Politics & Policy

Note to Congress

The Patriot Act is vital to protecting national security.

EDITOR’S NOTE: What follows is a letter to Congress from the newly formed Coalition for Security, Liberty and the Law, representing dozens of leaders in law enforcement, the legal community, think tanks, and public opinion. The debate over the Patriot Act typically focuses on its opponents–lead, most prominently, by the American Civil Liberties Union. This new coalition aims to change that–so that people who appreciate the contribution the Patriot Act is making to American security are heard.

23 September 2004

The Honorable Dennis Hastert

Speaker of the House

U.S. House of Representatives

Washington, D.C.

The Honorable Nancy Pelosi

Minority Leader

U.S. House of Representatives

Washington, D.C.

The Honorable Bill Frist

Majority Leader

U.S. Senate

Washington, D.C.

The Honorable Tom Daschle

Minority Leader

U.S. Senate

Washington, D.C.

The Honorable Orrin Hatch

Chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee

Washington, D.C.

The Honorable Patrick Leahy

Senate Judiciary Committee

Washington, D.C.

The Honorable James Sensenbrenner

Chairman, House Judiciary Committee

Washington, D.C.

The Honorable John Conyers

House Judiciary Committee

Washington, D.C.

Dear Leaders:

We write to express our strong support for the USA Patriot Act and concern about misinformation about the necessary legal tools it provides to battle al-Qaeda and our other terrorist enemies. Vital sections of the Patriot Act, such as information-sharing provisions, will expire in 2005. For the security and safety of the American people, no provision of the Patriot Act should expire. Moreover, the temporary provisions should be made permanent.

Since its nearly unanimous passage in October 2001, the Patriot Act has played a key–and often the leading–role in successful operations to thwart terrorists dedicated to

destroying America and our culture. In passing the Act, Congress extensively debated the commonsense updates in the law and provided safeguards for civil liberties.

For example, the Patriot Act allows investigators to use tools that had been available to investigate organized crime and drug trafficking. As Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE) explained during floor debate, “[T]he FBI could get a wiretap to investigate the mafia, but they could not get one to investigate terrorists. To put it bluntly, that was crazy! What’s good for the mob should be good for terrorists.”

The Patriot Act also removed major legal barriers that prevented the law enforcement, intelligence, and national defense communities from coordinating information. Now police officers, FBI agents, federal prosecutors and intelligence officials can protect our communities by “connecting the dots” to uncover terrorist plots before they are completed. Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) declared when he voted for the Act, “[W]e simply cannot prevail in the battle against terrorism if the right hand of our government has no idea what the left hand is doing.”

The Act made the law current with modern technology. We no longer have to fight a digital-age battle with antique legal weapons left over from the era of rotary telephones. When investigating the murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, for example, law enforcement used one of the Act’s new high-tech authorities to identify and locate some of the killers.

Before September 11, 2001, 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.

Before September 11, law enforcement could more easily obtain business and financial records of white-collar criminals, such as nursing home scammers, than of suspected terrorists. It was easier to chase a money trail involving a white-collar criminal than one involving a terrorist. The Act ended this double-standard. Importantly, the Patriot Act still requires the government to ask a judge for a court order to do so.

Before September 11, federal judges could impose tougher prison terms on drug traffickers than on terrorists. The Act strengthened penalties for crimes committed by terrorists, such as arson or attacks on power plants and mass transit systems.

After the Act was passed, terrorist cells were dismantled in Oregon, New York, North Carolina and Virginia. Terrorists were prosecuted in California, Ohio, Texas and Florida. In other words, the Patriot Act’s tools are protecting us. Terrorist funds–$200,000,000–have been frozen or seized. We’re cutting off their money. We’re following the money.

Further, Congress built into the Act strict and structured oversight of the Executive Branch. Every six months, the Justice Department must report to Congress about its activities under the Act. Justice Department officials have testified on the Patriot Act and other homeland security issues scores of times.

The government’s success to date in preventing another catastrophic attack on the American homeland since September 11, 2001, would have been much more difficult, if not impossible, without the USA Patriot Act. The authorities Congress provided have substantially enhanced the ability of our law enforcement and intelligence officials to prevent, investigate, and prosecute acts of terror. It is an essential law that provides for checks and balances while enabling the government to fight what will, no doubt, be a challenging and prolonged war against terrorists determined to kill us and destroy our society.

It has been our experience that when people understand the specific provisions of the USA Patriot Act, as opposed to the inaccurate rhetoric, the most frequent reaction is surprise that most of what is in the Act was not already law. That is why, for the safety of the American people, we ask that no provision of the Patriot Act be allowed to expire and the temporary provisions be made permanent.

Sincerely,

Dr. Mark Albrecht, former Executive Secretary, White House National Space Council

Morris J. Amitay, Esq., Vice Chair, Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs

Robert Andrews, former Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low Intensity Conflict

Stewart Baker, former General Counsel, National Security Agency, Steptoe & Johnson LLP

Dr. Thomas G. Barnes, Professor History & Law, University of California, Berkeley

William Barr, former Attorney General

William Bennett, former Secretary of Education and Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, Host “Morning in America,” nationally syndicated radio show and Washington Fellow: The Claremont Institute

Bradford A. Berenson, former Associate Counsel to President George W. Bush and Co-Founder of Citizens for the Common Defence

Robert Bork, former acting Attorney General, Solicitor General and Circuit Court of Appeals Judge

Dr. Stanley C. Brubaker, Professor of Political Science, Colgate University

Carl M. Buchholz, former Special Assistant to the President for Homeland Security

Chuck Canterbury, National President, Fraternal Order of Police

Frank Cilluffo, former Special Assistant to the President for Homeland Security

Judge William Clark, former National Security Council Advisor, Former Secretary of the Interior

Robert J. Cleary, former U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey and Southern District of Illinois

Dr. William R. Van Cleave, Department Head, Defense & Strategic Studies Department, Southwest Missouri State University

Barbara Comstock, former Director of Public Affairs at the Department of Justice

Cesar V. Conda, former Assistant for Domestic Policy to Vice President Cheney

Joseph E. diGenova, former U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia

Viet Dinh, former Assistant Attorney General

Robert D. Eaglet, Major General, USAF (Ret), former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Air Force

Richard A. Falkenrath, former Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy Homeland Security Advisor

Vincent E. Falter, Major General, USA (Ret)

Alice Fisher, former Deputy Assistant Attorney General

Frank Gaffney, former Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense and President of the Center for Security Policy

Todd Gaziano, Director, Center for Legal and Judicial Studies, The Heritage Foundation

Fred Gedrich, former State and Defense Department Official

Rudolph Giuliani, former U.S. Attorney and Mayor of the City of New York

C. Boyden Gray, former White House Counsel and Co-Chairman of FreedomWorks

Steven J. Greer, Command Sergeant Major, US Army, (Retired)

Charles A. Hamilton, former Director for Strategic Trade Policy, Office of the Secretary of Defense

Mark Holman, former Deputy Assistant to the President for Homeland Security

Dr. Robert Kaufman, Pepperdine University School of Public Policy

Jack Kemp, former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development and Co-Chairman of FreedomWorks

Bernard Kerik, former New York Police Commissioner

Robert Khuzami, former Assistant United States Attorney, Southern District of New York

Edward Koch, former New York City Mayor and Partner, Bryan Cave, LLP

Frederick J. Kroesen, Gen – USA (Ret)

Paul J. Larkin, Jr., former Acting Director of the Criminal Investigation Division of the EPA Office of Criminal Enforcement, Forensics, and Training

Seth Leibsohn, Executive Director-Americans for Victory Over Terrorism

Dr. Peter Leitner, GMU National Center for Biodefense

Mark R. Levin, former chief of staff to Attorney General Edwin Meese

Dr. Douglas Macdonald, Colgate University

Heather Mac Donald, Manhattan Institute

Cliff May, President of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies

Andrew C. McCarthy, former Prosecutor, Office of the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York

Honorable Tidal W. McCoy, former Acting Secretary of the Air Force

Edwin Meese, former Attorney General

Larry A. Mefford, former FBI Executive Assistant Director, Counterterrorism and Counterintelligence

C. Preston Noell III, President, Tradition, Family, Property, Inc.

Theodore B. Olson, former Solicitor General of the United States

Duane A. Parde, Executive Director of the American Legislative Exchange Council

Jim Pasco, former Assistant Director, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms

Dr. Robert L. Pfaltzgraff, Jr., Shelby Cullom Davis Professor of International Security Studies, The Fletcher School, Tufts University

Oliver “Buck” Revell, former Associate Deputy Director for Investigations, Federal Bureau of Investigation

Paul Rosenzweig, Heritage Foundation

Edward L. Rowny, former Ambassador and Lieutenant General USA Retired

Gary Schmitt, Executive Director, Project for the New American Century

William Schneider, Jr., former Under Secretary of State, U.S. Department of State

Kalev I. Sepp, Assistant Professor of Defense Analysis at the Naval Postgraduate School

Dr. Dennis Showalter, Professor of History, Colorado College

Ron Silver, Actor and former president of Actors’ Equity

Dr. Joseph M. Skelly, Professor of History, College of Mount Saint Vincent

George J. Terwilliger III, former Deputy Attorney General

The Honorable Fred Thompson, Former Senator

Larry Thompson, former Deputy Attorney General

Richard Thornburgh, former Attorney General and Governor of Pennsylvania

Victoria Toensing, former Deputy Assistant Attorney General

George V. Vinson, former California Director of Homeland Security under Governor Gray Davis

William F. Weld, former Assistant Attorney General, Criminal Division and Governor of Massachusetts

R. James Woolsey, former Director of Central Intelligence

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