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Skelton defends much-maligned Patriot Act as important tool in War on Terror
Skelton defends much-maligned Patriot Act as important tool in War on Terror

Congressman Ike Skelton
WASHINGTON, D.C. (Nov. 15, 2009) — The Patriot Act passed in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. It was intended to enable law enforcement officials to track down and punish those responsible for the terrorist attacks and to protect against any similar strikes against our nation.

In the years following 9/11, the Patriot Act has proven to be an important law enforcement tool and has enhanced our national security. The U.S. and our allies are fighting a war like no other. It is an unconventional war that must be met with unconventional tools used by law enforcement professionals to protect the American people from those who would do us harm.

The Act provides federal officers greater powers to trace and intercept terrorists’ communications for law enforcement and foreign intelligence purposes. It reinforces federal anti-money laundering laws and regulations in an effort to deny terrorists the resources necessary for future attacks. It tightens laws pertaining to seaport security. Also, it creates several federal crimes, such as laws outlawing terrorists’ attacks on mass transit and increases penalties for many other violations of the law.

Currently, Congress is reviewing legislation to amend and extend the Patriot Act. Provisions within the Act are set to expire on Dec. 31 of this year. As is true of any law that empowers the government to collect security-related information domestically, evaluating the Patriot Act requires Congress to weigh a wide range of competing interests, like the ability of our government to detect and thwart terrorist attacks and the constitutional rights of the American people. Of course, proper oversight of the Patriot Act by our courts and Congress is essential to guaranteeing our constitutional rights are not trampled.

As the debate in Congress moves forward, we must ensure law enforcement officials have the tools at their disposal to protect the American people against any future terrorist strikes against our nation. That is why I supported the Patriot Act in 2001 and its reauthorization in 2005. In the days ahead, I will work with my colleagues to ensure we provide real security to the American people. We owe it to those who lost their lives on 9/11 and we owe it to those who are currently serving at home and abroad to reauthorize the Patriot Act before it expires at the end of the year.

Congressman Ike Skelton (D-Mo.) serves as chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. Congressman Skelton’s website is at www.house.gov/skelton.

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