For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
July 20, 2005
President Encourages Renewal of Patriot Act Provisions
Port of Baltimore
10:02 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thanks for the warm welcome. It's good to be back in Baltimore, home of the mighty Orioles. (Applause.) And my friend, Raphael Palmiero. (Applause.) I had the honor of calling -- I call him Raffy -- the other day to congratulate him on his 500 home run, 3,000 hit club membership. And I know you're proud of him here. He's a -- as you can tell, I'm a baseball guy. And one of the things about Baltimore is you're great baseball fans, and I think we're all thrilled that our friend, Raphael Palmiero, is such a great player.
It's also an honor to be here at the Port of Baltimore. It's an impressive place to chopper over. There is a lot of action here in Baltimore. And I want to thank you all for giving me a chance to come by to talk about how to secure this port, other ports, the borders and our country. That's the task at hand. And for those of you involved with protecting our homeland, I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for your hard work.
I want to thank the Governor for welcoming me. And I appreciate the First Lady coming, as well. The Governor asked how my mountain bike is going. It's not going well when you fall. (Laughter.) It seems like it's happening quite often these days.
Congratulations on a billion-dollar surplus. (Applause.) I want to thank the Attorney General, Al Gonzales, for joining me. Al has been a longtime friend of mine. He is a superb lawyer. He's been my counsel as Governor of Texas, and in the White House; he is now the Attorney General of the United States of America. And I'm proud of the job he's doing for our country. (Applause.)
And I appreciate my friend, Mike Chertoff, for agreeing to come, the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. He has got a mighty task, to make sure that old ways are abandoned for new ways; that we work closely together; that the kind of giant bureaucracy that has been created out of other bureaucracies functions smoothly. And he's doing a very good job of leading this important agency in the right direction. Mike, thanks for serving, thanks for your leadership, thanks for your clear vision about the job that you need to do.
I want to thank Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger for being here. Dutch, it's good to see you. I appreciate you coming. You're a good man to take time out of your schedule to be here. I want to thank the Mayor for joining us. Mr. Mayor, proud you're here. Thanks for taking time out of your schedule to come by to say hello.
I want to thank Brooks Royster, the Executive Director, for hosting this event. It is not easy to host a President. It turns out the entourages are quite large these days. But I want to thank you for making this an important event. I want to thank all of you who are here. Once again, I want to thank those who wear the uniform for joining us.
Last night I announced my nomination of a good and highly qualified man to the Supreme Court -- Judge John Roberts. (Applause.) He's somebody Americans will be proud to have seated on that bench. He has the qualities that our country expects in a judge -- experience, wisdom, fairness and civility. He has profound respect for the rule of law. He has respect for the liberties guaranteed to every single citizen. He will strictly apply the Constitution and laws; he will not legislate from the bench. I urge the Senate to rise to the occasion, to provide a fair and civil process and to have Judge Roberts in place before the next Court session begins on October the 3rd. (Applause.)
I not only have the duty to nominate good people to the bench, I have the duty to work with you all to protect this country. That's our most solemn duty.
I'm going to talk about securing the homeland. But I want you to remember, as we work to secure the homeland, we have to be right one hundred percent of the time, and the enemy only has to be right one time. And so, therefore, the best way to protect the homeland is to go on the offense, is to find these people in foreign lands and bring them to justice before they come here to hurt us.
And that's exactly what we're doing. We're pursuing a two-pronged strategy. We're sharing intelligence with our allies. We're working with people around the world. We're on the hunt, and we will stay on the hunt. If your most important duty is to protect the homeland, it's important not to lose our nerve, our will, and our focus. And the United States will not do so. We'll continue to lead to bring people to justice all around the world. (Applause.)
We're facing cold-blooded killers who have an ideology that is the opposite of ours. These people believe that there should be no dissent, no freedom, no rights for women, that there only ought to be one religion, which is a misinterpretation of the great religion of Islam. That's what they believe. And they have designs, they have goals. And what are those goals? Well, they want to topple nations. They want to drive the United States and freedom-loving countries out of parts of the world so their ideology can take hold. That's what they want. And they want to shake our will and weaken our determination.
See, the only real weapon they have is the capacity to kill innocent people and to shake our conscience, to get us to withdraw. That's what they want. And there's a reason why they want us to withdraw from the world -- because they want to impose their vision, their dark vision on people.
The only way to defeat an ideology of hatred is with an ideology of hope. And so our strategy is not only stay on the offense and to bring these people to justice; our strategy is to spread the ideology of hope found in democracy and freedom. History has proven that democracies are peaceful countries. History has proven that democracy and freedom have the capability of converting enemies into allies. The best way to secure the future for our children and grandchildren is to spread democracy and hope and freedom to parts of the world that simmer in resentment and anger and hatred.
And that's precisely what the United States of America is doing, and will continue to do. These terrorists will not shake our will; they will not cause us to retreat. I believe strongly we have a duty not only to defend our homeland today, we have a duty to lay the foundation of peace for generations to come -- which is precisely what we're doing.
As we work to defend the country overseas -- first of all, for those of you who have got relatives in the service, for those of you who wear the uniform, I want to thank you for what you're doing. (Applause.) And if you're in contact with a loved one in Iraq or in Afghanistan, you can tell them this: The citizens of this great country, the citizens of the United States of America stand squarely with those who wear the uniform of the United States military. (Applause.)
I found an interesting contrast that when I was in Scotland a while ago, that we were there to talk about how to end poverty and disease, how to help women, how to educate young girls on the continent of Africa -- that's what we were there to discuss. We were there to discuss how nations that have been blessed with riches can do our part to save lives. I don't know if you know this or not, but the United States of America is, by far, the most generous nation in the world when it comes to feeding the hungry, or providing help for those who are suffering from HIV/AIDS. I believe that to whom much is given, much is required.
And in the midst of those discussions, terrorists murdered in cold blood people from all walks of life, innocent people. It's an interesting contrast, isn't it? It should be a vivid reminder about the world in which we live. We will not let down our guard. And, therefore, at home, we're doing everything we can to protect the American people.
There are a lot of people who are working hard, and you're some of them. And I want to thank you for what you're doing. Oftentimes, you don't get recognized enough by the citizens. We take your work for granted often. But I know how hard you're working, and I want to thank you for that. And the federal government has a responsibility to help you in your work.
We're taking four key steps to protect the homeland. The first thing is to make sure that we spend resources necessary to protect the nation -- spend the money and spend it wisely, by the way, make sure that we spend it on areas that need -- that need the help. And we're spending unprecedented resources to protect our nation. We have more than tripled funding for homeland security since September the 11th. I want to thank the members of Congress for working on that. Dutch, thanks.
We're developing innovative programs to defend this country against a biological, chemical, or nuclear attack. In other words, one of the biggest dangers we face is if a biological, chemical, or nuclear device gets in the hands of terrorists. Listen, they will use them. By the way, you can't negotiate with these people or reason with them. That's what you've got to understand. These are not the kind of people you sit down and send a counselor over and hope to convince them to change their ways. These are cold-blooded ideologues who will kill. And therefore, we've got to plan for the worst.
We provided -- since that fateful attack on our country, we provided more than $14 billion to train, equip state and local first responders. That makes sense, doesn't it? Those who are going to be responsible for responding to an attack are at the local level; the federal government ought to help, as part of the homeland security strategy, help train people. And we're spending money to do so. We've increased federal homeland security funding by more than tenfold for firefighters, and police officers, and other responders. I mean, if we're asking you to be on the front line, we ought to help you. And that's what we've done at the federal level.
Secondly, we're strengthening the defenses at our most important and vulnerable locations. In other words, part of the strategy is to try to figure out where the enemy may attack. You assess your weaknesses and you build on those -- and you strengthen your weaknesses. Remember, this is a war. This isn't a -- maybe a law enforcement adventure. We're at war with these people. And therefore, during a time of war, you've got to do everything you can to strengthen your defenses. And so we'll continue to enhance protection at our borders and coastlines and airports and bridges and nuclear power plants and water treatment facilities, and other critical sites, including transportation infrastructure.
Since September the 11th, we've provided more than $350 million to help state and local authorities improve security on mass transits. I'm sure you can figure out why I'm trying to explain what we've done about mass transit. That's what the enemy hit the other day on one of our strong allies. They used their mass transit system to try to shake our will.
The city of Baltimore and other cities around the country have received $2.4 billion in urban security grants, which they have the choice to use for mass transit security. I think that makes sense to say to a mayor, if you've got a problem with your mass transit, here's a grant, and if you feel that's the best use of the money, use it there.
My budget for the next year proposes a 64-percent increase in infrastructure protection grants -- in other words, grants that will go specifically for infrastructure, to safeguard subway, light rail, city buses, and other critical systems. And we're going to continue to work closely with state and local leaders to make other vital improvements in mass transit security.
First of all, we're constantly monitoring intelligence reports. And part of our job is to collect intelligence, look at it, analyze it, and if it's a problem that relates to a security system at a local level, we'll let you know as quickly as possible.
We take extra precautions at times of heightened risks. That's what Mike Chertoff recommended to me after the London bombings. In other words, he took a look at the situation and said, let's enhance our security and infrastructure points, and he raised the threat level. We're widening the use of explosive detection teams and nearly doubling the number of rail security inspectors. We're targeting assets and resources to our infrastructure. We're accelerating the development and deployment of new technologies to rapidly detect biological, radiological and chemical attacks. That's what Mike announced last week. We're going to continue to make sure that we assess our weaknesses and strengthen our transportation systems.
Our seaports are another critical element of our national infrastructure. We've done a lot of work at our seaports, and I want to thank those of you here who have helped. In the Port of Baltimore, ships from around the world arrive with products ranging from lumber to fuel to electronics and automobiles, and you've got a lot of it coming in, which is good news. Commerce at this port generates more than a billion dollars of revenue, and sustains thousands of Maryland jobs. This port is important for your economy, in other words.
This is a gateway for foreign markets, which provides an opportunity and an important challenge for us. And we recognized that early. We've made dramatic advancements in port security since September the 11th. We've established strict new safety rules for both domestic and international shipping, and we have taken new steps to identify and inspect high-risk cargo. And that's important for our citizens to understand.
We launched what we call the Container Security Initiative, to screen American-bound containers at more than 35 foreign ports so we can identify dangerous cargo before it reaches our shore. Doesn't that make sense? It seems like it does to me. In other words, we're stationing Custom folks overseas and we're working with places that ship goods to us, to inspect cargo there so we don't burden our ports. Since September the 11th, we've provided more than $700 million in federal grants to close off the vulnerabilities at individual ports, including $15 million for this port right here.
The success of all these efforts depends on the vigilance of the men and women protecting the ports. And you're taking critical steps here in Baltimore. And I want the citizens of this city to understand what you're doing. You've upgraded cargo inspection technology from clipboards to keyboards. I just saw some of your new cargo inspection technology. It's sophisticated. It enables a person to do a lot of inspections relatively easy. You're employing advanced screening devices, such as new radiation detectors and x-ray equipment that can penetrate steel containers. That's what I saw. I mean, you can look inside the truck, you don't even have to get in it. That's called technology. And it's working. It makes a big difference. You're patrolling the waters around the port.
I want to thank all of you who are working hard here. I want to thank members of the Coast Guard and Border Patrol and the Baltimore Port Authority.
At a major international port like this, there's a lot to do to safeguard the people. And so we're committed to help you build on the progress. The budget for next year proposes $2.3 billion in port security funding -- 10 times higher than the funding since September the 11th. The budget increases the Coast Guard budget by more than 11 percent, including new funding for patrol boats. The budget boosts support for cutting-edge cargo screening technologies. I mean, we're really good at technology and we might as well be using that technology to protect the American people.
What I'm telling you is, is that we're focused here in -- and I want to thank again, thank Congress for staying focused with us. When you're at war, you can't lose sight of the fact that you're at war. And if your most important priority is to protect the people, you've got to work together to do so.
Thirdly, to protect this homeland we're making our security operations more unified and more effective. More than 180,000 men and women from 22 different agencies are working together at the Department of Homeland Security. That's a lot of folks with a lot of agencies. So Chertoff's job is to make sure everybody heads in the same direction. And we're making good progress -- changing cultures, streamlining cultures, and getting people to work under a unified Department.
The FBI is changing its mission. Its primary mission is to prevent a terrorist attack. Of course, we want the FBI agents to find people and to bring them to justice when they break the law. We want them to be a part of the preventative aspect of this war on terror, too. We've reformed the intelligence community to stay a step ahead of our enemies. We created a new Director of National Intelligence to help integrate our intelligence. We want our intelligence folks sharing information and talking better.
I went to the National Counterterrorism Center the other day. It's an impressive place. It's a place where people from different agencies in our government sit side-by-side to share information. This is a new kind of war. We're dealing with people who hide in the shadows of our cities. They kind of lay low and then they show up with deadly devices. And, therefore, the best way to stop them is to share intelligence. And so we're constantly working to make sure our intelligence is as good as possible.
And to strengthen the security, we've got to strengthen our partnership with state and local officials. It doesn't do any good if we can figure something out and we don't share it with people at the local level. In this state, the Maryland Coordination and Analysis Center -- known as MCAC -- brings together more than 20 federal, state and local agencies. You're doing a good thing in the state and for the local level to coordinate information. I want to tell you a story about MCAC's success. Last summer, Baltimore County Police officers spotted a suspicious person videotaping the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. First of all, you have somebody who is alert on the ground. It was odd looking, somebody is videotaping the bridge. Maybe that happens a lot; maybe it doesn't. Anyway, this person was wise, he saw something suspicious. So they alerted the Maryland Transportation Authority Police, which then notified MCAC. When the personnel team there learned that the man was part of a federal terrorism investigation in Illinois, they secured a warrant and arrested the guy within hours.
Think about what you just heard. You got a local man sees somebody doing something suspicious; he immediately makes a call; it goes to MCAC. Because we have information-sharing from state to state, and from federal government to state, information popped up that this person was more than suspicious, he was wanted. Today I got to see Gary McLhinney -- I appreciate you being here, Gary. He is the Chief of the Maryland Transportation Authority Police. I don't know who gets the credit in your organization, but whoever did acted wisely.
Let me tell you what he said. He said, "Our officers would not have been successful in detaining and subsequently arresting the individual without the MCAC. This is how it's supposed to work." You're right, this is how it's supposed to work. Congratulations on setting up a smooth system here in the state of Maryland to better protect the people. You're serving as a model.
And, see, that's what's taking place all around the homeland. People have got to understand, we're changing the old ways so people can better talk. We're all in this deal together. We all have a responsibility to protect our local citizens. And therefore, it makes sense to have a seamless capacity to talk to each other in a real-time basis. And it's working, it's working.
Fourth, to protect the homeland, we've got to give our law enforcement better tools to track and stop terrorists before they strike. And one of the most important tools is the U.S.A. Patriot Act. The Patriot Act closed dangerous gaps in America's law enforcement and intelligence capabilities, gap that terrorists exploited when they attacked us on September the 11th.
Both houses of Congress passed the Patriot Act by overwhelming bipartisan majorities, and I was proud to sign this law. And it's working. The Patriot Act authorized better sharing of information between law enforcement and intelligence. Before the Patriot Act, criminal investigators were separated from intelligence officers by a legal and bureaucratic law. Imagine that. You get somebody investigating a problem, and somebody collecting intelligence, and they couldn't share information. And so the Patriot Act broke down that wall. How in the heck can people expect us to protect our country when you can't share intelligence with people who are investigating? The Patriot Act helped tear down the wall so that people can share information better, and work as a team and break up terror networks.
Listen, finding our enemies in the war on terror is tough enough. Law enforcement should not be denied vital information their own colleagues already have. And so, for the sake of our security, the United States Congress must not rebuild the wall that prevents law enforcement from doing its job.
The Patriot Act allowed investigators to pursue terrorists with the same tools they use against other criminals. Think about that statement. We had people that could use certain tools against drug dealers, but couldn't against terrorists. Before the Patriot Act, it was easier to track the phone contacts of a drug dealer than the phone contacts of a terrorist. Before the Patriot Act it was easier to get the credit card receipts of a tax cheat than that of an al Qaeda bank-roller. Before the Patriot Act agents could use wire taps to investigate a person committing mail fraud, but not specifically to investigate a foreign terrorist carrying deadly weapons. Before the Patriot Act, investigators could follow the calls of mobsters who switched cell phones, but not terrorists who switched cell phones. That didn't make any sense. The Patriot Act ended all these double standards.
The theory is straightforward and it makes sense to me, Dutch, and I know it does to a lot of your colleagues. If we have good tools to fight street crime and fraud, then our law enforcement ought to have the same tools to fight terrorism. The Patriot Act also has updated the law to meet high-tech threats like computer espionage and cyber-terrorism. For example, before the Patriot Act, Internet providers who notified federal authorities about threatening emails ran the risk of getting sued. Needless to say, that stopped some people from sharing threatening emails -- nobody likes to get sued. It happens too often in our society, by the way. The Patriot Act modernized the law to protect Internet companies who voluntarily disclose information to save American lives.
Terrorists are using every advantage of the 21st century technology, and we've got to make sure our law enforcement has got the tools to fight off that advantage. The Patriot Act helps us defeat our enemies while safeguarding civil liberties for all Americans. The judicial branch has a strong oversight role in the application of the Patriot Act. Law enforcement officers need a federal judge's permission to wiretap a foreign terrorist's phone, or to track his calls, or to search his property. Officers must meet strict standards to use any of the tools we're talking about. And they are fully consistent with the Constitution of the United States.
Congress also oversees the use of the Patriot Act. Our Attorney General, Al Gonzales, delivers regular reports on the Patriot Act to the House and the Senate. The Department of Justice has answered hundreds of questions from members of the Congress. In other words, there is a strong oversight role.
I want you to hear what Senator Dianne Feinstein, of California, said the other day. She said, "We have scrubbed the area and have no reported abuses." She was speaking about the Patriot Act. I want you to remember that the next time you hear someone make an unfair criticism of this important, good law. The Patriot Act hasn't diminished American liberties; it has helped to defend American liberties.
Over the past three-and-a-half years, our law enforcement and intelligence personnel have put the Patriot Act to effective use. In other words, it's working, because we've got good people using the tools within the Patriot Act. They've used the law to break up terrorist cells in New York and Oregon and Virginia and Florida. We prosecuted terrorist operatives and supporters from California to Texas and New Jersey to Illinois, North Carolina and Ohio. In other words, we're making progress. It's one thing to have the tools; it's another thing to use them effectively within the guidelines of the United States Constitution.
The Patriot Act has accomplished exactly what it was designed to do. The problem is, at the end of this year 16 critical provisions of the Patriot Act are scheduled to expire. All 16 provisions are practical, effective and constitutional, and they are vital to defending our freedom.
This week, the House of Representatives will vote on legislation to renew the Patriot Act. As we saw in London, the terrorists are still active and they are still plotting to take innocent life. So my message to the Congress is clear: This is no time to let our guard down, and no time to roll back good laws. The Patriot Act is expected to expire, but the terrorist threats will not expire. I expect, and the American people expect, the United States Congress and the United States Senate to renew the Patriot Act, without weakening our ability to fight terror, and they need to get that bill to my desk soon. (Applause.)
I appreciate you letting me come by to talk to you about the war on terror. This is going to be a long war. But freedom is going to prevail. This nation of ours has always handled duties brought to us -- history has always brought us challenges and problems. We've always handled them; we'll handle this one, too.
See, the enemy doesn't understand the nature of the American people. We're not going to be blackmailed, we're not going to be threatened. We'll stay strong. When history has called us to action in the past, we've responded. And history is calling us now. It's the great struggle of the 21st century, and we're going to stay in the fight until it's won. We're going to make this country safer. And, as importantly, for the moms and dads out there, and grand folks, we're laying the foundation of peace for your children and grandchildren.
It is such an honor to be involved with good men and women like you all who are -- we're all joined together in this solemn duty to protect this great country.
I want to thank you for your hard work. I want to thank you for your dedication. May God bless you and your families, and may God continue to bless our country. (Applause.)
END 10:33 A.M. EDT