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USA Patriot and Terrorism Prevention Reauthorization Act of 2005

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Location: Washington, DC


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

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AMENDMENT NO. 19 OFFERED BY MR. PAUL

Mr. PAUL. Mr. Chairman, I offer an amendment.

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Mr. PAUL. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself 2 ½ minutes.

Mr. Chairman, this is a straightforward amendment intended to modestly improve the PATRIOT Act, and let me just state exactly what it does. "It is the sense of Congress that the Federal government should not investigate any American citizen for alleged criminal conduct solely on the basis of citizen's membership in a nonviolent political organization or the fact that the citizen was engaging in other lawful political activity."

It seems like this should go without saying. I cannot imagine anybody disagreeing with this. But our history shows that there has been abuse in this area. As far back as the Civil War, World War I, and World War II, very often speaking out on political issues were met with law enforcement officials actually charging them with crimes and even having individuals imprisoned. In the 1960s we remember that there was wiretapping of Martin Luther King and other political organizations. In the 1970s we know about the illegal wiretapping and other activities associated with Watergate, and also in the 1990s we are aware of IRS audits of a political and religious organization based only on the fact that they were religious and political.

So this is a restatement of a fundamental principle that should be in our minds and in our law, but I think it is worthwhile to restate. And I do recognize that in the PATRIOT Act they recognize that the first amendment should be protected, and in this case I think it is an additional statement that we should be respectful of people's rights to speak out and not be singled out for political or religious viewpoints.

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Mr. PAUL. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

I appreciate the support for the amendment on both sides. I would like to emphasize the fact that there are real reasons for this concern. There have been reports in the paper of different times when the FBI has actually intimidated some people at national conventions. We are aware of the fact that there are at least reports that federal officials have encouraged local police to actually monitor certain political groups, and we also are aware of the fact that, because of political activity, they have been placed on no-fly lists.

But I think this is all reason for concern because we do not want to give any encouragement to overzealous law enforcement officials. At the same time we do want to have enforcement of the law.

But very briefly, I would like to say that the full thrust of this bill bothers me in the fact that I think we are treating a symptom and we are really not doing dealing with the core problem of why there are suicide terrorists willing to attack us, and I think as long as that is ignored we could pass 10 PATRIOT Acts stronger than ever and it will not solve the problem unless we eventually get to the bottom of what is the cause.

And, quite frankly, I do not believe the cause is because we are free and democratic and wealthy. There is no evidence whatsoever to show that that is the motivation of terrorist attacks. And for us to continue to believe that is the sole reason for attacks, I think we are misled. And we are driven to want to protect our people, which I understand it is well motivated, but it will not solve the problem unless we eventually address that subject of why does it happen. It is not because we are free. And, ironically, in many ways we are making ourselves less free with some of the provisions in this bill.

So I would suggest that ultimately we will have to have another solution because this will not solve all of our problems.

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Mr. Chairman, the USA PATRIOT Act and Terrorism Prevention Act (H.R. 3199) in no way brings the PATRIOT Act into compliance with the Constitution or allays concerns that the powers granted to the government in the act will be used to abuse the rights of the people. Much of the discussion surrounding this bill has revolved around the failure of the bill to extend the sunset clauses.

However, simply sunsetting troublesome provisions does not settle the debates around the PATRIOT Act. If the PATRIOT Act is constitutional and needed, as its proponents swear, why were sunset provisions included at all? If it is unconstitutional and pernicious, why not abolish it immediately?

The sunset clauses do perform one useful service in that they force Congress to regularly re-examine the PATRIOT Act. As the people's representatives, it is our responsibility to keep a close eye on the executive branch to ensure it does not abuse its power. Even if the claims of H.R. 3199's supporters that there have been no abuses of PATRIOT Act powers under this administration are true, that does not mean that future administrations will not abuse these powers.

H.R. 3199 continues to violate the constitution by allowing searches and seizures of American citizens and their property without a warrant issued by an independent court upon a finding of probable cause. The drafters of the Bill of Rights considered this essential protection against an overreaching government. For example, Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act, popularly known as the libraries provision, allows Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Courts, whose standards hardly meet the constitutional requirements of the Fourth Amendment, to issue warrants for individual records, including medical and library records. H.R. 3199 does reform this provision by clarifying that it can be used to acquire the records of an American citizen only during terrorist investigations. However, this marginal change fails to bring the section up to the constitutional standard of probable cause.

Requiring a showing of probable cause before a warrant may be issued will in no way hamper terrorist investigations. For one thing, federal authorities would still have numerous tools available to investigate and monitor the activities of non-citizens suspected of terrorism. Second, restoring the Fourth Amendment protections would in no way interfere with the provisions of the PATRIOT Act that removed the firewalls that prevented the government's law enforcement and intelligence agencies from sharing information.

The probable cause requirements will not delay a terrorist investigation. Preparations can be made for the issuance of a warrant in the event of an emergency and allowances can be made for cases where law enforcement does not have time to obtain a warrant. In fact, a requirement that law enforcement demonstrate probable cause may help law enforcement focus their efforts on true threats, thus avoiding the problem of information overload that is handicapping the government's efforts to identify sources of terrorists' financing.

The requirement that law enforcement demonstrate probable cause before a judge preserves the Founders' system of checks and balances that protects against one branch gathering too much power. The Founders recognized that one of the chief dangers to liberty was the concentration of power in a few hands, which is why they carefully divided power among the three branches. I would remind those of my colleagues who will claim that we must set aside the constitutional requirements during war that the founders were especially concerned about the consolidation of power during times of war and national emergencies. My colleagues should also keep in mind that PATRIOT Act powers have already been used in non-terrorism related cases, most notably in a bribery investigation in Nevada.

Mr. Chairman, H.R. 3199 does take some positive steps toward restoring respect for constitutional liberties and checks and balances that the original PATRIOT Act stripped away. However, it still leaves in place large chunks of legislation that threaten individual liberty by giving law enforcement power to snoop into American citizens' lives without adequate oversight. This power is unnecessary to effectively fight terrorism. Therefore, I urge my colleagues to reject this bill.

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

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