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As a minority of the Senate considers whether to continue to jeopardize reenactment of the Patriot Act, a distinguished group of the legislation’s supporters weighed in. Fifty leaders in the fields of national security, law enforcement, public policy and academia called on the Congress not to allow the expiration of key parts of this "vital tool in our national effort to prevent further terrorist attacks against the United States."

 

Among the signatories of the attached Open Letter to the congressional leadership were: four former Attorneys General Edwin Meese, Richard Thornburgh, William Barr and John Ashcroft, former National Security Advisor William P. Clark, former Secretaries of Defense James Schlesinger and Caspar Weinberger, Deputy Attorney General George Terwilliger, former Solicitors General Judge Robert Bork and Theodore B. Olson, former CIA Director R. James Woolsey and actor Ron Silver.

The letter addresses the adverse national security effects that would be associated with allowing the Patriot Act’s "sunsetted" provisions to lapse. These include:

 

  • "The Wall" that impeded information sharing and cooperation between law enforcement and intelligence authorities – which contributed to the Nation’s vulnerability at the time of the 9/11 attacks – will be reconstituted.

     

  • The use of wiretaps for terrorist-related activities – including those where the possible use of lethal chemical agents or other weapons of mass destruction or espionage involving computers is suspected – will be precluded.

     

  • Wiretaps that prevent terrorist suspects from eluding surveillance by switching phones will no longer available.

     

  • Internet Service Providers (ISPs) may become safe-havens for terrorists, encouraging the Internet’s use for plots aimed at harming Americans.

     

  • It will be more difficult to access "pen registers" and business records in connection with terrorism-related investigations than it is with respect to other crimes.

    In releasing the Coalition for Security, Liberty and the Law’s new letter, Frank J. Gaffney, Jr., President of the Center for Security Policy (which sponsors the Coalition) said: "The distinguished signatories of this letter speak for millions of Americans who understand that the Patriot Act has helped keep the Nation free from attack since 9/11. Its provisions must not be allowed to expire ten days from now. As President Bush and others have observed, the threat against which the Act protects us certainly will not."

    In its lead editorial today, the Wall Street Journal observes that, "After 23 congressional hearings with testimony by 60-plus witnesses, both houses passed amended versions of the Patriot Act. The final bill that emerged from the conference committee this month contains more than 30 new civil liberties protections." It goes on to note the irony that the alternative being proposed by opponents of the original act is to perpetuate for the next three months and without these additional protections the legislation they consider to be so defective.

    The Coalition for Security, Liberty and the Law regards the Patriot Act as a cornerstone of the effort to preserve and protect the American homefront – a critically important battlefield in the War for the Free World. Congress must not allow key elements of that essential building block to be eliminated.

     

    Coalition for Security, Liberty and the Law

    21 December 2005

    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 Harry Reid
    Minority Leader
    U.S. Senate
    Washington, D.C.

    The Honorable James Sensenbrenner
    Chairman, House Judiciary Committee
    Washington, D.C.

    The Honorable John Conyers
    House Judiciary Committee
    Washington, D.C.

    The Honorable Arlen Specter
    Chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee
    Washington, D.C.

    The Honorable Patrick Leahy
    Senate Judiciary Committee
    Washington, D.C.

    Dear Leaders:

    In September 2004, many of us wrote an open letter in support of the reenactment of the Patriot Act before the end of this year. We did so out of a conviction that this legislation represents a vital tool in our national effort to prevent further terrorist attacks against the United States.

    Our joint letter noted:

    "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."

    These observations remain as valid today as they did then. Clear majorities in the House and Senate agree. Yet, we find ourselves at a point where thanks to opposition from a minority of the Senate – opposition that seems rooted more in partisan posturing than in legitimate differences on substantive matters – key provisions of the Patriot Act may be allowed to lapse. Among these are the following:

  • Rebuilding "The Wall": The so-called "Wall" that had been allowed, prior to the Patriot Act, to prevent the exchange of information and other cooperation between law enforcement and intelligence personnel must not be reconstituted. Successive inquiries have confirmed that this artificial barrier contributed to the Nation’s vulnerability at the time of the 9/11 attacks. It is unimaginable that, knowing what we now know, we would consciously allow such a grievous impediment to our national security to be reconstituted.

     

  • Denying the use of wiretaps for terrorist-related activities: The Patriot Act’s renewal will ensure investigators’ continued ability to obtain authority for wiretaps in cases where the possible use of lethal chemical agents or other weapons of mass destruction or espionage involving computers is suspected. The potential for harm arising from such activities requires that this authority remain on the books.

     

  • Preventing roving wiretaps: The Patriot Act allows federal officials, pursuant to Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Court authority, to track the telecommunications of suspected terrorists, despite their efforts to defeat such monitoring by changing phones or service providers. Do we really want to afford our enemies once again the opportunity to avoid such surveillance?

     

  • Re-establishing ISPs as safe-havens for terrorists: One provision of the Patriot Act (Sec. 220) due to expire shortly allowed federal judges to issue nation-wide search warrants so that investigators could examine unopened e-mails stored on an Internet Service Provider’s computer server, even one located outside of the judge’s district. This is a critically important tool in dealing with large ISPs.

    Another sunsetted provision (Sec. 212) affords protection to ISPs from lawsuits if they turn over to the authorities customer records that suggest an immediate risk of death or serious physical injury. Since the Patriot Act’s adoption, this provision has prevented the loss of life and will surely do so in the future – unless it is allowed to lapse.

  • Losing access to "pen registers" and business records: The Patriot Act’s Sections 214 and 215 extend to terrorism-related behavior access already long afforded to the investigation of other crimes. Were these provisions allowed to expire, the preponderance of terrorism investigations would be adversely affected.

    The cumulative effect of these and other changes in law that would follow from a failure to reenact the Patriot Act will be to put the Nation at greater risk of terrorist attack. Accordingly, we call upon you and your colleagues to complete action on the conference report at once.

     

    Sincerely,

    Dr. Mark Albrecht, former Executive Secretary, White House National Space Council
    Morris J. Amitay, Esq., Vice Chair, Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs
    John D. Ashcroft, former Attorney General, former United States Senator and former Governor of Missouri
    David Ayres, former Chief of Staff to the Attorney General
    Dr. Thomas G. Barnes, Professor of History and Law, University of California, Berkeley
    William Barr, former Attorney General
    William J. Bennett, former Secretary of Education, former Director Office of National Drug Control Policy and Washington Fellow of the Claremont Institute
    Bradford A. Berenson, former Associate Counsel to President George W. Bush and Co-Founder of Citizens for the Common Defense
    Robert H. Bork, former acting Attorney General, former Solicitor General and former Circuit Court of Appeals Judge
    Dr. Stanley C. Brubaker, Professor of Political Science, Colgate University
    William P. Clark, former National Security Advisor, former Secretary of Interior, former California Supreme Court Justice
    Robert J. Cleary, former U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey and Southern District of Illinois
    Barbara Comstock, former Director of Public Affairs at the Department of Justice
    Cesar V. Conda, former Assistant for Domestic Policy to Vice President Cheney
    Viet Dinh, former Assistant Attorney General
    Richard A. Falkenrath, former Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy Homeland Security Advisor
    Vincent E. Falter, Major General, USA, (Ret)
    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
    Steven J. Greer, Command Sergeant Major, US Army, (Ret)
    Peter Heussy, President, National Defense University Foundation
    Mark Holman, former Deputy Assistant to the President for Homeland Security
    Dr. Robert Kaufman, Professor of Political Science, Pepperdine University
    Jack Kemp, former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development and Co-Chairman of FreedomWorks
    Frederick J. Kroesen, General, USA, (Ret)
    Robert S. Khuzami, former Prosecutor, Office of the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York
    Dr. Peter Leitner, GMU National Center for Biodefense, Higgins Counter Terrorism Research Center
    Dr. Douglas Macdonald, Professor of Political Science, Colgate University
    Heather MacDonald, Fellow, Manhattan Institute
    Clifford D. 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
    Tidal W. McCoy, former Acting Secretary of the Air Force
    Edwin Meese, former Attorney General and Counselor to the President
    Larry A. Mefford, former FBI Executive Assistant Director, Counterterrorism and Counterintelligence
    Theodore B. Olson, former Solicitor General of the United States
    Edward L. Rowny, former Ambassador and Lieutenant General USA (Ret.)
    James R. Schlesinger, former Secretary of Defense, former Secretary of Energy and former Director of Central Intelligence
    Gary Schmitt, Resident Scholar and Director of the American Enterprise Institute’s Program on Advanced Strategic Studies
    Dr. William Schneider, Jr., former Under Secretary of State, Department of State
    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
    Richard T Thornburgh, former Attorney General and Governor of Pennsylvania
    Dr. William R. Van Cleave, Professor Emeritus, Defense & Strategic Studies Department, Southwest Missouri State University
    Caspar W. Weinberger, former Secretary of Defense, former Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare and former Director, Office of Management and Budget
    William F. Weld, former Assistant Attorney General, Criminal Division and Governor of Massachusetts
    R. James Woolsey, former Director of Central Intelligence
    Dr. John Yoo, former Deputy Assistant Attorney General

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