PATRIOT ACT REAUTHORIZATION -- (House of Representatives - July 19, 2005)
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Mrs. BLACKBURN. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman from Texas, and I think it is so worthy as we have this debate to recognize the experience that the gentleman from Texas brought to this Chamber, having served as a judge in his home State of Texas and becoming a true contributing member of the Committee on the Judiciary and working with our chairman, the gentleman from Wisconsin (Mr. Sensenbrenner), and that committee as we bring forward the reauthorization of the PATRIOT Act. I thank him for sharing that expertise with our body and I thank him for the diligence that he brings to reviewing this.
Mr. Speaker, I had an interesting experience this week. My husband and I have been members of a bible study group for about 15 years, and Sunday night, as we gathered, the leader of the group looked at me and he said, Marcia, why do you not talk to us about what is going on with our border security and our national security. The bombings had been of concern to so many people, and this is a group of folks we are very close to, and so I took a few minutes to kind of recap for them where we are as we look at these issues that face us and as we find workable solutions to them; whether it is illegal immigration or whether it is keeping our communities and our towns and our cities safe.
That brought us all to the PATRIOT Act and the reason for the PATRIOT Act and the reason this Chamber voted to put the PATRIOT Act in place. It is there as a tool to be used, as the gentleman from Texas said, by our local, State, and Federal law enforcement, by our intelligence community, by our defense community to be certain that we keep America safe; that we keep our homeland safe; that we keep our communities safe; that we have a tool that we can use to fight terrorism.
We have to realize, too, that most terrorists do not claim allegiance to a specific country or a government. These are not uniformed soldiers of a nation's army. What we have are people that are loyal to the Taliban, to the al Qaeda, to the terrorist organizations. Their goal is to inflict harm on us, and the PATRIOT Act has supplied a way that the law enforcement, the intelligence community, the defense community can work to get the information that is necessary to keep us safe.
There are a couple of points that I would like to touch on tonight, and that I think are very important, very important to my constituents and were important to my friends as we sat Sunday evening, in a safe, secure home and talked about this very issue. One of those is the fact that the PATRIOT Act allows our Federal agents to follow sophisticated terrorists who are trying to evade detection, and this is the ability to use roving wiretaps.
Now, that is something our agents have had the ability to use for those that are into racketeering and into drug offenses. So they have used that. And the important component there is that this has to be court ordered. An agent has to go to a judge and get a court order on this. This is not something that is going to compromise ordinary everyday citizens. But it is a vital tool because terrorists, we have learned, we have learned a good bit from the detainees at Guantanamo Bay. They are very sophisticated. They use technology. They use telecommunications, and are very sophisticated in how they go about communicating and having that ability to get a court order and implement that roving wiretap, how very important that is in fighting this war on terrorism.
Another point, Mr. Speaker, that I would like to bring before the body is looking at the situation with libraries. There is a myth out there, and the ACLU has claimed that many people are unaware that their library habits would become the target of government surveillance. That is a myth, and I want to be certain everyone understands that is a myth.
Mr. Speaker, as a mother, I do not want our public libraries to become safe havens for terrorists. We know that those terrorist cells, many of the individuals in those terrorist cells have gone where for their e-mail communications and their computers and to use computers to research buildings and cities and locations?
They have gone to public libraries. There again, this is not something that every one of us will find ourselves exposed to, but this is a tool that an agent needs to be able to go to a judge and request a court order and come in and review records of someone who is a suspected terrorist who would be choosing to inflict harm on communities, on cities in this great Nation.
Mr. Speaker, as I close my time this evening in this Special Order, I would like to thank the gentleman from Texas (Mr. Carter) for his leadership on the Committee on the Judiciary, and I would like to thank the gentleman from Wisconsin (Chairman Sensenbrenner) for the thoughtful way they have brought this issue forward and thank the leadership of the House for allowing us to have an opportunity to discuss with our constituents, with the American people, and also within this body the importance of reauthorizing the PATRIOT Act.
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