July 22, 2005 E-Newsletter
My office is publishing this electronic newsletter as a way to keep you informed about what is happening in Washington and in the Second Congressional District in Colorado. You can also log onto my website at www.house.gov/markudall for more information about constituent services, upcoming events or to read recent statements on various issues. Please feel free to share this newsletter with friends or direct them to my website. I hope you will find this newsletter to be helpful and informative.
PATRIOT ACT RENEWED
On July 21, the House passed H.R. 3199 to renew provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act. Four years ago, I voted against the bill that became the "USA PATRIOT. I agreed that our law-enforcement agencies needed increased power and more tools to fight terrorists. But I also thought then - and still think today - it was imperative for Congress to proceed carefully in order to protect Americans' civil liberties.
I take very seriously my duty to preserve and protect our Constitution. For me, this is a matter of conscience - and four years ago I concluded that I could not fulfill my duty and also vote for the legislation. However, I took some comfort from the fact that a number of the most troublesome provisions of the new law were temporary and would expire unless Congress acted to renew them. Unfortunately, H.R. 3199 would make permanent no fewer than 14 of the 16 provisions of the original "Patriot Act" that were covered by the law's "sunset" clause - as well as other new authorities provided by last year's bill to reform the intelligence community -- and under the bill the other two will not "sunset" for a full 10 years. That is one of the main reasons I voted against this bill. But it is not the only reason.
Neither the expiring provisions nor the other sections of the "Patriot Act" are limited to cases involving terrorism. This makes even more troubling their potential for abuse or misuse in ways that intrude on Americans' privacy and civil liberties, such as the possible effects on the privacy of patrons and customers of libraries and bookstores.
Section 215 expands the FBI's ability to obtain `any tangible thing' under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act; it can seek `any tangible thing' from any one at all as long as the information is relevant to an investigation. This is so broad that the government could investigate consumers' reading and Internet habits and private records (such as credit card information, medical records, and employment histories), without the requirement of relevance to any criminal activity that applies in grand jury investigations. I think consideration should be given to require some individual suspicion that the records the government wants are related to a spy, terrorist or other foreign agent - which could include the records of other parties if they were clearly relevant to the activities of the subject under investigation. No amendment along those lines was allowed consideration.
It is true that the House did have the opportunity to consider a number of worthwhile amendments. I was glad to have the chance to vote for them, and am glad that so many were adopted. However, we should have had the chance to consider many more. My reaction to the bill now is similar to the one I had to the original "Patriot Act" legislation four years ago. I strongly support combating terrorism, here at home as well as abroad. But I continue to think that it is essential that we remember and respect the Constitutional rights of law-abiding Americans as we wage war against those who would destroy both our Constitution and our country. In fact, I think that if we don't do that we will lose much of what we are seeking to defend. The bill does not strike the right balance and should not become law in its present form. I am hopeful that it will be further improved in the Senate.
HOUSE BACKS UDALL MEASURES IN NASA BILL
Three of my legislative proposals were included in the NASA Authorization Act of 2005, which the U.S. House of Representatives approved today. The bill authorizes NASA programs and sets clear, directed priorities for the space agency for the next two years. My proposals for a human repair mission to the Hubble Space Telescope, a revitalized aeronautics research and development program and a grant program to give local government better access to remote sensing data were included in the bill.
The legislation includes a servicing mission to Hubble and authorizes $150 million to be used specifically for Hubble. Hubble has provided inspiration worldwide to young and old, scientists and non-scientists alike. Hubble is one of the most important astronomical instruments in the history of NASA, and has made extraordinary contributions to scientific research and the inspiration of our youth.
In addition, the bill includes three groundbreaking initiatives in subsonic, supersonic and rotorcraft that are part of H.R. 2358, legislation I introduced earlier this year to revitalize aeronautics and aviation research and development at NASA. NASA's aeronautics program has historically provided vital R&D that has allowed the U.S. to be global leader, but other nations are quickly gaining the edge. Progress in aeronautics is crucial to the health of the nation's air transportation industry, which in turn is crucial both to the continued strength of our domestic economy and to our international competitiveness.
Finally, the legislation gives local communities greater access to geospatial data - information from analysis of data from orbiting satellites and airborne platformsfrom federal agencies and commercial sources so that these communities can deal with growth, homeland security, drought and forest fire management. I introduced H.R. 426, the Remote Sensing Applications Act, earlier this year, and introduced and won House approval of similar bills in the past.
The NASA authorization bill now goes to the Senate for action.
UDALL HAILS $500,000 GRANT FOR SCIENCE RESEARCH PROJECT AT HENDERSON MINE IN CLEAR CREEK COUNTY
I am pleased that the National Science Foundation selected the Henderson Mine as one of two possible sites for a future high-energy particle research facility. This NSF grant will help highlight the many features of this site that make it worthy of such consideration and further evaluate its characteristics for this sensitive research. The mine's facilities, infrastructure and attributes make it ideal for high-energy physics research and other scientific work that will help us better understand the universe.
As a member of the House Science Committee, I understand the value of the critically important work that would be conducted at such a facility. The benefits for scientific discoverynot to mention the practical applications from this workare boundless.
The Henderson Mine area has it alla major U.S. highway (I-70), an international airport (DIA) in Denver, and many federal research laboratories and universities in the Denver and Boulder area. In addition, the geologic features of the Henderson Mine fit well with the work proposed for this site.
I want to congratulate all of the people who have worked hard to promote this site and to convince NSF of its suitability for this research. Although much more work needs to be done to finally secure this research facility at the Henderson Mine, this grant will help us take the first steps toward seeing this project become a reality.