Homeland Security



CONCERNS REGARDING ANTITERRORISM LEGISLATION (House of Representatives - June 14, 1995)
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The SPEAKER pro tempore. Under a previous order of the House, the gentleman from Georgia [Mr. Barr] is recognized for 5 minutes.

Mr. BARR. Mr. Speaker, for the last 3 days those of us who have the honor of serving on the Committee on the Judiciary have been engaged in some very important, far-reaching legislation. What we have been considering, Mr. Speaker, is antiterrorism or counterterrorism legislation.

This legislation which has come before the Committee on the Judiciary is not something that arose simply because of what happened recently in Oklahoma, although it has taken on additional and rather urgent importance in light of what happened in Oklahoma.

It is however of concern to a number of us as conservatives and who were sent here to the House of Representatives as result of the election last year to take a very hard look at the power of the Federal Government to determine not only if there are circumstances under which the powers of the Federal Government may have gotten too broad, too large, and too extended so that we would be looking at methods to bring back in and rein back in the power of the Federal Government in those instances in which it has been too broadly construed or has been extended too far, but also to be very careful and jealous guardians of those authorities that currently belong to States and local communities and to take a very hard look, a very fair look, but a very hard look at those areas where the Federal Government is seeking to expand its authority.

The legislation that we have been considering in the Judiciary Committee raises some of these concerns that I would like to this evening just raise and alert the people of the United States of America to.

None of us favor terrorism, and certainly when we have legislation that is couched as counterterrorism or antiterrorism, certainly there is a predisposition, an inclination on all of our parts to say absolutely, we must pass whatever legislation is necessary in order to do everything within reason and within the bounds of our Constitution to prevent incidents such as what happened in Oklahoma recently from occurring, and to ensure that if it ever does occur, that our law enforcement officials and our prosecutors and our courts have full authority to investigate thoroughly, to apprehend, to prosecute, and then to punish to the greatest extent possible under our system of laws those that would perpetrate such acts on American citizens or indeed anybody within the geographic bounds of the United States of America.

The problem, Mr. Speaker, that we are facing and that I am personally facing in the committee with regard to this legislation, is that it seems to go beyond what the Government needs in order to really carry out its responsibility to protect American citizens against acts of terrorism and to prosecute those who do commit acts of terrorism. It goes beyond what is needed to simply what some of our law enforcement officials and some in our Government would like to see the Federal Government have.

It extends the reach, for example, Mr. Speaker, very broadly beyond the current definition of what is terrorism, and under the legislation that we are currently considering in the Committee on the Judiciary, for example, virtually any crime of violence committed anywhere in our country for whatever reason becomes a terrorist action.

Once under the legislation that is being considered an action becomes or falls within the definition of terrorism or terrorist activity or terrorist action, then a whole series of things occurs such as loosening of the standard on wiretap authority, loosening of the standard on the Federal Government's ability and law enforcement's ability to obtain certain types of records on citizens, and so on and so forth.

This is the concern, Mr. Chairman, and I think we need to be very, very careful and very jealous that in our understandable effort and our understandable zeal to protect our citizens against a recurrence of what happened in Oklahoma that we do not cross over the line and extend too much authority to the Government and that we do not inadvertently trample on some of our very cherished constitutional rights.

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We are going to be continuing the markup of this legislation tomorrow. There will be further refinements to it, and then, of course, the full House will have full opportunity to look at this.

But I do have some concerns, Mr. Speaker, with this legislation, in that it does seem to go far beyond the current bounds of the reach of the Federal Government and really gets the Federal Government into a whole range of activities that, under standards of federalism, certainly as I and the citizens of the Seventh District understand them, say, `Yes, we do want to have strong Federal law enforcement, but that does not mean we want the Federal Government involved in virtually every aspect of criminal activity that might take place anywhere in our country.'

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate having the opportunity to share some of these concerns, and we will hear more on this as we continue the deliberations in the Committee on the Judiciary and on the full floor.

END



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