Congress Should Renew Patriot Act

In his April 19, 2004, speech at the Hershey Lodge and Convention Center in Hershey, Pa., President Bush strongly urged Congress to renew and strengthen key provisions of the Patriot Act, which expire at the end of 2005. Here are excerpts from his remarks:

Thank you all very much… you and I know what our first responsibility is; the first responsibility, whether it be Washington, D.C. or Washington Township, is the safety of our citizens. That’s a solemn duty we have, to work together to make sure that our nation is as secure as it can possibly be.

The task, our mutual tasks, our joint obligation changed dramatically on Sept. 11, 2001. There’s now an urgency to our duty. We have an urgent duty to do everything we can to fulfill our solemn obligation.

There are people here in this world who still want to hurt us. See, they can’t stand America. They can’t stand us because we love certain things and we’re not going to change. We love our freedom. We love the fact that we can worship freely any way we see fit. We love the fact that we can speak our minds freely. We love our free political process. We love every aspect of freedom and we refuse to change. (Applause.) These terrorists will not be stopped by their own conscience; they don’t have a conscience. But they will be stopped. They will be stopped because our great nation is resolute abroad, we’re vigilant at home, and we are absolutely determined to prevail. (Applause.) . . . .

The strength of America is in the hearts and souls of our citizens. That’s our strength. Listen, people say, America is strong because of our military. We got a strong military, and I intend to keep it that way. (Applause.) They say America is strong because we’re the wealthiest nation. That’s good, we need to keep it that way. But the real reason we’re strong is because of the hearts and souls of American citizens. That’s why we’re strong. . . .

As we gather this afternoon, we’re 140 miles away from Shanksville, Pa. This is a place where many innocent lives ended. Shanksville is also the place where American citizens stood up to evil, charged their attackers and began the first counter-offensive in the war on terror. (Applause.) Those passengers on Flight 93 showed that the spirit of America is strong and brave in the face of danger. And this nation will always honor their memory. (Applause.)

The best way to secure our homeland, the best way for us to do our duty, is to stay on the offensive against the terrorist network. We began the offense shortly after September 11. We’re carrying out a broad strategy, a worldwide strategy to bring the killers to justice. The best way to secure America is to bring them to justice before they hurt us again, which is precisely what the United States of America will continue to do. (Applause.)

Two-thirds of known al Qaeda leaders have been captured or killed. We’re making progress. It’s a different kind of war than the war that Maj. Winters fought in. This is a war against people who will hide in a cave; a war against people who hide in the shadows of remote cities, or big cities, and then they strike and they kill. And they kill innocent people. They have no??¢â???¬ ¦quot;as I said, they have no conscience, they have no sense of guilt. But they also know we’re on their trail. And they will find out there is no cave or hole deep enough to hide from American justice.

We must be determined in this, and we’ve got a lot of really good people, a lot of good people on the move. We’re also working with nations from around the world, sharing intelligence, making it clear that if you harbor a terrorist, you’re just as guilty as the terrorist.

By the way, when the President of the United States says something, he better mean it. And when I said to the world, if you harbor a terrorist, you’re just as guilty as the terrorist, I meant exactly what I said. And the Taliban found out. (Applause.) It wasn’t all that long ago that Afghanistan was a training center for al Qaeda killers. It was a safe haven. It’s a country, by the way, that was run by a brutal dictatorship. The Taliban had a perverted view of the world. They hated??¢â???¬ ¦quot;they must have hated women. Women were given no rights. Young girls did not go to school. There was a barbaric regime. So not only did we uphold doctrine that said, if you harbor a terrorist or train a terrorist or feed a terrorist, you’re just as guilty as the terrorist; but we liberated people, as well, in Afghanistan. People are free in that country. Young girls now go to school for the first time in their life, thanks to the incredible compassion of the United States of America. (Applause.)

There’s another very important lesson about September 11 that we must never forget, and that is, we can no longer take threats that may exist overseas for granted. In other words, when the President and/or anybody else in authority sees a threat, we must take it seriously. Now, that doesn’t mean every threat must be dealt with by military option, but every threat must be viewed as a potential problem to America. September 11 changed the equation. It used to be that oceans would protect us, that we saw a threat, we didn’t have to worry about it because there was two vast oceans. And we could pick and choose as to how we deal with the threat. That changed on September 11.

And in the process, we’ve made some fundamental changes in the way we defend ourself. We reorganized??¢â???¬ ¦quot;or organized a new Department of Homeland Security to protect the country. It was hard work in the Senate. I want to thank Sen. Specter (R.-Pa.) and Sen. Santorum (R.-Pa.) and the members of the House who are here. We had a big debate about it, but it was the right thing to do. It was the right thing to bring agencies involved with the protection of the homeland under one umbrella agency, so we can better coordinate and better communicate and better strategize as to how to protect the homeland.

And I picked a good man to run??¢â???¬ ¦quot;become the first Secretary of Homeland Security. (Applause.) Looks like I don’t even have to say his name. (Laughter.) You trained him well. (Laughter.) No, Ridge is doing a great job. Since 2001, we’ve tripled funding for homeland security. That’s important. We’ve trained and deployed screeners at airports, put thousands of air marshals on flights. We’re now fingerprinting visitors when they come to America, and compare the prints to those of suspected terrorists and violent criminals. In other words, we’ve made prevention of terror an important priority of our government??¢â???¬ ¦quot;just doing everything we can to make sure that we’re as safe as we possibly can be.

After September 11, we took another vital step to fight terror, and that’s what I want to talk about today. I want to talk about the Patriot Act. It’s a law that I signed into law. It’s a law that was overwhelmingly passed in the House and the Senate. It’s a law that is making America safer. It’s an important piece of legislation.

First, before September 11, law enforcement, intelligence, and national security officials were prevented by legal and bureaucratic restrictions from sharing critical information with each other, and with state and local police departments. . . . You hear the talk about the walls that separate certain aspects of government; they have been removed by the Patriot Act. And now, law enforcement and intelligence communities are working together to share information to better prevent an attack on America.

The Patriot Act authorizes what are called delayed notification search warrants. I’m not a lawyer, either. (Laughter.) These allow law enforcement personnel, with court approval, to carry out a lawful search without tipping off suspects and giving them a chance to flee or destroy evidence. It is an important part of conducting operations against organized groups.

Before September 11, the standards for these kind of warrants were different around the country. It made it hard to have kind of a national strategy to chase down what might be a terrorist group. The Patriot Act provided a clear national standard and now allows these warrants to be used in terrorism cases. And they’re an important tool for those who are on the front line of using necessary means, with court order, to find these terrorists before they hurt us. Look, what I’m telling you is, is that the Patriot Act made it easier for people we’ve tasked to protect America. That’s what we want. We want people to have the tools necessary to do the job we expect them to do.

Before September 11, law enforcement could more easily obtain business and financial records of white-collar criminals than of suspected terrorists. See, part of the way to make sure that we catch terrorists is we chase money trails. And yet it was easier to chase a money trail with a white-collar criminal than it was a terrorist. The Patriot Act ended this double standard and it made it easier for investigators to catch suspected terrorists by following paper trails here in America.

And finally, before September 11, federal judges could often impose tougher prison terms on drug traffickers than they could on terrorists. The Patriot Act strengthened the penalties for crimes committed by terrorists, such as arsons, or attacks on power plants and mass transit systems. In other words, we needed to get??¢â???¬ ¦quot;we needed to send the signal, at the very minimum, that our laws are going to be tough on you. When we catch you, you’ve got a problem, in America. See, that’s part of prevention.

I just outlined five reasons why the Patriot Act made sense. These are practical reasons. These are ways to give our law enforcement officers the tools necessary to do their job so that we can better protect America. And we’re making progress.

The last two-and-a-half years, we’ve dismantled terrorist cells in Oregon and New York and North Carolina and Virginia. We prosecuted terrorist operatives and supportives in California, Ohio, Texas and Florida. In other words, we’re using these tools to do the best we can possibly do to protect our fellow citizens. We’ve frozen or seized about $200 million in terrorist assets around the world. When I say “we,” this is now not only United States, but friends and allies. We’re cutting off their money. We’re following??¢â???¬ ¦quot;what was that movie???¢â???¬ ¦quot;follow the money. That’s what we’re doing, to make sure that we do our job.

I want you to keep in mind what I’ve just told you about the Patriot Act the next time you hear somebody attacking the Patriot Act. The Patriot Act defends our liberty. The Patriot Act makes it able for those of us in positions of responsibility to defend the liberty of the American people. It’s essential law. (Applause.)

The reason I bring it up is because many of the Patriot Act’s anti-terrorism tools are set to expire next year, including key provisions that allow our intelligence and law enforcement agencies to share information. In other words, Congress passed it and said, well, maybe the war on terror won’t go on very long, and, therefore, these tools are set to expire. The problem is, the war on terror continues. And yet some senators and congressmen not only want to let the provisions expire, but they want to roll back some of the act’s permanent features. And it doesn’t make any sense. We can’t return to the days of false hope. The terrorists declared war on the United States of America. And the Congress must give law enforcement all the tools necessary to protect the American people. (Applause.)

The reason why Congress must act is because we have a difficult job protecting America. The reason why is because we’re an open society that values freedom. We stand for the??¢â???¬ ¦quot;we’re a beacon of freedom and we say you can??¢â???¬ ¦quot;our country is an open country. And yet that makes us vulnerable??¢â???¬ ¦quot;in itself, makes us vulnerable. We got a lot of borders to protect. We got to be right a hundred percent of the time, at the federal level and the state level and the local level. We’ve got to be right a hundred percent of the time to protect America, and the terrorists have only got to be right one time??¢â???¬ ¦quot;as 168 innocent men, women and children found out in Oklahoma City. Different forms of terror. We’ve got to be vigilant against terror at all costs.

The reason I say that is because I have seen the spirit of this country, I’ve seen the resolve of our nation. I know the nature of the men and women who proudly call themselves Americans??¢â???¬ ¦quot;people who can rise to any challenge; people who are tough; people who are determined; people who are resolute; and people, at the same time, who are compassionate and decent and honorable. And it is my honor to be the President of a country full of such people.

May God bless your work. May God continue to bless our country. (Applause.) Thank you all. (Applause.)


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