|The White House
President George W. Bush
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For Immediate Release
Office of the Vice President
June 1, 2004
Vice President's Remarks at the KCI Expo Center
Kansas City, Missouri
11:40 A.M. CDT
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you all very much. Somehow this makes me very nervous to be surrounded by this many law enforcement officers. I'm delighted to be here this morning and thank you for the warm welcome to Kansas City. And I want to thank you, Larry, for that kind introduction and also for your years of service to the nation.
I was here not long ago to campaign with Congressman Sam Graves, who is able to join us today, and I've been looking forward to coming back. (Applause.)
And I'm honored to bring you best wishes from a man with friends in every corner of Missouri, President George W. Bush.
The President and I are tremendously grateful to all of our supporters here in Missouri. We were proud to carry this state in 2000. The election, though five months away, we're going to do everything we can to work hard to earn your vote once again. With your dedication, and with the strong leadership of our President, Missouri is going to be part of a nationwide victory for George W. Bush on November 2nd. (Applause.)
Your senators aren't here today, but as President of the Senate, I can speak with some authority on their performance on the job. I'm proud to tell you that Kit Bond and Jim Talent are doing superb work for the people of Missouri. And I might also add that your former senator and governor John Ashcroft is doing a great job as Attorney General of the United States. (Applause.)
I also want to thank all of the law enforcement personnel and first responders here today. Just about everybody, at one time or another, has needed your help or watched you at work. Your fellow citizens respect your discipline, your presence of mind, and your courage. And I'm proud that you're with us today.
All of us in public office are serving during a time when America has confronted historic challenges and risen to meet tests that we never expected to face. The past three and a half years have demanded serious choices, with alternatives carrying profound consequences. The attacks on September 11th, 2001 signaled the arrival of an entirely new era. In the space of a few hours, we saw the violence and the grief that 19 murderous men can inflict. And we had a glimpse of the even greater harm that terrorists wish to do to us. Remembering what we saw on the morning of 9/11, and knowing the nature of these enemies, we have a clear, overriding responsibility: We must do everything in our power to protect our homeland, and to prevent another terrorist attack on America. (Applause.)
Since those terror attacks, our nation has pursued an aggressive strategy against an organized and a determined enemy. We understand that it's not enough to simply prosecute a series of crimes after a violent attack has occurred. Good defenses are not enough. To fully remove this danger, we have only one option. We must go on offense, and we will take the fight to the enemy, and we will prevail. (Applause.)
We are waging war in this war on terror in many fronts. We are tracking, capturing, and destroying terrorists from the caves of Afghanistan, to the Philippines, to the Horn of Africa. We are fighting weapons proliferation at every source -- whether the threat comes from outlaw regimes, or from black-market operations -- to guard America against catastrophic attack and against blackmail. We are applying the Bush doctrine, which holds that any person or regime that harbors terrorists is equally guilty of terrorist crimes and will be held to account. And the Taliban regime in Afghanistan found out that America means exactly what we say. (Applause.)
In Iraq, we took another essential step in the war on terror. With a coalition of many nations, the United States rid the Iraqi people of a murderous dictator and rid the world of a gathering threat to our peace and security. Because we and our coalition acted, the dictator who once brutalized a country now sits in a prison cell. And the world can be certain that the dictator and his sons will never again sponsor terrorists, never again endanger Iraqis' neighbors, never again threaten the United States of America. (Applause.)
Watching these developments, Colonel Moammar Ghadafi, in Libya, decided the time had come for him to end his efforts to develop nuclear weapons and to turn over to U.S. officials the uranium feed stock, the equipment needed to enrich and produce weapons-grade material, and design for a nuclear weapon. The key supplier of this deadly technology was a man named A.Q. Khan. He's now under house arrest in Pakistan, and his network of suppliers is being dismantled.
We and our coalition partners still face serious challenges in Iraq, but our progress is steady, and no power of the enemy will stop it. In fewer than 15 months, the Iraqi people have gone from the repression they knew for decades to the verge of self-government. And they know the way forward. President Bush has outlined a five-step plan to help Iraq secure democracy and freedom. Today in Baghdad, the United Nations Special Envoy and Iraq's new Prime Minister announced the members of Iraq's new interim government. As President Bush said this morning, the interim government "brings us one step closer to realizing the dreams of millions of Iraqis -- a fully sovereign nation with a representative government that protects their rights and serves their needs."
We will hand over authority to that sovereign Iraqi government at the end of this month, help the Iraqi people establish security, continue our commitment to rebuild Iraq's infrastructure, encourage more international support, especially from our allies in NATO, and move toward a national election that will bring forward the leaders of a democrat Iraq.
In Afghanistan, an interim government has been established; a constitution has been written; and later this fall, free elections will be held. An Afghan National Army has been established so the Afghans will be able to contribute to their own security. The stakes in Iraq and Afghanistan are historic, and the terrorists understand that as well as we do. Iraq will either be a peaceful, free country, or it will again be a source of violence, a haven for terror, and a danger to America and the world. America will help Iraqis persevere in this cause and will defeat the enemies of liberty and secure a free self-governing Iraq. (Applause.)
This nation will never go back to the false comforts of the world before 9/11. We are engaging the enemy as we must, in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, so we will not have to face them here at home. And we are not letting our guard down in the defense of the American homeland. At the President's request, Congress created the Department of Homeland Security, the largest reorganization of the federal government since Harry Truman was President. We have taken decisive, focused action to improve security at our borders and our ports, and to protect travelers on commercial aircraft. We added billions in new funding for cutting-edge drugs and other defenses against biological attack. We changed the mission of the FBI, and reassigned hundreds of agents to counterterrorism duties, to help prevent terrorist attacks before they can be launched.
And we took another vital step in defending our homeland with the passage of the USA Patriot Act, which the President signed into law in 2001. That law solved some dramatic problems that became clear in the post-9/11 world, problems that put our government at a significant disadvantage in the hunt for terrorists inside America.
Before 9/11, there were rigid restrictions on the way law enforcement agents, intelligence officers, and national security personnel could share information about potential threats. The FBI and the CIA often failed to share critical information -- and in some cases, divisions within the FBI were not permitted to share, even with each other. The Patriot Act broke down these walls that kept key officials from seeing critical information held by their colleagues in our own government. Because of the Patriot Act, our homeland security personnel are now working together and sharing information so that we can do everything in our power to prevent another attack.
The Patriot Act also corrected several dangerous double standards in our investigation laws. For example, during the years al Qaeda was planning the 9/11 attacks, law enforcement officers had a number of effective tools to track drug smugglers and mobsters -- tools that were legally forbidden in the fight against terror. If a crime boss routinely changed his telephone number to evade the police, all of the conversations could be monitored by a single court order. But if the government was investigating a terrorist, such roving wiretaps were not available, and investigators had to go back to the judge for another warrant. Before the Patriot Act, it was also easier for law enforcement to get business records in an embezzlement case than it was in a terrorism case. These double standards made no sense. And now, thanks to the Patriot Act, investigators are far better able to follow money trails and track telephone contacts, making it easier to find and break up terror cells.
Another problem that law enforcement faced before 9/11 involved what is called a delayed-notification search warrant. These allow law enforcement personnel, with court approval, to carry out a lawful search without tipping off suspects and giving them a chance to flee or to destroy evidence. Before September 11th, the standards for these kinds of warrants were different around the country. The Patriot Act provided a clear national standard and allows these warrants to be used effectively in terrorism cases. The legal theory here is very simple: If these warrants cannot be used -- if these, excuse me, if these warrants can be used against drug dealers, then it is absolutely essential for law enforcement to be able to use them effectively against terrorists.
The Patriot Act was carefully written to protect the civil liberties that have long defined American democracy. All of the investigative tools I have described require the approval of a judge before they can be carried out. And similar statutes have been on the book for years, and tested in the courts, and found to be constitutional.
Many provisions of the Patriot Act are set to expire next year, including the sections that allow intelligence and law enforcement agencies to share information. Congress can renew the act in full, yet some legislators seem to believe that the Patriot Act is no longer needed to confront the terrorist threat. One of those legislators happens to be the Democratic Candidate for President.
When it came time to vote on the Patriot Act in 2001, Senator Kerry voted yes -- and so did all other senators who voted, but one. As President of the Senate, I can tell you this: When you have John Kerry, Ted Kennedy, and 96 other senators supporting a law, that's a fair amount of bipartisan support.
In a statement supporting the Patriot Act, Senator Kerry said the law would, and I quote, "make it a lot more difficult for new terrorist organizations to develop." I won't be saying this very often during the next few months, but Senator Kerry was right. (Laughter and applause.)
Since 9/11, we have dismantled terrorist cells in Oregon, New York, North Carolina, and Virginia. We have prosecuted terrorist operatives and supporters in California, Ohio, Texas, and Florida. We have frozen and seized about $200 million in terrorist assets around the world. Since September 11th, we have charged over 300 people in terrorism-related investigations. So far, more than half of those charged have been convicted or pled guilty.
There has been steady progress toward a more secure America, the type of quiet progress not often reported on the nightly news or in the morning newspaper. And the Patriot Act has been crucial to many of our successes. Yet Senator Kerry has chosen this moment, after these victories, to share his second thoughts on the Patriot Act. He now calls the Patriot Act a "blind spot in the American justice system." He now says he wants to let vital elements of the Patriot Act expire at the end of next year. What he has not shared, however, is a single example of the Patriot Act actually being abused. And those who have looked closely for abuses have found none. One of Senator Kerry's Democratic colleagues, Dianne Feinstein of California, had this to say on the topic: She said, "I have never had a single abuse of the Patriot Act reported to me. My staff e-mailed the American Civil Liberties Union and asked them for instances of actual abuse. They e-mailed back and said they had none." End quote.
Keep all of this in mind, ladies and gentlemen, the next time you hear Senator Kerry make baseless claims about the Patriot Act and supposed abuses. This good law has done nothing to diminish our liberty -- it has helped us to defend our liberty. (Applause.)
The Patriot Act was passed at a time when the smoking ruins and destruction in New York, Pennsylvania, and at the Pentagon were fresh in our memories. And that law was the clear bipartisan response of a nation determined to see that such horrors never took place again. At the time, Senator Kerry shared that determination, and he has a responsibility, as a candidate for high office, to explain why his support for the Patriot Act changed.
Every morning in our briefings, the President and I are reminded that the terrorists are still with us, still active, still out there, the threat is still very real. The Patriot Act has been used effectively and responsibly. And it must be renewed in full. (Applause.)
Senator Kerry has indicated a number of times that he believes the war on terror is, in his words, "not primarily a military operation." He prefers to call it, "an intelligence gathering, law enforcement, public diplomacy effort." While all of those are important, obviously, we've found that that's not sufficient. I don't agree with Senator Kerry's analysis and neither does the President.
Even if you take the Senator's view, however, opposing the Patriot Act makes no sense. If you believe the war on terror is primarily a matter of law enforcement, why in the world would you deny law enforcement professionals the tools they need to fight terror?
No doubt the Senator will try to offer a very nuanced explanation of this apparently glaring contradiction. But to the rest of us, the problem is pretty clear, and it is part of a pattern. On issue after issue -- from the war in Iraq, to funding the needs of our troops, to the Patriot Act itself -- Senator Kerry has taken both sides on the most vital issues of our time. And that should make it a lot easier for voters to decide which candidate for President they trust to fight and win the war on terror. (Applause.)
The contrast between the candidates this November will be sharper than at any time in recent years. And the stakes could hardly be higher. Over the next four years, the President will chart the course of the war on terror and direct the effort at home to protect Americans.
In more than three years as President, George W. Bush has built a national security record of his own. America came to know the President after one of the worst days in our history. He saw America through tragedy; he has taken the fight to the enemy; and under his leadership, our country has once again led the armies of liberation -- freeing millions of men, women and children from tyranny, and making our nation and the world more secure.
In this campaign, President Bush will draw many distinctions between his vision for America's future and the vision of his opponent. The election is still five months off, yet it's already clear what one of the greatest differences will be: President Bush will do whatever it takes to give our troops, our law enforcement agencies, our intelligence officers and our homeland security personnel every tool and every resource they need to defend America. (Applause.)
These are not times for leaders who shift with the political winds, saying one thing one day and another the next. We need a Commander-in-Chief of clear vision and resolve and that's just what we have in the White House today. (Applause.)
All Americans, regardless of political party, can be absolutely certain that when George W. Bush makes a commitment, he keeps his word. And all Americans can take pride in all that our nation has achieved in this historic time. As the President has said, America did not seek the challenges we have faced since September 11th, yet this is the world as we find it. We will do our duty. We will see the cause of freedom through to a safer America and a more peaceful world. And in that mission, we can count on the steady, strong, confident leadership of President George W. Bush.
Thank you very much. (Applause.)
END 12:00 P.M. CDT