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Homeland Security

PREVENTING TERRORISM -- HON. LEE H. HAMILTON (Extension of Remarks - May 03, 1995)
[Page: E938]
in the House of Representatives
  • Mr. HAMILTON of Indiana. Mr. Speaker, I would like to insert my Washington Report for Wednesday, May 3, 1995 into the Congressional Record.

All of us are filled with deep sorrow and anger over the terrorist bombing in Oklahoma City. This brutal tragedy is particularly frightening because it brought terrorism to the nation's heartland.

At the same time, it is inspiring to see the valiant rescue workers and united community spirit as Americans from across the country assist in relief efforts. No country is stronger or more open-hearted in times of crisis. We should also be proud of the remarkable speed of law enforcement officers in arresting suspects and tracing the origins of the crime.

The consequences of these events will be with us for many years. Not least is that the personal insecurity Americans have felt from random violence and crime will now be increased. Americans are worried about terrorism, but much more worried that it could hit close to them.

Unfortunately, terrorism cannot be stopped simply by catching criminals after a bomb explodes. We must reexamine and intensify our efforts to prevent terrorism.

Immediate Action: There is widespread consensus in Congress to take swift action to give the government enhanced powers to fight terrorism. Congress will quickly pass counterterrorism legislation. It is expected to include:

Law Enforcement: A central counterterrorist task force will be created to coordinate the efforts of different agencies. The President has requested 1,000 additional agents and prosecutors for this effort, which will be focused more on intelligence and prevention than law enforcement.

  • Criminal Punishment: The Oklahoma City terrorists will be tried under the federal death penalty for terrorist acts, a new provision from last year's crime bill. Terrorist acts include any act of mass destruction that results in death and all attacks on federal property. New legislation will increase criminal penalties and prohibit probation or reduced sentences for terrorist acts or attempted terrorist acts.
  • Explosives: Congress will consider measures to make chemicals--such as those used in Oklahoma City--less volatile, easier to trace, and more difficult to obtain in large quantities.
  • State-sponsored Terrorism: While the Oklahoma City bombing appears to be domestic in origin, we must also increase our efforts against terrorism sponsored by other nations. In the past, terrorist actions connected to Libya, Iraq, and other countries have been met with strict economic sanctions, military force, and political isolation.
  • Nuclear Materials: Counterterrorism legislation will place additional restrictions on the transfer of nuclear materials. The Oklahoma City bombing reinforces the need for strong measures to prevent terrorists from obtaining nuclear technology.
  • Other: Congress is also expected to, at significant additional cost, enhance security at federal buildings, airports, and ports; strengthen the ability of the government to deport aliens who are connected with terrorist activities; make it easier to use military expertise to investigate terrorist incidents; accelerate research on high-technology surveillance; give broader FBI access to credit card, travel, and phone records of suspected terrorists; freeze U.S. assets of radical foreign groups or individuals that seek political ends through violence; and give the FBI more latitude in eavesdropping--a court surveillance order would still be required, but there would be more flexibility once an order was issued.
  • The challenge is to protect our civil liberties while also protecting the people. I think it is important to uphold the requirement that law enforcement officials have a reasonable indication of criminal activity before a judge approves surveillance orders. Without such as requirement, it is easy to foresee abuse in monitoring law-abiding groups.
  • Rhetoric: For a long time I have been concerned about the consequences of virulent political rhetoric. Any public figure today is aware of the mounting anger against government, and it is legitimate to criticize the government for its failings and to offer productive solutions. It is certainly unfair to draw a direct line from rhetoric to acts of violence, and we should resist broad-based and unspecified blame. But it is also true that words have consequences. Sweeping, unfounded denunciations in a democracy are not healthy, from any political viewpoint. In Oklahoma, anti-government extremists attacked the government. Last week in California, an environmental zealot killed a timber industry executive. We should come out on the side of free speech, but we should also understand that extreme rhetoric, characterizing politics as warfare and political opponents as demons, creates an environment in which unstable persons can be encouraged to commit violent acts.
  • I think we need a period of toned-down rhetoric. When individuals of any political persuasion exploit or encourage hatred, it divides the country and contributes to the cynicism Americans feel about politics.
  • Root Causes: The only long-term solution for terrorism is to rise above these divisions and address the political grievances which provoke it. We must try to understand what causes such violent anger, as well as what can be done about it. Progress requires a serious assessment of the successes and failures of government. We need to both confront pressing problems, such as government excesses, job insecurity, and family breakdown, as well as try to clear up gross misperceptions about what government is doing. It is impossible to read some of the claims of various underground groups without recognizing we have a long way to go in understanding the politics of hate.
  • Conclusion: The long-term impact of the Oklahoma City bombing is uncertain. It may lead to similar incidents, but it may also lead to a more positive assessment of the role of government in society, and more respect for those who serve us. We may even see a renewed emphasis on family and community in our daily lives. I am hopeful for a shift away from confrontation and destructive criticism toward broad, productive cooperation in solving our nation's problems.


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