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Hearing of the Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security Subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee - "The Reauthorization of the PATRIOT Act"


Location: Washington, DC

Chairman Smith: This September 11th we will mark the ten year anniversary of the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history. America is fortunate not to have suffered another attack of such magnitude and devastation in the past decade.

This does not mean that the terrorists have given up their plot to destroy America or that we should no longer be prepared for another large-scale attack. As we've seen in recent years, the absence of a major attack does not mean that America is secure.

To avoid detection, terrorists have shifted their tactics away from complex, coordinated attacks by a group of terrorists to smaller, individualized plots by rogue terrorists.

On Christmas Day 2009, a foreign terrorist from Nigeria attempted to detonate a bomb hidden under his clothes on a plane en route to Detroit. Last spring, a radicalized American citizen from Pakistan tried to explode a car bomb in Times Square. Plots to attack both the Washington D.C. metro and New York subway systems have also been thwarted.

And just two weeks ago, a 20-year-old student from Saudi Arabia was arrested in my home state of Texas for attempting to use weapons of mass destruction.

Khalid Aldawsari entered the United States in 2008 on a student visa to complete English language training. But in reality, he came to the United States to carry out violent jihad on innocent Americans.

Aldawsari had been planning his bombing plot for years, even seeking out a particular scholarship to attend school in the U.S. while carrying out his plot. According to prosecutors, Aldawsari obtained two of the three chemicals needed for a bomb over the last three months and had attempted to buy the third.

He had also researched potential targets, including the Dallas residence of former President George W. Bush, several dams in Colorado and California, and the homes of three former military guards who served in Iraq.

The PATRIOT Act was enacted to prevent both large-scale attacks and terrorist plots by individual terrorists acting alone like the one in Dallas.

Unfortunately, the myths surrounding the PATRIOT Act often overshadow the truth.

But this is not Law & Order or some criminal justice show painting the PATRIOT Act as a tool of Big Brother just for ratings. This is the real world where we must address the real threat from foreign terrorists.

As we review these expiring provisions, Congress must set aside fiction and focus on the facts. The three expiring national security provisions that Congress will consider this year are both constitutional and common sense.

For example, the roving wiretap provision allows intelligence officials - after receiving approval from a federal court - to conduct surveillance on terrorist suspects regardless of how many communication devices they use. We know terrorists use many forms of communication to conceal their plots, including disposable cell phones.

Roving wiretaps are nothing new. Domestic law enforcement agencies have had roving authority for criminal investigations since 1986. If we can use this authority to track down a drug lord, why shouldn't we also use it to prevent a terrorist attack?

The business records provision allows the FBI to access tangible items, including business records, in foreign intelligence, international terrorism and espionage cases. Again, this provision requires the approval of a federal judge.

That means the FBI must prove to a federal judge that the documents are needed as part of a legitimate national security investigation.

The third provision amends the legal definition of an agent of a foreign power to include a "lone wolf" terrorist. National security laws allow intelligence gathering on foreign governments, terrorist groups, and their agents. But what about a foreign terrorist who either acts alone or cannot be immediately tied to a terrorist organization?

The lone wolf definition simply brings our national security laws into the 21st Century to allow our intelligence officials to answer the modern day terrorist threat.

We cannot fight terror in this Century with the tools of the last Century. Congress must reauthorize these important national security laws.

We cannot afford to leave our intelligence community without the resources it needs to dismantle terrorist organizations, identify threats from both groups and individuals, and interrupt terrorist plots of all sizes.

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