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Fact Sheet: President Bush Calls for Renewing the USA PATRIOT Act

April 19, 2004

Also Urges Congress to Close Loopholes in Other Anti-Terrorism Laws

Today's Presidential Action

  • The President traveled to Hershey, Pennsylvania today to address the importance of the USA PATRIOT Act with local and state officials.
  • The President called for Congress to renew all parts of the USA PATRIOT Act that are scheduled to expire next year. Before 9/11, barriers prevented counterterrorism officials from communicating effectively with one another. The USA PATRIOT Act brought down the artificial wall separating law enforcement and intelligence officers and allowed them to talk to each other as they work to prevent future attacks.
  • The President also called upon Congress to close existing legal loopholes that deny law enforcement officials the same tools to fight terror that they have to fight other crime. These include:
    • Using administrative subpoenas, enabling law enforcement officials to obtain certain time-sensitive records more quickly - a legal tool already used in civil and criminal matters such as healthcare fraud cases;
    • Establishing a presumptive denial of bail in terrorism cases -- a legal tool currently used against drug dealers, which will ensure that the law does not allow suspected terrorists to be released before trial; and
    • Allowing the death penalty for terrorist crimes that result in death. This would close a legal loophole that enables some sexual abuse and drug-related offenses that result in death to qualify for the death penalty - but not some terrorism crimes that result in the death of innocents.

Background on Today's Presidential Action

  • 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 law enforcement officials. These restrictions made it much more difficult to get a complete picture of the terrorist threats - preventing law enforcement from having all the pieces of the puzzle in one place.
  • By passing the USA Patriot Act, we removed those barriers - and now, the law enforcement and intelligence communities are working together as never before. The USA PATRIOT Act was passed with overwhelming bi-partisan support by the Senate 98-1, and 357-66 by the House of Representatives.
  • The USA PATRIOT Act has played a key role in a number of successful operations to protect innocent Americans from terrorists. In passing the USA PATRIOT Act, Congress provided for measured changes in the law. But these changes have enabled the Federal Government to better track terrorists, disrupt their cells, seize their assets, and share more information with state and local law enforcement.
    • The USA PATRIOT Act facilitates information sharing and cooperation among government agencies so that they can better "connect the dots." The Act removed barriers that prevented the law enforcement, intelligence, and national defense communities from coordinating their work to protect the American people and our national security. Now FBI agents, Federal prosecutors, and intelligence officials can protect our communities by "connecting the dots" to uncover terrorist plots before they are completed while respecting constitutional rights.
    • The Act allows law enforcement to conduct investigations without tipping off terrorists. If criminals are tipped off too early to an investigation, they are likely to flee, destroy evidence, intimidate or kill witnesses, cut off contact with associates, or take other actions to evade arrest. Therefore, Federal courts in narrow circumstances have long allowed law enforcement to delay for a limited time notifying a subject that a judicially-approved search warrant has been executed. The USA PATRIOT Act codified the procedures for obtaining these warrants, which require court approval. Notice is always provided, but with reasonable delay, enabling law enforcement to identify the criminal's associates, eliminate immediate threats to our communities, and coordinate the arrests of multiple individuals without tipping them off beforehand.
  • The USA PATRIOT Act uses proven law enforcement methods in new ways to reflect new technologies and new threats. The Act brought the law up-to-date with the new technologies actually used by terrorists, so America no longer has to fight a digital-age battle with outdated legal authorities.
    • Roving wiretaps - in which a wiretap authorization attaches to a particular suspect, rather than a particular communication device - have been used by law enforcement for years to investigate ordinary crimes including drug offenses and racketeering. The USA PATRIOT Act authorized the same techniques in national-security investigations. This provision has enhanced the government's authority to monitor sophisticated international terrorists and intelligence officers, who are trained to thwart surveillance, such as by rapidly changing cell phones, just before important meetings or communications.
    • Before September 11, law enforcement could more easily obtain the business and financial records of white-collar criminals than of suspected terrorists. The USA PATRIOT Act ended this double standard - making it easier for investigators to catch suspected terrorists by following their paper trail.
    • Before the USA PATRIOT Act, federal judges could impose tougher prison terms on drug traffickers than they could on terrorists. Now, the penalties for crimes committed by terrorists have been strengthened.
  • The USA PATRIOT Act gives investigators the tools, such as roving wiretaps and delayed-notification search warrants, which are needed to stop terrorists before they strike, fulfilling America's duty to win the War on Terror and never forget the lessons of September 11, 2001. The USA PATRIOT Act has not diminished our liberty - it has defended our liberty and made America more secure. Congress must renew the USA PATRIOT Act and take further steps to improve our ability to fight terror within the United States.

George W. Bush, Fact Sheet: President Bush Calls for Renewing the USA PATRIOT Act Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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