Chambliss Statement on Reauthorization of the USA Patriot Act
U.S. Senator Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, submitted to the Congressional Record the following statement concerning the USA PATRIOT Improvement and Reauthorization Act of 2005.
In his statement, Chambliss indicates his support for reauthorizing the PATRIOT Act and sites examples of how the Act has helped protect America from further acts of terrorism since September 11, 2001 saying, "Provisions of the [Patriot] Act have been utilized to accomplish amazing victories in the war on terrorism and to keep us safe and free."
The complete text of Chambliss' statement is recorded below:
"Mr. President, I want to congratulate Chairman Specter and Chairman Roberts for their extraordinary work in forging a conference report on the reauthorization of certain provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act. I remain disappointed that many concessions were made to minority members of the Conference which not only did not result in their support of the conference report but which, in my judgment, are unwise on the merits.
"On November 17, I wrote to the Conferees identifying some of these unwise concessions. They included: a three-part test for relevance in Section 215; additional reporting requirements and Inspector General audit provisions; sunsetting the "lone-wolf" wolf FISA warrant provisions; thirty day initial limit on delayed notice search warrants; applying minimization provisions to subpoenas; and the deletion of important death penalty provisions which were contained in the House version.
"In my letter, I urged that no further concessions be made. Yet, further concessions were made. These additional concessions include stripping a criminal penalty of up to one year imprisonment for a knowing and willful violation of the non-disclosure provision of National Security Letters. This makes a mockery of the non-disclosure provision itself.
"Despite these significant accommodations which were made in the interest of bipartisan compromise, I am distressed to learn that, even now, certain of my colleagues are not only still opposing this bill, but are urging further delay, further compromise, and further weakening of the bill. This effort should be soundly rejected by this Body. However, should there be a delay, and the opportunity for additional changes to the conference report, I will urge that we revisit these ill-advised concessions already made and that they be deleted from the bill. That said, I hope that we do not go down that road. I hope that both sides will rise above our particular preferences for a perfect bill, and vote for the good of the nation and its citizens who have been protected by this historic legislation for the last five years.
"I am also disappointed that certain of my colleagues have seen fit to oppose the conference report over a single issue -- the appropriate standard of judicial review of the National Security Letters non-disclosure provisions. These opponents would ask courts to assess potential damage to national security rather than the officials in our government in the intelligence and diplomatic community who are the only ones capable of making such determinations based on all available intelligence and investigative information.
"While I am not pleased with every provision of this final bill, some of which I have just reviewed, on balance I am satisfied that overall the final language agreed to represents a reaffirmation of the Nation's commitment to modernization of our criminal and intelligence investigative laws and common sense-law enforcement.
"The USA PATRIOT Act provisions, which Congress wisely passed following the terrorist attacks on our soil and the callous murder of innocent civilians, have stood the test of time. The Act's provisions have helped to keep us safe and to protect our liberties which were jeopardized, not by expanded governmental authority, but by violent attacks against our way of life by terrorists.
"Those who urge further changes and further weakening are, in my judgment, playing a dangerous political game (intended or not) at the expense of our national security and our personal liberties - liberties protected by the common-sense provisions of the PATRIOT Act. Provisions of the Act have been utilized to accomplish amazing victories in the war on terrorism and to keep us safe and free. Let me highlight just a few from information provided by the Department of Justice:
The Department of Justice successfully dismantled a Portland, Oregon, terror cell known as the "Portland Seven." Members of this terror cell had attempted to travel to Afghanistan in 2001 and 2002 to take up arms with the Taliban and al Qaeda against United States and coalition forces fighting there. The USA PATRIOT Act information-sharing provisions were critical in taking down the Portland cell.
The Department of Justice successfully convicted members of an al Qaeda cell in Lackawanna, New York, that involved several residents of Lackawanna who traveled to Afghanistan in 2001 to receive training at an al Qaeda-affiliated camp near Kandahar. Five of the Lackawanna Six pleaded guilty to providing material support to al Qaeda, and the sixth pleaded guilty to conducting transactions unlawfully with al Qaeda. The USA PATRIOT Act information-sharing and National Security Letter provisions were critical to this case.
The Department of Justice successfully prosecuted the so-called "Virginia Jihad" case involving members of the Dar al-Arqam Islamic Center, who trained for jihad in Northern Virginia, including eight individuals who traveled to terrorist training camps in Pakistan or Afghanistan between 1999 and 2001. Six of the defendants have pleaded guilty and three were convicted in March 2004 of charges including conspiracy to levy war against the United States and conspiracy to provide material support to the Taliban. The USA PATRIOT Act was critical to this case.
In May of 2003, Ahmed Omar Abu Ali was arrested after having sought out and joined an al Qaeda cell in Medina, Saudi Arabia, where he received training in weapons, explosives, and document forgery. He, along with other members of the cell, began to develop plans for several potential terrorist attacks against the United States, including a plot to assassinate President Bush. Abu Ali was recently convicted in federal district court.
On November 23, 2005, Uzair Paracha was convicted in New York of all five counts in an indictment that included charges of conspiracy and providing material support to Al-Qaeda. Paracha traveled to the United States in February 2003 to assist al Qaeda, including posing as a person Paracha knew to be an al Qaeda associate, obtaining immigration documents that would permit that al Qaeda member to enter the United States, and conducting financial transactions involving the al Qaeda associate's bank accounts.
The Department of Justice also indicted Mohammed Junaid Babar for material support of al Qaeda after he arranged for a month-long jihadi training camp, at which attendees received training in basic military skills, explosives and weapons. Among the attendees were individuals who were plotting to bomb targets abroad. Babar pleaded guilty to providing material support, among other charges, and cooperated with ongoing investigations.
New York defense attorney Lynne Stewart, Mohammed Yousry, and Ahmed Abdel Sattar were recently convicted by a jury of material support charges in connection with passing messages to a terrorist organization, known as the Islamic Group, from Sheik Abdel Rahman, the Islamic Group's imprisoned leader. Abdel-Rahman is serving a life sentence plus 65 years for his role in terrorist activies, including the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. Sattar was also convicted of conspiring to kill persons in a foreign country and for solicitation of crimes of violence.
On October 24, 2005, the Department of Justice announced the historic extradition of the notorious Taliban linked narco-terrorist Baz Mohammad. Mohammad has been indicted for allegedly manufacturing and distributing tens of millions of dollars worth of heroin in Afghanistan and Pakistan. He was closely aligned with the Taliban and other Islamic-extremist groups in Afghanistan, providing financial support to the Taliban with proceeds from heroin sales in the United States.
John Walker Lindh, the "American Taliban" captured on the battlefield in Afghanistan, pleaded guilty to supporting the Taliban and has been sentenced to twenty years in prison. As part of his plea agreement, Lindh has provided information about training camps and fighting in Afghanistan.
Another potentially devastating attack was averted when Richard Reid, the so-called "shoe bomber," was foiled in his attempt to detonate a bomb on American Airlines Flight 63 during flight. Reid was charged as a trained terrorist for this attempted terrorist attack. He pled guilty to all charges and was sentenced to life imprisonment on January 30, 2003.
The Department of Justice successfully detected and disrupted sinister plans in Lodi, California. Hamid Hayat was indicted and charged with material support to terrorists after he allegedly attended a terrorist training camp in Pakistan in 2004 and returned to this country with the intent of committing jihad against America. Additional associates have been deported and one charged with two counts of lying to federal agents.
In United States v. Odeh, a narco-terrorism case, investigators used a court-issued delayed-notice search warrant to search an envelope mailed to a target of the investigation. The search confirmed that the target was operating an illegal money exchange to funnel money to the Middle East, including to an associate of an apparent Islamic Jihad operative in Israel. The delayed-notice provision allowed investigators to conduct the search without compromising an ongoing wiretap on the target and several confederates.
The information sharing between intelligence and law enforcement personnel made possible by USA PATRIOT Act section 218 was useful in the investigation of two Yemeni citizens, Mohammed Ali Hasan Al-Moayad and Mohshen Yahya Zayed, who were charged in 2003 with conspiring to provide material support to al Qaeda and Hamas. Following their indictment, Al-Moayad and Zayed were extradited to the United States from Germany, and both were convicted in March 2005 of conspiring to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization.
The Department of Justice used USA PATRIOT Act section 218 to gain access to intelligence that facilitated the indictment of Enaam Arnaout, the Executive Director of the Illinois-based Benevolence International Foundation (BIF). Arnaout had a long-standing relationship with Usama Bin Laden and used his charity organization both to obtain funds illicitly from unsuspecting Americans for terrorist organizations, such as al Qaeda, and to serve as a channel for people to contribute money knowingly to such groups. Arnaout ultimately pleaded guilty to a racketeering charge, admitting that he diverted thousands of dollars from BIF to support Islamic militant groups in Bosnia and Chechnya. He was sentenced to more than 11 years in prison.
The broader information sharing made possible by USA PATRIOT Act section 218 also assisted the prosecution in San Diego of several persons involved in an al Qaeda drugs-for-weapons plot, which culminated in two guilty pleas. Two defendants, Muhamed Abid Afridi and Ilyas Ali, admitted that they conspired to distribute approximately five metric tons of hashish and 600 kilograms of heroin originating in Pakistan to undercover United States law enforcement officers. Additionally, they admitted that they conspired to receive, as partial payment for the drugs, four "Stinger" anti-aircraft missiles that they then intended to sell to the Taliban, an organization they knew at the time to be affiliated with al Qaeda. Afridi and Ali pleaded guilty to the felony charges of conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists and conspiracy to distribute heroin and hashish. The lead defendant in the case is currently awaiting trial.
Section 218 of the PATRIOT Act was critical in the successful prosecution of Khaled Abdel Latif Dumeisi, who was convicted by a jury in January 2004 of illegally acting as an agent of the former government of Iraq as well as two counts of perjury. Before the Gulf War, Dumeisi passed information on Iraqi opposition members located in the United States to officers of the Iraqi Intelligence Service stationed in the Iraqi Mission to the United Nations. During this investigation, intelligence agents conducting surveillance of Dumeisi pursuant to FISA coordinated and shared information with law enforcement agents and prosecutors investigating Dumeisi for possible criminal violations. Because of this coordination, law enforcement agents and prosecutors learned from intelligence agents of an incriminating telephone conversation that took place in April 2003 between Dumeisi and a co-conspirator. This phone conversation corroborated other evidence that Dumeisi was acting as an agent of the Iraqi government and provided a compelling piece of evidence at his trial.
The use of cigarette smuggling to fund terrorism has been of grave concern. On January 23, 2003, in United States v. Akhdar, et al., the Department of Justice indicted members of an organization that smuggled low-taxed and untaxed cigarettes from state to state to evade sales tax. The defendants produced counterfeit tax stamps, obtained counterfeit credit cards, laundered money, obstructed justice, and committed arson, and many are suspected of having links to and financing the terrorist organization Hizballah. As the investigation has continued, additional indictments have been filed, and many defendants have pleaded guilty to charges including RICO violations and material support.
Investigators have also been able to avert potentially devastating attacks on our children. Ahmed Hassan al-Uqaily, an Iraqi national, spoke of "going jihad," and arranged to procure pistols, machine guns, grenades and a "tank missile," while suggesting he might target several Jewish schools in the Nashville area. An undercover agent completed the deal, posing as the weapons supplier, and the Iraqi national agreed to pay $1000 for two machine guns, ammunition and inert grenade components. The aspiring terrorist was arrested on October 7, 2004, and was sentenced on October 24, 2005, to 57 months in prison.
The PATRIOT Act has kept us free and kept us safe, and is doing so day in and day out. It is essential that this Congress renew this historic legislation and I urge my colleagues to support the bill. We owe no less to the future generations of Americans and the freedom-loving peoples of the world. The stakes are too high to ignore our obligation.