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October 12, 2001
Administration commends the House leadership and the Chairman of the
House Judiciary Committee on reaching agreement on H.R. 2975. This
bill contains, in some form, virtually all of the proposals made by
the Administration in the wake of the terrorist attacks perpetrated
against the United States on September 11th. The Administration strongly
supports passage of this bill.
The Administration's initial proposals, on which H.R. 2975 is based, were designed to provide Federal law enforcement and national security officials with the tools and resources necessary to disrupt, weaken, and counter the infrastructure of terrorist organizations, to prevent terrorist attacks, and to punish and defeat terrorists and those who harbor them. H.R. 2975 includes the provisions proposed by the Administration in three main areas: (1) information gathering and sharing; (2) substantive criminal law and criminal procedure; and (3) immigration procedures. The Administration strongly supports passage of these provisions.
Information Gathering and Sharing
Existing laws fail to provide national security authorities and law enforcement authorities with certain critical tools they need to fight and win the war against terrorism. For example, technology has dramatically outpaced the Nation's statutes. Many of the most important intelligence gathering laws were enacted decades ago, in and for an era of rotary telephones. Meanwhile, the Nation's enemies use e-mail, the Internet, mobile communications and voice mail.
H.R. 2975 contains numerous provisions that address this problem by helping to make the intelligence gathering and surveillance statutes more "technology-neutral." Specifically, the bill updates the pen-register, trap-and-trace, and Title III-wiretap statutes to cover computer and mobile communications more effectively, while ensuring that the scope of the authority remains the same, i.e., that no more or less information is obtained from use of a computer or mobile phones than is obtainable now from telephones. The bill also provides for nationwide scope of orders and search warrants, and other practical changes that will enable law enforcement to work more efficiently and effectively. The bill includes a five year sunset on certain information gathering authorities. In addition, the bill contains important updates of foreign intelligence gathering-statutes, with the identical goal of making the statutes technology-neutral. Even more important, the bill contains provisions to reduce existing barriers to the sharing of information among Federal agencies where necessary to identify and respond to terrorist threats. The ability of law enforcement and national security personnel to share this type of information is a critical tool for pursuing the war against terrorism on all fronts.
Substantive Criminal Law and Criminal Procedure
H.R. 2975 contains important reforms to the criminal statutes designed to strengthen law enforcement's ability to investigate, prosecute, prevent, and punish terrorism crimes. The bill would remove existing barriers to effective prosecution by extending the statute of limitations for terrorist crimes that risk or result in death or serious injury. The bill also creates and strengthens criminal statutes, including a prohibition on harboring terrorists and on providing material support to terrorists, and provides for tougher penalties, including longer prison terms and higher conspiracy penalties for those who commit terrorist acts. These provisions will help to ensure that the fight against terrorism is a national priority in our criminal justice system.
Border Protection and Immigration Procedures
H.R. 2975 also contains a number of provisions that would enhance the ability of immigration officials to exclude or deport aliens who engage in terrorist activity and improve the Federal government's ability to share information about suspected terrorists. Under the bill, those who contribute to or otherwise support terrorist organizations and terrorist activities would be denied admission to or deported from this country, and the Attorney General would be authorized to detain deportable persons who are suspected of terrorist activities pending their removal from the United States. In addition, the bill provides for access by the Department of State and the Immigration and Naturalization Service to criminal history records and related information maintained by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Any law that would increase direct spending is subject to the pay-as-you-go requirements of the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act. Accordingly, H.R. 2975, or any substitute amendment in lieu thereof that would also increase direct spending, will be subject to the pay-as-you-go requirement. OMB's scoring estimates are under development. The Administration will work with Congress to ensure that any unintended sequester of spending does not occur under current law or the enactment of any other proposals that meet the President's objectives to reduce the debt, fund priority initiatives, and grant tax relief to all income tax paying Americans.