Presidential Radio Address - 27 October 2001
George W. Bush: Good morning. I'm pleased to report that our nation continues to take important steps in the war against terrorism. Next week, the House of Representatives will be voting on an airline security bill that Congressman Don Young has introduced.
It was modeled after proposals I made last month. Under the Young bill, the federal government will assume complete control of airport security and screening. It also greatly expands the Federal Air Marshal program, and provides substantial new funding for secure cockpits and other security measures aboard airplanes.
There's a critical difference between the Young bill and the bill the Senate passed a few weeks ago. My approach gives the government the flexibility it needs to assemble a skilled and disciplined screening work force.
The Senate bill mandates that all passenger and baggage screeners be federal workers in all circumstances. While that bill is well-intended, the best approach will be one that provides flexibility. The Young bill allows the use of private contractors operating under tough federal standards on background checks with federal law enforcement at every gate to promote better screening services, and ensure that security managers can move aggressively to discipline or fire employees who fail to live up to the rigorous new standards.
The Young bill is the quickest, most effective way to increase aviation security. And time is of the essence. I urge Congress to move quickly on this vital legislation, as it did this week in passing new legislation to fight terrorism.
The bill I signed yesterday gives intelligence and law enforcement officials additional tools they need to hunt and capture and punish terrorists. Our enemies operate by highly sophisticated methods and technologies, using the latest means of communication and the new weapon of bioterrorism.
When earlier laws were written, some of these methods did not even exist. The new law recognizes the realities and dangers posed by the modern terrorist. It will help us to prosecute terrorist organizations -- and also to detect them before they strike.
Since 11th of September, the men and women of our intelligence and law enforcement agencies have been relentless in their work. In return for their exceptional service, these public servants deserve our full support, and every means of help that we can provide. Intelligence operations and criminal investigations have often had to operate on separate tracks. The new law will make it easier for all agencies to share vital information about terrorist activity.
Surveillance of communications is another essential method of law enforcement. But for a long time, we have been working under laws written in the era of rotary telephones. Under the new law, officials may conduct court-ordered surveillance of all modern forms of communication used by terrorists.
In recent years, some investigations have been hindered by limits on the reach of federal search warrants. Officials had to get a new warrant for each new district and investigation covered, even when involving the same suspect. As of now, warrants are valid across districts and across state lines.
And, finally, the new legislation greatly enhances the penalties that will fall on terrorists or anyone who helps them. Federal law now provides harsh penalties for possession of biological weapons. It is now easier to seize the assets of groups or individuals involved in terrorism. Government has greater ability to deport known terrorists and their supporters. And the statute of limitations on terrorist acts have been lengthened, along with prison sentences, for terrorist crimes.
These measures were enacted with broad support in both parties. They reflect a firm resolve to uphold and respect the civil liberties guaranteed by the Constitution, while dealing swiftly and severely with terrorists.
Now comes the duty of carrying them out. And I can assure all Americans that these important new statutes will be enforced to the full.
Thank you for listening.