Statement of Senator Orrin G. Hatch
Before the Senate Committee on the Judiciary
The Antiterrorism Act of 2001 Homeland Defense
Mr. Chairman, last Thursday, our President, with the undivided support of this Congress and the American People, announced a war on terrorism.
As the President made clear in his address, we did not seek this war. This war was thrust upon us thrust upon us by an unprovoked attack upon our civilian population in the very midst of our greatest cities.
Each of us has, in different ways, had our lives touched by the awful events of September 11th. Each of us has, in the days since the attack, been shocked and appalled by the terrible images of destruction that have reached us, by television, by newspaper and in many cases by our own eyes from the sites of the attacks at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Paradoxically, each of us has also been uplifted by the stories of heroism and self-sacrifice that have emerged from around the country in the wake of these terrible events.
A scant three weeks ago, we could not have contemplated that today, September 25th, 2001, we would be at war. It is true that, for years, some of us in this Congress, and around the country, have warned that there were powerful, well-financed individuals located throughout the world who were dedicated to the destruction of our way of life. But there were few of us who comprehended the true depths of the hatred directed at us by these evil men. Few of us could predict the horrific methods that these men would employ in an effort to destroy us, destroy our liberties and destroy our democratic institutions.
On September 11th, all that changed.
In the last few days, we have all come to acknowledge that we live in a different and more dangerous world than the world we perceived when we woke up on the morning of September 11th.
A different world not only because thousands of our county-men are dead as a result of the September 11th attacks.
A different world not only because many of our neighbors now hesitate to get on an airplane, or ride in an elevator, or engage in any one of a number of activities that we used to take for granted before the attacks.
But a different world, also, because we must acknowledge that there remains an ongoing and serious threat to our way of life and, in fact, to our health and well-being as a society.
As has been reported in the national media, the investigation into the September 11th attacks has revealed that there are terrorist cells that continue to operate actively among us. It is a chilling thought, but it is true.
The war to which we have collectively committed is a war unlike any war in the history of this country. It is different because a substantial part of this war must be fought on our own soil. This is not a circumstance of our choosing. The enemy has brought the war to us. But we must not flinch from acknowledging the fact that, because this is a different kind of war, it is a war that will require different kinds of tools, and different kinds of tactics.
The United States Attorney General will be the individual principally responsible for leading us in that part of the fight that will be conducted on American soil. The Department of Justice, and its investigatory components including the FBI, the INS, and the Border Patrol, will continue to have the principal responsibility for identifying and eradicating terrorist activity within our national borders.
The Attorney General has communicated to us, and in no uncertain terms, has told us that he does not currently have the adequate weapons to fight this war. He appears before us today and General Ashcroft I want to personally thank you for appearing here today, and for your tireless efforts in managing this investigation over the last couple of weeks. The Attorney General will again request today that he be given the basic weapons, that many of us have supported over the years, that he requires to wage effectively this vital war against terrorism. I urge my colleagues to heed his words.
Mr. Chairman, I want to thank and commend you for this prompt hearing and for proceeding in a bipartisan manner. You and your staff have worked diligently and in good faith throughout the past week, and indeed over the years on these matters. This is not a partisan issue and it will not be. Some of us may disagree at the end of the day and I will respect each of my colleagues views. That is each of our principled beliefs and it is based on our views on the proper balance between the role of law enforcement and our civil liberties. And I should also note that the bulk of these proposals have been requested by the Department of Justice for years under both Republican and Democratic Administrations. Unfortunately, they have languished in Congress, for one reason or another.
Back to the proposal before us I have reviewed the Attorney Generals proposal, and I can say without reservation, that the Administrations requested authorities reflects a measured and cautious response to the events of the last couple of weeks. We have been carefully examining this and other proposed reforms. I applaud the Attorney General for moving responsibly in this area, and taking care to ensure that the requested reforms as promised a week ago fit well within the bounds of the Constitution and do not compromise the basic liberties that all of us as citizens of this great nation cherish.
As the Attorney General has recognized, we must not change our way of life, because to do so would be to signal our defeat. That is exactly what our enemy seeks to bring about.
We must not repeal or impinge upon our cherished constitutional liberties, because to do would only bring us closer to the joyless totalitarian society espoused by our enemy.
The Attorney Generals proposal properly takes these concerns into account and, at the same time, does what people around America have been calling upon Congress to do that is, to give our law enforcement community the tools they need to keep us safe in our homes and in our places of business.
If we do not prevent terrorists from taking away our liberties, we will have no freedom.
I would like to briefly comment on the general thrust of the more familiar proposals in the Administrations legislation namely, electronic surveillance.
Electronic surveillance, conducted under the supervision of a federal judge, is one of the most powerful tools at the disposal of our law enforcement community. It is simply unfortunate that the laws currently on the books which govern such surveillance were enacted before the fax machine came into common usage, and well before the advent of cellular telephones, e-mail, and instant messaging. All of these modern modes of communication we now know were principal tools used by the terrorists to coordinate their deadly attacks.
The Department of Justice has asked us for years to update these laws to reflect the new technologies, but there has always been a reason to go slow, to seek more information, to order further studies. We simply cannot afford to wait anymore!
I would like to dispel a myth that the reforms somehow require an abridgment of the Constitutional freedoms enjoyed by law-abiding American citizens. Many in the media have portrayed this issue as a choice between individual liberties on the one hand, and on the other hand, enhanced powers for our law enforcement institutions. This is a false dichotomy. The reforms requested by the Attorney General are primarily directed at allowing law enforcement agents to work smarter and more efficiently -- in no case do they, as I have reviewed them, curtail the precious civil liberties protected by our Constitution.
Mr. Chairman, there have been few, if any, times in our nations great history where an event has brought home to so many of our citizens, so quickly, and in such a graphic fashion, a sense of our own mortality, and a sense of our vulnerability to unexpected attack. I believe we all took some comfort last week, when the President promised us that our law enforcement institutions would have the tools necessary to protect us from the danger that we are just beginning to perceive.
I look forward to working with our colleagues to ensure that happens.
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