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Conrad Burns on Homeland Security

Former Republican Senator (MT, 1989-2007)


Patriot Act only affects your freedoms if youíre a terrorist

JONES: Pres. Bush pushed and pushed to get the Patriot Act approved. Not a single member of Congress, including this one [Burns], read the Patriot Act before it was signed. It was laid out in front of them, ad with a great deal of pressure from corrupt party leaders, they signed that bill. Pres. Bush demanded it, and demanded other bills that have been just as threatening to our freedom, and put great pressures on members of Congress to pass those bills.

BURNS: Pres. Bush took an oath to protect this country. Letís talk about the Patriot Act. You have not given up one freedom, not ONE freedom that you didnít have before, unless youíre a terrorist, or a suspected terrorist, or affiliated with the Mafia, or affiliated with drug kingpins. If you repeal the Patriot Act, the wall goes back up between the FBI and the CIA and the DIA, Defense Intelligence, and they cannot connect the dots. And the Meth Control Act is within the Patriot Act. There are consequences; it is a tool to protect this country.

Source: 2006 Montana 3-way Senate Debate at MSU (x-ref Jones) Oct 9, 2006

Patriot Act merely gives tools like against organized crime

Q: What can ensure the safety of Americans, given that you donít support the PATRIOT Act?

TESTER: The Patriot Act has very little to do with the War on Terrorism and a lot to do with why the terrorists attacked this country, which is to take away our freedoms.

BURNS: The Patriot Act gave the tools to our law enforcement people, the same tools that they had to go after organized crime and drug kingpins. Thatís all it is. He wants to go soft on the war on terror -- but I think theyíre as dangerous as organized crime. He wants to weaken that. I donít want to weaken that. On monitoring phone calls -- I want to know what theyíre doing. Mr. Tester doesnít understand this enemy. It is global. How do you deal with someone that will kill themselves just to take the life of someone they donít agree with? He wants to weaken the Patriot Act, and take away the tools from the people who work for our protection.

TESTER: I donít want to weaken the Patriot Act, I want to repeal it. It takes away your freedoms.

Source: 2006 MT Senate debate, Tester vs. Burns in Butte Sep 24, 2006

Voted NO on preserving habeas corpus for Guantanamo detainees.

Sen. Specter's amendment would strike the provision regarding habeas review. The underlying bill authorizes trial by military commission for violations of the law of war. Excerpts from the Senate floor debate:

Sen. GRAHAM [recommending NO]: The fundamental question for the Senate to answer when it comes to determining enemy combatant status is, Who should make that determination? Should that be a military decision or should it be a judicial decision? That is something our military should do.

Sen. SPECTER [recommending YES]: My amendment would retain the constitutional right of habeas corpus for people detained at Guantanamo. The right of habeas corpus was established in the Magna Carta in 1215 when, in England, there was action taken against King John to establish a procedure to prevent illegal detention. What the bill seeks to do is to set back basic rights by some 900 years. This amendment would strike that provision and make certain that the constitutional right of habeas corpus is maintained.

GRAHAM: Do we really want enemy prisoners to bring every lawsuit known to man against the people fighting the war and protecting us? No enemy prisoner should have access to Federal courts--a noncitizen, enemy combatant terrorist--to bring a lawsuit against those fighting on our behalf. No judge should have the ability to make a decision that has been historically reserved to the military. That does not make us safer.

SPECTER: The US Constitution states that "Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it." We do not have either rebellion or invasion, so it is a little hard for me to see, as a basic principle of constitutional law, how the Congress can suspend the writ of habeas corpus.

GRAHAM: If the Supreme Court does say in the next round of legal appeals there is a constitutional right to habeas corpus by those detained at Guantanamo Bay, then Sen. Specter is absolutely right.

Reference: Specter Amendment; Bill S.AMDT.5087 to S.3930 ; vote number 2006-255 on Sep 28, 2006

Voted NO on requiring CIA reports on detainees & interrogation methods.

Amendment to provide for congressional oversight of certain Central Intelligence Agency programs. The underlying bill S. 3930 authorizes trial by military commission for violations of the law of war. The amendment requires quarterly reports describing all CIA detention facilities; the name of each detainee; their suspected activities; & each interrogation technique authorized for use and guidelines on the use of each such technique.

Opponents recommend voting NO because:

I question the need for a very lengthy, detailed report every 3 months. We will probably see those reports leaked to the press.

This amendment would spread out for the world--and especially for al-Qaida and its related organizations--precisely what interrogation techniques are going to be used.

If we lay out, in an unclassified version, a description of the techniques by the Attorney General, that description will be in al-Qaida and Hezbollah and all of the other terrorist organizations' playbook. They will train their assets that: This is what you must be expected to do, and Allah wants you to resist these techniques.

We are passing this bill so that we can detain people. If we catch someone like Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, we have no way to hold him, no way to ask him the questions and get the information we need, because the uncertainty has brought the program to a close. It is vitally important to our security, and unfortunately this amendment would imperil it.

Reference: Rockefeller Amendment; Bill S.AMDT.5095 to S.3930 ; vote number 2006-256 on Sep 28, 2006

Voted YES on reauthorizing the PATRIOT Act.

This vote reauthorizes the PATRIOT Act with some modifications (amendments). Voting YEA extends the PATRIOT Act, and voting NAY would phase it out. The official summary of the bill is:
A bill to clarify that individuals who receive FISA orders can challenge nondisclosure requirements, that individuals who receive national security letters are not required to disclose the name of their attorney, that libraries are not wire or electronic communication service providers unless they provide specific services, and for other purposes.