This country and this Congress have come to a critical juncture, Mr. President, in determining how we will respond to continuing acts of terrorism perpetrated on innocent Americans around the world. We have come to the point where we, as legislators, must lay aside partisan politics and join together to make the tough decisions which are necessary if we are to protect American lives.
Terrorism is not only a crime against humanity, it is an act of war. It is an act of armed aggression and a serious threat to this country's national security. Mr. President, it is time we begin to treat terrorism as we would any other act of war directed against the United States.
Unfortunately, even after some of the most horrifying acts of terrorism imaginable against innocent Americans abroad, the United States has repeatedly found itself without any means of recourse or action. Such is the terrain of this new battlefield, Mr. President, that terrorists have been able to effectively use and hide behind international law to carry out these reprehensible acts and still have the relative sanctuary offered by a handful of rogue countries more than willing to allow their territory to be used as a base of aggression against the United States.
President Reagan once warned terrorists that `they could run, but they could not hide.' Sadly, however, events have proven that after committing acts of terror, the perpetrators have repeatedly disappeared only to reemerge later in a country willing to provide safe haven to the terrorists. These countries, which often go beyond offering sanctuary and provide logistical support or even coconspire in the acts of terror, shelter these killers by hiding behind international laws that guarantee that country's right of sovereignty.
Requests to these countries to extradite these terrorists are usually ignored. Obligations to arrest and prosecute these terrorists under international law agreements are not carried out. Some of these countries not only shelter these criminals of humanity, they welcome them as heroes. Mr. President, many of us remember the Black September terrorists after murdering the Israeli athletes in Munich being welcomed triumphantly in Libya by Colonel Qadhafi.
In fact, Mr. President, terrorism has provided radical organizations and countries a popular means to carry out acts of aggression against the United States with almost near impunity. I would quote the legal advisor to the Secretary of State who said in a speech to the Army Judge Advocate School in May 1989 that `international law is too often used to serve terrorists and their objectives.'
Mr. President, my bill addresses this problem. It takes this country to the next logical, and I would argue inevitable, step in the war on terrorists. It addresses the issue of the President's constitutional right to exercise U.S. criminal jurisdiction to track down and apprehend terrorists. And, Mr. President, it addresses his authority to apprehend those terrorists, if necessary, in countries that are deliberately sheltering these killers or violating international law by ignoring its obligations under international law to apprehend and prosecute them.
Mr. President, let me state categorically that the President presently has the authority under the Constitution and under international law to enforce extraterritorial criminal jurisdiction. Article II, section 3, of the Constitution provides that the President `take care that the laws be faithfully executed', which includes international laws, and is augmented with enabling statutes for the FBI, 28 U.S.C. 533(1) and 18 U.S.C. 3052, providing authority `to detect and prosecute crimes' and `make arrests' without any express geographic limitation. This brings us to perhaps the real issue of my bill; the President's ability to exercise that constitutional and statutory authority.
This bill is not intended to give the President authority he already has. It is intended instead to free him of years of congressional restrictions and interpretations which have interfered with and inhibited his capability to respond to acts of terrorism.
I also do not think many of these restrictions were originally intended to apply to the President's ability to deal with terrorism or conduct counterterrorist operations. In any case, Mr. President, Congress has a nonnegotiable commitment to the citizens of this country who demand to be defended, and who demand that we bring these killers to justice. Congress has done a lot to weaken the Office of President through years of interference and micromanagement, therefore it follows that Congress has an obligation to clean its own house and eliminate these restrictions that inhibit our President's capability to act.
Mr. President, the United States must continue to preserve our high standards of behavior and abide by our international obligations. We must adhere to our international agreements to the absolute limits of their statutory requirements. We have, and we must continue to work in cooperation with other nations to apprehend international criminals and bring them to justice. In the case of most countries of the world, the responsible nations, our existing international agreements provide the framework to do this successfully.
My bill has no effect on, nor poses any threat to, the responsible nations of the world, Mr. President. It addresses those few nations of the world which repeatedly flaunt international law, repeatedly dishonor treaties or protocols they have agreed to, repeatedly commit repulsive crimes against humanity and repeatedly sponsor acts of terror on the civilized nations of the world. It addresses those outlaw nations and the terrorists they
harbor whose international behavior would clearly be defined as violating all norms of proper international behavior.
Importantly, Mr. President, my bill addresses countries that by aiding, supporting, or directing terrorist groups are by definition engaged in aggression against other nations. Victims of aggression, Mr. President, are entitled under international law to exercise the right of self defense and therefore entitled to take measures, under certain circumstances, to enforce criminal jurisdiction in another country. Few experts in law would argue against this basic principle of international law, which is codified under article 51 of the United Nations Charter.
Of course, Mr. President, these same countries sheltering terrorists or drug traffickers are the first to scream for the protection of their sovereignty under the same international laws they are repeatedly violating. And what of the issue of sovereignty? Is the United States obligated to remain frozen and victimized by terrorists and their sponsor-states because they involve the right of `sovereignty?' I think not.
Mr. President, by U.N. definition, a violation of another country's sovereignty requires a threat to a country's territorial integrity, political independence, human rights, peace, or self-determination--none of which would be threatened by the arrest of a terrorist of drug trafficker. A growing number of international lawyers are arguing that a nation has the right to apprehend a criminal in another country, without the consent of that country, if it is an act of self defense in response to aggression and that country refuses to adhere to its international obligations or is incapable to do so. Such action, if necessary and proportionate, is permissible under international law.
Mr. President, my bill would create no new Presidential authority. It simply codifies that authority, free of congressional restrictions and interference. It returns to the President the flexibility he was intended to have by our country's Founding Fathers. Our President must be able to make the tough decisions necessary to defend American lives and deter acts of agression, free of ambiguities and unclouded by congressional interpretations of legality.
Mr. President, if this bill is passed it will make a powerful statement that will be a milestone in the war against terrorism. It will declare an end to a dark era, when international terrorists were able to use international law as a sanctuary. In essence it will strip away one of the most effective mechanisms available to terrorists and their state-sponsors. Importantly, Mr. President, it will announce an unequivocal partnership between the Congress and the U.S. President, strongly linked by a common determination, to eradicate terrorists and their sponsors.
Mr. President, thank you for the opportunity to speak out on this issue.