The safety of the American people cannot be a partisan, political issue. Members of Congress must come together to present the President with a bill he can sign: a bill that will let us sleep more soundly at night, knowing we maintain the vital tools to defend ourselves against a ruthless enemy intent on killing Americans. We must come together to create a bill that equips our intelligence community with the tools it needs to protect our citizens.
The obvious starting place for any legislation to keep us safe is the bill passed last August. Democrats were willing to vote for it then. But now, they are changing their minds as the liberal elements of their party begin to make noise. They’ve decided that the provisions passed in August – provisions that are working right now to keep us safe – are too tough. But how tough on the terrorists is too tough? As long as we protect our own civil liberties – and the bill passed in August bends over backwards to do exactly that – then why soften it? Why create more loopholes that will put roadblocks in the way of our intelligence services as they work to protect us? We need a permanent solution that will ensure that the men and women working to keep us safe are given every advantage we can offer in fighting a brutal enemy.
Of course, protecting the civil liberties of American citizens is also important to all of us. We must work together to find a balance that guarantees our rights and freedoms without engaging in a suicide pact that unnecessarily allows our enemies to take open advantage of our free society. We must not allow the terrorists outside our country to benefit from the rights and liberties Americans fight for and celebrate. We have placed freedom as the cornerstone of our way of life, but to extend the protection of our constitutional liberties to foreign terrorists who seek our destruction is grossly unwarranted and unwise if we are to be successful in combating international terrorism.
We have made significant progress in securing our homeland since September 11, and we have learned valuable lessons about the enemy along the way. Now we must strengthen our ability to perform the most essential duty of governance, and to protect ourselves from those who seek to do us harm. Reauthorizing the Protect America Act instead of watering it down is the right way to do that.