[Congressional Record Volume 158, Number 51 (Wednesday, March 28, 2012)]
[Extensions of Remarks]
[Pages E467-E468]

                          SECURITY ACT OF 2012


                       HON. ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON

                      of the district of columbia

                    in the house of representatives

                       Wednesday, March 28, 2012

  Ms. NORTON. Mr. Speaker, as the cherry blossom season begins, 
bringing thousands of Americans here, I rise to reintroduce the United 
States Commission on an Open Society with Security Act of 2012. The 
bill expresses an idea I began working on when the

[[Page E468]]

first signs of the closing of parts of our open society appeared after 
the Oklahoma City bombing, well before 9/11. This bill grows more 
urgent as an increasing variety of security measures proliferate 
throughout the country without any thought about the effects on common 
freedoms and ordinary public access, and without any guidance from the 
government or elsewhere. Take the example of government buildings. 
Federal building security has gotten so out of control that a tourist 
passing by a Federal building cannot even get in to use the restroom or 
enjoy the many restaurants located in areas otherwise devoid of such 
amenities. The security for Federal buildings has too long resided only 
in the hands of non-security experts, who do not take into account 
actual threats and, as a result, spend lavish amounts of taxpayer 
dollars on needless security procedures. For example, several years 
ago, Government Accountability Office investigators carried bomb-making 
materials into 10 high-security Federal buildings and then assembled 
them in the bathrooms. This scandal shines a light on the failure to 
use risk-based assessments in the allocation of resources.
  The bill I reintroduce today would begin a systematic investigation 
that fully takes into account the importance of maintaining our 
democratic traditions while responding adequately to the real and 
substantial threat that terrorism poses. To accomplish its difficult 
mission, the bill authorizes a 21-member commission, with the President 
designating nine members and the House and Senate each designating six 
members, to investigate the balance of openness and security. The 
commission would be composed not only of military and security experts, 
but, for the first time, they would be at the same table with experts 
from such fields as business, architecture, technology, law, city 
planning, art, engineering, philosophy, history, sociology, and 
psychology. To date, questions of security most often have been left 
almost exclusively to security and military experts. They are 
indispensable participants, but these experts cannot alone resolve all 
the new and unprecedented issues raised by terrorism in an open 
society. In order to strike the security/access balance required by our 
democratic traditions, a diverse group of experts needs to be at the 
same table.
  For years, parts of our open society have gradually been closed down 
because of terrorism and the fear of terrorism, from checkpoints on 
streets near the Capitol, even when there are no alerts, to 
applications of technology without regard to their effects on privacy.
  Following the unprecedented terrorist attack on our country on 9/11, 
Americans expected additional and increased security adequate to 
protect citizens against this frightening threat. However, in our 
country, people also expect government to be committed and smart enough 
to undertake this awesome new responsibility without depriving them of 
their personal liberty. These times will long be remembered for the 
rise of terrorism in the world and in this country and the 
unprecedented challenges it has brought. We must provide ever-higher 
levels of security for our people and public spaces while maintaining a 
free and open democratic society. Yet this is no ordinary threat that 
we expect to be over in a matter of years. The end point could be 
generations from now. The indeterminate nature of the threat adds to 
the necessity of putting aside ad hoc approaches to security developed 
in isolation from the goal of maintaining an open society.
  When we have faced unprecedented and perplexing issues in the past, 
we have had the good sense to investigate them deeply before moving to 
resolve them. Examples include the National Commission on Terrorist 
Attacks Upon the United States (also known as the 9/11 Commission), the 
Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States 
Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction (also known as the Silberman-Robb 
Commission), and the Kerner Commission, which investigated the riots 
that swept American cities in the 1960s and 1970s. The important 
difference in this bill is that the Commission seeks to act before a 
crisis-level erosion of basic freedoms takes hold and becomes 
entrenched. Because global terrorism is likely to be long lasting, we 
cannot afford to allow the proliferation of security measures that 
neither requires nor is subject to advanced civilian oversight, or 
analysis of alternatives and repercussions on freedom and commerce.
  With no vehicles for leadership on issues of security and openness, 
we have been left to muddle through, using blunt 19th century 
approaches, such as crude blockades, unsightly barriers around 
beautiful monuments, and other signals that our society is closing 
down, all without appropriate exploration of possible alternatives. The 
threat of terrorism to an open society is too serious to be left to ad 
hoc problem-solving. Such approaches are often as inadequate as they 
are menacing.
  We can do better, but only if we recognize and come to grips with the 
complexities associated with maintaining a society of free and open 
access in a world characterized by unprecedented terrorism. The place 
to begin is with a high-level commission of experts from a broad array 
of disciplines to help chart the new course that will be required to 
protect our people and our precious democratic institutions and