Presidential Radio Address - 10 December 2005
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. This week members of a House and Senate conference committee reached an agreement on reauthorization of the Patriot Act. Since its passage after the attacks of September the 11th, 2001, the Patriot Act has proved essential to fighting the war on terror and preventing our enemies from striking America again.
This week's agreement would renew all 16 provisions of the Patriot Act that are scheduled to expire at the end of this month -- and it would make 14 of these provisions permanent. It reauthorizes critical national security tools, while bolstering the Patriot Act's significant protections of civil liberties. It also includes provisions to fight crime and terrorism at America's seaports, and tougher criminal penalties and increased resources to combat the dangerous spread of methamphetamine abuse throughout our country.
I applaud the conference committee for its good work. Now Congress needs to finish the job. Both the Senate and the House need to hold a prompt vote, and send me a bill renewing the Patriot Act so I can sign it into law.
Over the past four years, the Patriot Act has been a strong weapon for going after the terrorists. America's law enforcement and intelligence personnel have put the Patriot Act to wise and effective use while protecting our civil liberties. They have used the law to prosecute terrorist operatives and supporters or break up terror cells in New York, Oregon, Virginia, California, Texas, and Ohio. The Patriot Act has accomplished exactly what it was designed to do -- it has protected American liberty and saved American lives.
By renewing the Patriot Act, we will ensure that our law enforcement and intelligence officers have the tools they need to protect our citizens. The Patriot Act tore down the legal and bureaucratic wall that kept law enforcement and intelligence authorities from sharing vital information about terrorist threats. Now law enforcement and intelligence officers are working together.
The Patriot Act also allowed federal investigators to pursue terrorists with the same tools they already use against other criminals. For example, before the Patriot Act, it was easier to track the phone calls of a drug dealer than the phone calls of a terrorist. Before the Patriot Act, it was easier to get the credit card receipts of a tax cheat than those of an al Qaeda bankroller. The Patriot Act ended these double standards. The theory is straightforward: If we have good tools to fight street crime and fraud, then law enforcement should have at least the same tools to fight terrorism.
The Patriot Act is helping America defeat our enemies while safeguarding civil liberties for all our people. The judicial branch has a strong oversight role in the application of the Patriot Act. Under the act, law enforcement officers need a federal judge's permission to wiretap a foreign terrorist's phone or search his property. Congress also oversees our use of the Patriot Act. Attorney General Gonzales delivers regular reports on the Patriot Act to the House and the Senate.
The valuable protections of the Patriot Act will expire at the end of this month if Congress fails to act, but the terrorist threats will not expire on that schedule. In the war on terror, we cannot afford to be without this vital law for a single moment. So I urge Congress to approve the conference committee agreement promptly and reauthorize the Patriot Act.
Thank you for listening.