March 09, 2006
In a ceremony at the White House today, Bush signed the bill passed by Congress after a lengthy reauthorization fight. The original bill originally was to expire Dec. 31, 2005, and when Congress could not agree on changes to the measure, short extensions kept it active. The last extension was set to expire tomorrow.
Under the measure signed Thursday all aspects of the bill become permanent except provisions regarding so-called roving wiretaps and the seizure of some business records written to expire after four years.
Bush said, "The Patriot Act was passed with overwhelming bipartisan support." In his comments today, the President said the Patriot Act has strengthened our national security in two important ways: First, it authorized law enforcement and intelligence officers to share vital information. "Before the Patriot Act, criminal investigators were often separated from intelligence officers by a legal and bureaucratic wall. The Patriot Act tore down the wall. And as a result, law enforcement and intelligence officers are sharing information, working together, and bringing terrorists to justice," said Bush.
Secondly, Bush said the Patriot Act has allowed agents to pursue terrorists with the same tools they use against other criminals. "Before the Patriot Act, it was easier to track the phone contacts of a drug dealer than the phone contacts of an enemy operative. Before the Patriot Act, it was easier to get the credit card receipts of a tax cheater than trace the financial support of an al Qaeda fundraiser. The Patriot Act corrected these double standards, and the United States is safer as a result," said President Bush.
Bush said, "Over the past
four years, America's law enforcement and intelligence personnel
have proved the Patriot Act works. Federal, state, and local
law enforcement have used the Patriot Act to break up terror
cells in Ohio, New York, Oregon and Virginia." He said that
terrorist operatives and supporters in California and Texas,
New Jersey, Illinois, Washington, and North Carolina have been
Bush said the legislation creates a new position of Assistant Attorney General for National Security. He said, "This will allow the Justice Department to bring together its national security, counterterrorism, counterintelligence and foreign intelligence surveillance operations under a single authority. This reorganization fulfills one of the critical recommendations of the WMD Commission: It will help our brave men and women in law enforcement connect the dots before the terrorists strike."
This bill also will help protect Americans from the growing threat of methamphetamine said Bush. "Meth is easy to make. It is highly addictive. It is ruining too many lives across our country. The bill introduces common-sense safeguards that would make many of the ingredients used in manufacturing meth harder to obtain in bulk, and easier for law enforcement to track."
As an example Bush said, "The bill places limits on large-scale purchases of over-the-counter drugs that are used to manufacture meth. It requires stores to keep these ingredients behind the counter or in locked display cases. The bill also increases penalties for smuggling and selling of meth. Our nation is committed to protecting our citizens and our young people from the scourge of methamphetamine."
In an online forum discussing the Patriot Act today, Rachel Brand, Assistant Attorney General, U.S. Department of Justice, said, "It is impossible for us to say with certainty how many lives have been saved because of the USA PATRIOT Act. What we do know is that law enforcement and national security personnel from across the country agree that the provisions of that Act have been critical to our efforts to protect Americans. We also know that federal terrorism and terrorism-related investigations since the terrible attacks of September 11th have resulted in charges against more than 428 suspects - and more than half of those charged have already been convicted. Moreover, federal, state, and local law enforcement have used the USA PATRIOT Act to break up terror cells in Ohio, New York, Oregon, and Virginia, and have prosecuted terrorist operatives and supporters in California, Texas, New Jersey, Illinois, Washington, and North Carolina."
The Patriot Act was passed shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks on the United States. Supporters say it provides an important tool against terrorists; opponents claim it doesn't protect the civil liberties of ordinary citizens.
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