the reauthorization of some certain sections of that act, and the reexamination of the PATRIOT Act.

As we all know, it is no news to anybody that this Nation had the most heinous attack in its history on 9/11, and the question has been raised, why do we need a PATRIOT Act? As a judge for over 20 years, I believe it is necessary to give our law enforcement folks the tools and the resources that they need to protect our citizens and our citizens' rights. We do not need to create sanctuary for terrorists to operate in our country.

The USA PATRIOT Act removed major legal barriers that prevented law enforcement, intelligence, and national defense communities from taking and coordinating their work to protect the American people and our American society. Now, FBI agents, Federal prosecutors, and intelligence officials can protect our communities by connecting the dots to uncover terrorist plots before they are completed, while respecting the constitutional rights of all.

To do this, certain tools are necessary for our investigators to fight terrorism. Many of the tools the act provides for law enforcement to fight terrorism have been used for decades to fight organized crime and drug dealers and have been reviewed and approved by the courts.

Specifically, the PATRIOT Act allows law enforcement to use surveillance against more crimes of terror, such as the use of chemical weapons and other weapons of mass destruction. It allows Federal agents to follow sophisticated terrorist training to evade detection. It allows law enforcement to conduct investigations without tipping off the terrorists. It authorizes the court the discretion to issue an order to obtain business records in national security terrorism cases. This act is in the business of disrupting terrorist threats and capturing terrorists. It is in the whole business of catching them and preventing them from doing what they have been doing in the past.

Since 9/11, our law enforcement and intelligence community and our partners both here and abroad have identified and disrupted over 150 terrorist threats and cells. Worldwide, nearly two-thirds of all al Qaeda known senior leadership has been captured or killed, including the mastermind, one of the masterminds of the September 11 attacks. Worldwide, more than 3,000 operatives have been incapacitated. Five terrorist cells in Buffalo, Detroit, Seattle, Portland, Oregon, and northern Virginia have been broken up. More than 401 individuals have been criminally charged in the United States in international terrorism investigations. Already, 212 individuals have been convicted or have pled guilty in the United States, including the shoe bomber, Richard Reid and the American Taliban, John Walker Lindh.

The PATRIOT Act deals with increasing penalties for those who commit terrorist crimes. The PATRIOT Act increases penalties for those who commit terrorist crimes. And Americans are threatened as much by the terrorist who pays for the bomb as the one who detonates the bomb. We should even consider eliminating, in my opinion, the loophole and making sure that any terrorist who commits a crime resulting in death will be eligible for the death penalty or life in prison.

In particular, this act prohibits individuals from knowingly harboring terrorists who have committed or are about to commit a variety of terrorist offenses, such as destruction of an aircraft, use of nuclear, chemical, biological or other weapons of mass destruction, bombing of government property, sabotage of nuclear facilities and aircraft piracy. It enhances the maximum penalties for various crimes likely to be committed by terrorists, including arson, destruction of energy facilities, material support to terrorists or terrorist organizations, and destruction of national defense materials. It enhances the number of conspiracy penalties, including for arson, killing of Federal officials, attacking communication systems, material support to terrorists, sabotage of nuclear facilities, and interference with flight crews. And it punishes terrorist attacks on mass transit systems, such as we just witnessed in Great Britain. It punishes bioterrorism. It eliminates and lengthens the statute of limitations for certain terrorist crimes.

The PATRIOT Act is a tool creatively created by the United States Congress to maintain the Constitution and give our law enforcement and intelligence folks the tools they need to fight.

Mr. Speaker, I now yield to my colleague, the gentlewoman from Tennessee (Mrs. Blackburn).

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Mr. CARTER. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentlewoman from Tennessee (Mrs. Blackburn) for talking to us about the PATRIOT Act. It is always good to get the perspective of a lawmaker and a mother. The reality is if the mothers ran this country, we probably would be a whole lot better off.

Mr. Speaker, at this time I yield to the gentleman from Texas (Mr. McCaul) and just note that our districts are neighbors.

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Mr. CARTER. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman from Texas (Mr. McCaul) for giving us great insight from a prosecutor's standpoint of a man who has used the tools, and seen a Department effectively use the tools. The Chair knows, as I know, that we have used these tools in law enforcement for years. We have used them to fight gang activity, organized crime, drug activity, and other activities in this country. We have now authorized our intelligence communities to use the same tools to stop international terrorism and attacks upon the United States of America by these heinous terrorists who strike the innocent of our society.

Mr. Speaker, we heard this experience from the gentleman from Texas (Mr. McCaul), and I think it is great to know from a prosecutor's standpoint exactly what is enhanced by the PATRIOT Act and the ability to fight these crimes, the front-page crimes in the world today. So I am very pleased we were able to hear that perspective.

Mr. Speaker, I yield to the gentleman from Iowa (Mr. King), who would like to address this body concerning his views on the PATRIOT Act.

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Mr. CARTER. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman from Texas (Mr. McCaul) for giving us great insight from a prosecutor's standpoint of a man who has used the tools, and seen a Department effectively use the tools. The Chair knows, as I know, that we have used these tools in law enforcement for years. We have used them to fight gang activity, organized crime, drug activity, and other activities in this country. We have now authorized our intelligence communities to use the same tools to stop international terrorism and attacks upon the United States of America by these heinous terrorists who strike the innocent of our society.

Mr. Speaker, we heard this experience from the gentleman from Texas (Mr. McCaul), and I think it is great to know from a prosecutor's standpoint exactly what is enhanced by the PATRIOT Act and the ability to fight these crimes, the front-page crimes in the world today. So I am very pleased we were able to hear that perspective.

Mr. Speaker, I yield to the gentleman from Iowa (Mr. King), who would like to address this body concerning his views on the PATRIOT Act.

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Mr. CARTER. Mr. Speaker, reclaiming my time, I thank the gentleman from Iowa, whom I very much enjoyed sitting next to and talking to and working with on issues on the Committee on the Judiciary. We Texans are proud to have him here with us tonight because he is a true patriot in the sense of the American term "patriot," and we are very proud of him.

And the gentleman mentioned these issues of obtaining these records, this fear, this absolute fear that people have of somebody looking at their library records. Grand jury subpoenas have looked at library records for years. Grand jury subpoenas can be issued by the foreman of a grand jury. I do not know where the panic comes from. This has been going on forever, but somehow there is a panic.

At this time I would like to welcome the gentleman from Texas (Mr. Gohmert), from East Texas. I feel really kind of like we are in a judicial conference. We have got a judge in the chair. We have got two of us down here on the floor. We are proud that we might as well just call a quorum and start doing some legal business.

Mr. Speaker, I yield to the gentleman from Texas (Mr. Gohmert), a good colleague and close friend, to talk about some of the issues and the answers that we see in the PATRIOT Act.

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Mr. CARTER. Mr. Speaker, reclaiming my time, I appreciate the gentleman being willing to address this body and to talk about this.

Mr. Speaker, when we were discussing this, when I heard the gentlewoman from Tennessee (Mrs. Blackburn) talk and also as I heard the gentleman from Texas (Mr. Gohmert) talk and others, I thought about something that many of us in the Judiciary deal with every day, and it dawned on me that one of the things we toyed with for a while was defining "gangs" and what makes up gang violence.

Basically a simple definition of a gang is a group of organized people bonded together for the purpose of committing some type of criminal activity. That is the way the law looks at a gang.

We are dealing with an international gang when we deal with terrorists. There has become a magic or mystique that is being created by those who oppose the PATRIOT Act that for some reason we are stepping on the toes of some group of people, and yet the same tools that are in the PATRIOT Act have been used against gang violence, have been used against organized crime, have been used against gangs, against street gangs in this country. The tools have been used against drug dealers and drug importers. They have been used for years, and no one seems to be feeling like for some reason there is something terrible about those rules and those laws that we have used.

But they do feel for some reason that using them against the largest, most organized gang on Earth, there is something wrong with that, the gang that has killed in one fell attack more Americans than were killed at Pearl Harbor, more civilian Americans than were killed at Pearl Harbor, that started the Second World War.

For some reason, people are concerned about a PATRIOT Act that does nothing more than make uniform in many instances laws that exist in different jurisdictions across the United States.

We hear talk about the sneak-a-peak warrant. For a while that was the section of choice to talk about for a long time, the sneak-a-peak warrant. It just sounds terrible. It sounds like a peeping tom looking through your window, and that is great terminology and well-worded by those who oppose it.

So what is a sneak-a-peak warrant? Well, one time before I went on the bench, I was a young lawyer and I had a client who had a house out in the country. And he took it in on a debt and he was trying to sell it, but until he did, he wanted to rent it, so he rented it to a graduate student from the University of Texas.

They came by my office every first of the month and laid $200 on my desk for that house, and for a year that graduate student lived out there in that house in the country outside of Round Rock.

Then along about in the November time frame of the next year, I got a phone call from my client, who happened to be in the great State of Pennsylvania, and he said, "I think I have got a buyer. I ought to be able to close this thing. I need to get the tenant out of the house. Would you go out there and tell him we will give him a month to vacate the house."

I took my little boy, who now is a 35-year-old football and baseball coach at Round Rock High School, but at that time was about a 4-year-old, and we went out in the country to the house. We knocked on the door. Nobody was home.

I had a key and the right of the landlord to enter, so I entered the home to write a note to put on the kitchen table. I discovered the house looked fairly unlived in. As I looked around to see if my tenant might have moved out, I opened a door to a bedroom and there stacked floor to ceiling were thousands of kilo blocks of marijuana, packed so dense you could not see the windows in this 12-by-14 room, floor to ceiling.

My son, not knowing anything, and I, backed quickly out of the house and went to the police in Round Rock. The police, after a long effort, found a judge, applied for a search warrant, got a search warrant and an arrest warrant and went out to that house. They went to execute the warrant.

There was no one at home. They examined the fact that there was a ton at least of marijuana in that house, and so they backed off and waited for those who were in possession of that marijuana to come home, because they had no one at that point in time. Ultimately, four individuals came back to the house. At that point in time they executed the warrant.

That was a sneak-a-peak. They looked at it, they saw it, they backed off and executed later. Those gentlemen's rights were not violated. That is a tool we have used in law enforcement for years.

Now, why does it sound so bad? Because we use the term "sneak-a-peak." It sounds like peeping toms in somebody's neighborhood.

We have got to get away from this terminology that is trying to take good, valid laws that have been tested time in and time out by our courts, both State and Federal courts, and putting some cute phrase on them that makes them sound like they step all over people's constitutional rights and causing our public to be concerned about what we are doing here.

This PATRIOT Act follows the guidance the courts have given us over the years concerning law enforcement tools that we have used and we have used effectively. This PATRIOT Act has put together these tools not only which have been there in fighting the criminal justice issues in this country, but now the intelligence and international terrorism issues have the ability to use these same lawful instruments without fear of being crossed over between the various Federal acts that are involved in dealing with the terrorist issues.

One of the things that the people are concerned about is that you get a search warrant that can be served across the United States. Just on that case I was giving you, before we went to a judge we tried to figure out which law enforcement agency ought to be seeking the warrant. Should it have been the constable, should it have been the sheriff in his jurisdiction, should it have been the city cops in their jurisdiction, or should it have been the Department of Public Safety in their jurisdiction?

That was just a little old dope case in Texas, trying to go out and who seeks the warrant.

We have now gone and said it is crazy when you have got people that operate instantly on the Internet, who can move across this country in record time and do crimes in various jurisdictions simultaneously and store elements of destruction in various jurisdictions simultaneously, to have to go to every jurisdiction in the Nation to get a valid search warrant. So all we have done is something that we have had, we have allowed one warrant to be served across the country.

All of these are the various complaints that we hear about the PATRIOT Act. The PATRIOT Act is just that. What is interesting is it is a patriot's solution to the War on Terror, a group of patriots, both Republicans and Democrats, who joined together after a heinous attack on our Nation and passed the PATRIOT Act.

This is a bipartisan bill that was passed in Congress. This is both sides of the aisle saying we have had enough. And it was put together I think effectively. This time in the reauthorization, as the gentleman from Texas (Mr. Gohmert) explained, we have addressed concerns about should we have a little more due process. On some of the issues, we have enhanced the due process provisions.

A grand jury foreman, he can subpoena records, business records or library records. He does not have to have anybody's permission to do it. The DA comes to him, he subpoenas them. As the gentleman from Texas (Mr. Gohmert) explained, in the PATRIOT Act a judge looks at the thing, examines it to make sure there is probable cause, and he makes sure the law is abided by.

Why are we worried about that, when we already have a procedure that we have used for years and years and years and nobody seems to have been crying about it? I never heard anybody complain about it at all.

So let us get back to being patriots. Let us get back to saying, we have an enemy without and within that chooses to attack innocent people in this Nation for the purposes of imposing their will, their criminal will, upon society, and their number one target is our society and our way of life. Let us go back to being patriots and say, we will give our warriors, both the warriors that fight in the streets and on the Internet and in the law courts of this United States, and our warriors who fight in Iraq and Afghanistan and wherever the enemy may meet us overseas, all of the tools and weapons necessary to fight and destroy this evil war on terrorists, these terrorists who attack our way of life.

Mr. Speaker, let us be proud that we are patriots who have created a PATRIOT Act, a bipartisan PATRIOT Act that protects the freedoms of Americans and protects the lives of Americans from terrorists.

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