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Homeland Security

FREEDOM OR SECURITY? (Senate - June 30, 1995)
[Page: S9479]

Mr. GRAMS. Mr. President, this coming Tuesday, the American people will celebrate the Fourth of July. It is a day for parties and parades, fireworks, and family picnics.

It is a day for remembering the bedrock of freedom on which this country was built, and how freedom still binds us together.

So it is ironic that 1 day later, July 5, we will take action right here on Capitol Hill to clamp down on the very freedoms we embrace on Independence Day.

It began on April 19, in Oklahoma City.

The reverberations of the bombing at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building were felt across America, but echoed loudly in Washington, DC, home to more Federal buildings--and Federal employees--than any other city in the Nation.

And almost immediately, a siege mentality took hold.

Here at the Capitol, police took extraordinary steps to protect against the possibility of a terrorist attack.

They beefed up patrols around the building, stopped cars and checked trunks, eliminated parking in some areas, increased the sensitivity on the entryway metal detectors, and kept the public away from ground floor windows with yards of yellow tape labeled `Police Line--Do Not Cross.'

Soon after, the U.S. Treasury Department ordered Pennsylvania Avenue closed to cars and trucks in front of the White House.

For the first time in the 195-year history of the Executive Mansion, the people were no longer allowed to drive past the people's house.

And now, 1 month after Pennsylvania Avenue was shut down to traffic, police say more drastic measures are needed. A plan will go into effect here on Wednesday, July 5, that will even further limit the people's access to Capitol Hill and those of us who work here on the people's behalf.

The Senate Sergeant-at-Arms and the U.S. Capitol Police say that traffic will be restricted or eliminated altogether around the three Senate office buildings.

Some parking will be eliminated, too.

Streets will be closed with the concrete barriers that have become all-too-common in this city. It will be more tire shredders, not `welcome' signs, that will greet visitors.

The Capitol Police say they are trying to strike a balance between free access, and the security of the Congress and its visitors.

They say the changes I have outlined mean only `minor traffic disruptions' and will have `little impact on the community.'

Mr. President, I have great admiration and respect for the officers and police administrators who work every day--sometimes putting their own lives on the line--to make this a safe and secure place to work and visit.

They have and deserve our thanks. But with all due respect to them, there is much more at stake in this decision than simply its physical impact on the community.

Whenever we make such bold moves to further separate ourselves from the very people who sent us here and pay our weekly salaries, it has a tremendous impact on the national psyche as well.

What it comes down to, Mr. President, is the question of freedom versus security. Is ours a government that can operate openly, in the name of freedom, and still shut itself off from the people, in the name of security?

Are we willing to swap one for the other?

If we are, then perhaps we should not stop with a few tire shredders and a couple of closed streets.

Why do not we just build a fence around the Capitol? That is what the Capitol Hill Police proposed in 1985 in an internal report, at a cost then of $2.8 million.

Or better yet, if we really want to make a loud, public statement that `you cannot mess with the Federal Government,' we will dig a massive trench around the Capitol.

We will fill the moat with water and maybe a pack of alligators, and build a single, drawbridge entrance, where we will station guards armed with spears.

And then we will dare the public to visit.

We will be secure in our bunker, Mr. President, but for that security, we will be trading away freedom, and we cannot make horse trades with the very principles upon which this Nation was founded.

Mr. President, we should also consider the impact of our actions on the taxpayers.

The recent security precautions taken at the White House will cost the taxpayers $200,000 for new traffic signals, signs, and pavement markings.

The new security arrangements here at the Capitol will come with a price tag to the taxpayers as well, although the costs will not be measured solely by dollars.

Where do we stop?

There are 8,100 Federal buildings in the United States--do we turn each and every one of them into a fortress?

The sad truth is that we can not protect Federal workers by sealing them off from the world.

If we tell terrorists that we are not going to let them park car bombs made of fertilizer and fuel oil next to our Federal buildings anymore, they will find another way.

And we may just be goading on a desperate kook who wants to prove they can not be stopped by another layer of security.

The public does not understand what we are doing.

They have vital business in Federal buildings, or they come here as tourists, expecting to be welcomed.

But when they see the police, and all they yellow tape, and the signs that say `Do Not Enter,' they wonder what kind of message we are trying to get across.

I have heard their comments when they look down an empty stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue that used to be open to cars. I know what they whisper when they visit and walk through the metal detectors.

`It is a shame,' they are saying.

And they do not like it. We have gone too far.

Washington should be a place where visitors feel secure, but by turning it into a fortress, we are sacrificing freedom for security, and making a city of such beauty and such history something dirty.

We can put in more concrete barriers and try to camouflage them with flowers, but in the words of one newspaper columnist, it is like putting lipstick on a goat. It is ugly, and fear is ugly.

Democracy should be about building bridges, not building walls. In Washington, we have become too adept at building walls. And every time a wall goes up, we knock freedom down another notch.

Let us seriously consider what we're doing, and what security we're willing to give up in order to live in a democracy.

If in the end it comes down to a question of security or freedom, this Senator will always choose freedom, Mr. President. And I believe the American people will, too.

I yield the floor and suggest the absence of a quorum.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.

[Page: S9480]

Mr. GORTON. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for the quorum call be rescinded.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.


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