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The President's Radio Address

May 27, 1995

Good morning. It has now been over 5 weeks since the tragic bombing in Oklahoma City. In the days immediately after that tragedy, congressional leaders pledged to have the legislation I proposed to crack down on terrorism on my desk by Memorial Day. The Senate is now considering the antiterrorism bill. I'm glad they're working on it. At the same time, I disagree with the position of some Senators from both parties that three crucial weapons in the fight against terrorism should be stripped from the bill.

The first concerns my proposal to expand the wiretap capabilities of Federal investigators. Terrorists move around. They don't want to be caught. They go from State to State, from motel to motel, from pay phone to pay phone. We need the power to move our taps and surveillance as fast as the terrorist moves his base of operations. But those who want to weaken my antiterrorism bill want law enforcement to go back to court for a new wiretap order each and every time a terrorist moves, unless we can specifically show that he's trying to evade our surveillance.

We should protect citizens' privacy rights. But we shouldn't force law enforcement to lose valuable time by making them get a court to agree that a terrorist is trying to knowingly evade us. Have you ever heard of a terrorist who wasn't trying to evade the police? I don't care whether a terrorist is trying to knowingly evade the police. I care that he or she may be trying to plan another Oklahoma City bombing. And I want the police to stop those people cold.

The restrictive view taken by some people in Congress would handicap our ability to track terrorists down, follow them when they move, and prevent their attacks on innocent people.

The second disagreement I have is about my request that we should be able to use the full resources of the military to combat terrorists who are contemplating the use of biological or chemical weapons. In general, the military should not be involved in domestic law enforcement in any way. That's why it's against the law. But there is a limited exception to this authority, granting the authority to cooperate with law enforcement to the military where nuclear weapons are involved. There's a good reason for this. The military has the unique technical expertise, sophisticated equipment, and highly specialized personnel to fight a nuclear threat. Well, the same is true for biological and chemical weapons, which seem even more likely to be used in terrorist attacks in the future, as we saw recently in the terrible incident in the Japanese subway.

Therefore, I can't understand how some Senators could actually suggest that it's okay to use the military for nuclear terrorism but not to use them for chemical and biological terrorism. We need their unique knowledge in all instances. I want law enforcement to have the authority to call in the military to deal with these chemical or biological weapons threats when they lack that expertise, equipment, or personnel. There's simply no reason why we should use anything less than the very best we have to fight and stop the extraordinary threat now posed by chemical and biological terrorism all around the world.

Finally, I strongly disagree with Senators who want to remove a provision of my bill that will help us track down terrorists by marking the explosive materials they use to build their weapons. It would be a relatively simple matter to include something called a taggant in materials used to build explosive devices. That way, law enforcement could track bomb materials back to their source and dramatically increase their ability to find and apprehend terrorists.

There is no reason to delay enactment of a law that would require taggants in explosive materials. Every day that goes by without a law like that is another day a terrorist can walk into a store and buy material that is virtually untraceable. As long as the basic building blocks of bombs are sold without taggants, we can only hope they're not being bought by terrorists.

The Senators who want to oppose my bill on these points simply argue that these provisions will open the door to an overly broad domestic use of military troops, to overly invasive wiretapping, or to an erosion of the constitutional rights of those who buy explosives. I disagree. Constitutional protections and legal restrictions are not being repealed. We are simply giving law enforcement agencies who are committed to fighting terrorists for us the tools they need to succeed in the modern world.

I want to work with Congress to resolve these differences and to make my antiterrorism bill the law as soon as possible.

On this Memorial Day weekend, we honor those who fought and died in our Nation's wars to keep America free. In the 21st century, the security of the American people will require us to fight terrorism all around the world and, unfortunately, here at home. It's a fight we have to be able to win.

Thanks for listening.

NOTE: The address was recorded at 2:22 p.m. on May 26 in the Oval Office at the White House for broadcast at 10:06 a.m. on May 27.

William J. Clinton, The President's Radio Address Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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