Congress passes key tool in War on Terror

Published 11:21 pm Monday, March 13, 2006

By By Jo Bonner
Last week, the House voted 280-138 to approve the USA Patriot and Terrorism Prevention and Reauthorization Act. The conference report, already approved by the Senate, now goes to the president for his approval.
In the wake of the September 11 attacks and in an effort to protect this country against future terrorist attacks, the House of Representatives and the Senate overwhelmingly passed the USA Patriot Act in 2001. Its primary function was to put procedures in place which would disrupt terrorist activities before attacks took place. Since the passage of the act, there have been many successes as a result of the measures put into place by the Patriot Act.
The Patriot Act included sunsets on 16 sections of the Act, meaning that these authorities would have expired if the conference report was not approved, hindering our ability to fight terrorism and putting our information sharing efforts at risk. By passing the conference report, Congress has maintained our already enhanced ability to prevent future terrorist attacks.
One of the things most frustrating to our law enforcement and intelligence officials has been that our laws for fighting drug dealers and organized crime are tougher than those to fight potential terrorists. The Patriot Act ensures that law enforcement will now have the necessary tools to fight the next "Mohammed Atta."
One of the biggest concerns I have heard regarding this legislation is protecting the privacy and civil liberties of the American people. Congress has worked hard to ensure that no future abuses of the Patriot Act occur, even though neither Congress nor the Justice Department has discovered an abuse.
Among the most vital provisions were those lowering "the wall" that prevented law enforcement and the intelligence communities from sharing essential information regarding the planned attacks of September 11th.
The reports issued by the 9/11 Congressional Joint Inquiry, the 9/11 Commission, and the WMD Commission each confirmed that our ability to "connect the dots" and prevent terrorist attacks was inhibited by a lack of coordination and information sharing within the federal government.
This section of the Patriot Act has been used by the Justice Department on a regular basis and has been instrumental in fostering increased coordination and information sharing between intelligence and law enforcement personnel over the last four and a half years.
Over the past four years, the Patriot Act has been a key tool for our law enforcement personnel as they work to keep our country safe from terrorist threats. This reauthorization will ensure that they continue to have the tools they need to protect our nation.
Congressional tour of Katrina-Damaged Areas
Earlier this month, I joined a congressional delegation, led by Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert (R-IL), on a three-day tour of the hurricane-ravaged Gulf Coast. I, along with 34 members of Congress, traveled to New Orleans, Bay St. Louis, Waveland, Pass Christian, and Mobile.
When the delegation visited Mobile, we were briefed by Governor Bob Riley (R-AL) as well as state and local officials on our recovery efforts and preparations for the 2006 hurricane season which begins June 1. It was clear to the delegation that work still remains; however, many were so impressed by Alabama's preparation leading up to the landfall of Hurricane Katrina and as a result, the response following the storm.
Cyber Newsletter Resumes
I am pleased to announce that this month I will be resuming my "cyber newsletter." This service is designed to provide regular updates of happenings in our nation's capital.
The "cyber newsletter" is distributed on a monthly basis and is designed to complement the weekly news columns, such as the one you are now reading, by providing more broad updates of events taking place in Washington and back home in the First District.
This electronic newsletter is a more scaled-down version of the recent, larger mailing included as an insert in your local newspapers and will continue to be distributed once each month via e-mail. Additionally, these newsletters will be posted on my internet website.
I am excited about resuming this opportunity that keeps you informed on issues of concern, as well as to highlight area businesses and events.
I would like to note that this newsletter is sent in a .pdf format, so you will need to have Adobe Reader software installed on your computer in order to view the newsletter. For those who do not have this software, a free download of this product is available on the Internet.
If you would like to sign up to receive the "cyber newsletter" and my regular weekly columns via e-mail, please don't hesitate to visit my website at or call my office at 800-288-8721.
My staff and I work for you. Please call if we can be of service.
Jo Bonner is a U.S. congressman. His column appears weekly.

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