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Public Statements

Federal News Service - Panel I of a Hearing of the House Select Committee on Homeland Security - Transcript

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC


Federal News Service

HEADLINE: PANEL I OF A HEARING OF THE HOUSE SELECT COMMITTEE ON HOMELAND SECURITY SUBJECT: TOWARDS A PARADIGM FOR HOMELAND SECURITY INFORMATION SHARING

CHAIRED BY: REPRESENTATIVE CHRISTOPHER COX (R-CA)

WITNESSES: THOMAS KEAN, CHAIRMAN, 9/11 COMMISSION; LEE HAMILTON, VICE CHAIRMAN, 9/11 COMMISSION

LOCATION: 2118 RAYBURN HOUSE OFFICE BUILDING, WASHINGTON, D.C.

BODY:

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

REP. GOODLATTE: Mr. Chairman, thank you very much for holding this very important hearing and, gentlemen, thank you for the excellent work that both of you and your colleagues have done in preparing this report and providing us with many thought-provoking ideas that the Congress and the executive branch need to act upon and act upon aggressively.

I'd like to follow up on two areas that have been talked about thus far. Governor Kean, you mentioned in your opening comments and in the report, your note that in the past the wall that we have built between intelligence-gathering agencies like the CIA and in law enforcement agencies like the FBI, was due to the risk of inadvertent disclosure that outweighs the benefit of sharing information with other agencies, and that certainly is one of the concerns, certainly on the part of intelligence agencies, why we had that wall but it was not, by any means, the only reason-another reason-that the wall was built up was to address the concern about the use of intelligence- gathering, which is done with regard to foreign nationals but necessarily involves also gathering information about U.S. citizens when those foreign nationals have communication with them and so on. Even when done properly, information is gathered, and the concern was then that law enforcement agencies, which could abuse that information would not have access to it.

Obviously, there is a big flaw in that, and September 11th is the greatest proof of that flaw. But, nonetheless, while we did, in the Patriot Act, I would note, partially tear down that wall to enable the sharing of that information. We have also been careful to make sure that we not have the kind of abuses that some have suggested could occur, and I wonder if you have additional comments that you might make or recommendations that you might make to how the Congress can assure the public that the action taken as a part of the Patriot Act was a sound one for the reasons of September 11th but not one that should cause them concern that their civil liberties are going to be abused.

MR. KEAN: You know, in that regard, sir, there is probably no substitute for the oversight of the committees. I mean, that's another argument for really having very vigorous oversight on the part of the Congress-to make sure that the public can be assured that it's being done properly.

REP. GOODLATTE: Thank you. Congressman Hamilton?

MR. HAMILTON: Well, we think the provisions of the Patriot Act that facilitate the sharing of information between the law enforcement people on the one side and the intelligence on the other are very beneficial and very important in terms of a counterterrorism strategy overall. We are not experts on the Patriot Act, and there are many provisions of the Patriot Act, but this provision, we think, is very, very important.

REP. GOODLATTE: Let me follow up also on the questions related to immigration. I was pleased to hear you both say that more robust enforcement routine immigration laws and the example you just cited is-clearly, one of those is very important. I wonder how serious you are about that? This is, as you probably know, a major political issue here in the Congress. There are very widely differing opinions about what types of overall reforms-some related to national security, some related to a whole host of other interests-should take place. But we have been unable to reach conclusions about that except the law that we passed in 1996 that did provide for a greater crackdown on illegal immigration. Nonetheless, since that time, I would argue, in part, because of lack of enforcement of our current immigration laws, we have seen the number of illegal immigrants of the country rise.

Obviously, not all of those are threats to our national security, but it is very difficult, when you have a lack of information because people are operating below the radar screen-which ones are and which ones are not of concern to the country because of national security-how aggressively should we be enforcing our immigration laws, overall, to avoid that very type of problem when that individual presented themselves to that particular immigration officer in Florida. That officer had no reason, before asking the questions, whether that particular person was a threat. We also have millions of people who never check in with an immigration officer to go through that kind of questioning who are here in this country, some of which have malicious intent, and I wish you would comment on the need to enforce our immigration laws, overall, and address --

MR. KEAN: I want to say, first of all, in responding to your question, that we were given a mandate, and we did not construe that mandate to mean that we should review all of these immigration questions that you've risen --

REP. GOODLATTE: I understand. I'm talking about enforcement of current law.

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