|Saturday April 17,
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning.
For the past year, the September 11th Commission has met to examine the facts surrounding the terrorist attack on our nation. I look forward to the commission's report, and I expect it to contain important recommendations for preventing future attacks.
One lesson the nation has already learned is that law enforcement and intelligence personnel must be allowed to share more information, so that we can better pursue terrorists inside the United States. In the weeks after September the 11th, Congress made essential reforms by passing the USA Patriot Act. That vital legislation gained overwhelming bipartisan support in the House of Representatives, and passed the Senate by a vote of 98 to one.
The Patriot Act tore down the artificial wall between the FBI and CIA, and enhanced their ability to share the information needed to hunt terrorists. The Patriot Act also marked a major shift in law enforcement priorities. We are no longer emphasizing only the investigation of past crimes, but also the prevention of future attacks. Because we passed the Patriot Act, FBI agents can better conduct electronic surveillance and wiretaps on suspected terrorists. And they now can apply other essential tools -- many of which have long been used to investigate white-collar criminals and drug traffickers -- to stop terrorist attacks on our homeland.
Our government's first duty is to protect the American people. The Patriot Act fulfills that duty in a way that is fully consistent with constitutional protections. In making America safer, it has helped us defend our liberty. Since I signed the Patriot Act into law, federal investigators have disrupted terror cells in at least six American cities. And since September the 11th, the Department of Justice has charged over 300 persons in terrorism-related investigations. So far, more than half of those individuals have been convicted or pled guilty.
Key elements of the Patriot Act are set to expire next year. Some politicians in Washington act as if the threat to America will also expire on that schedule. Yet we have seen what the terrorists intend for us, in deadly attacks from Bali to Mombassa to Madrid. And we will not forget the lessons of September the 11th. To abandon the Patriot Act would deprive law enforcement and intelligence officers of needed tools in the war on terror, and demonstrate willful blindness to a continuing threat.
Next week I will travel to Hershey, Pennsylvania and Buffalo, New York to meet with the law enforcement officers who see the importance of the Patriot Act in their daily duties. They know we must not let down our guard. The war on terror will be won on the offensive, so Congress must renew the Patriot Act.
Every hour of the day, America depends on the work of vigilant law enforcement and intelligence personnel. These men and women have difficult and dangerous jobs -- and they are performing superbly. In their mission of security, they are joined by members of the armed forces, who are taking the fight to our enemies overseas. The American people are grateful to all who defend us -- and we will continue to give them every tool and resource they need to keep America safe.
Thank you for listening.
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