1995 Congressional Hearings
Intelligence and Security

                        Testimony of

               Representative David E. Skaggs


    H.R. 1710, "Comprehensive Antiterrorism Act of 1995"

                 Committee on the Judiciary

                        June 12, 1995

     Mr. Chairman, I appreciate your courtesy in providing

me with this opportunity to briefly address one aspect of

the very important anti terrorism bill the committee is

considering today.

     I agree with the President and with members on both

sides of the aisle that Congress should take additional

steps to prevent terrorism and to make punishment for

terrorists swifter and more certain. The tragic bombings in

Oklahoma City and two years earlier in New York City

awakened all of us to the fact that America is not immune to

terrorist acts. It is essential for Congress to see that we

are doing all we should do to prevent any repetition of

those terrible crimes.

     At the same time, discussion of stepped-up counter

terrorism efforts has also aroused public concerns that law

enforcement agencies may tend to slip over proper

Constitutional boundaries in combating terrorism -- that

their actions to keep us safe may sometimes collide with the

Constitution's wise restraints that keep us free.

     To address those concerns, I joined with our colleague

from New Mexico, Steve Schiff, in introducing H.R. 1738, the

"Constitutional Rights Oversight Act." I think that adding

the provisions of our bill to H.R. 1710 would help bring an

important balance to anti terrorism legislation.

     As with all law enforcement efforts, in fighting

terrorism the government must balance the need for public

safety and security with individual rights and liberties,

those of innocent citizens especially. Sadly, our history

provides several examples of the federal government

compromising basic Constitutional rights to thwart perceived

national security threats.

     The FBI's clandestine "cointelpro" program provides but

one stark example of such governmental arrogance. In the

name of national security, then-director J. Edgar Hoover

presided over a program of unauthorized surveillance and

harassment of those who legitimately protested government

policies. Given this history, there are serious concerns in

the country about giving expanded investigative powers to

federal authorities.

     To respond to those concerns, H.R. 1738 would establish

a independent and top-level inspector general for counter

terrorism activities, to be responsible for ensuring that 

federal counterrorism activities comply with Constitutional


     The most important feature of this new inspector

general would be the cross-cutting scope of the authority of

the office. Unlike the existing inspectors general of

various departments, this new officer would have oversight

authority over the counterterrorism work of agencies as

diverse as the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the

Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Bureau of Alcohol,

Tobacco, and Firearms.

     In short, this new inspector general would have the

authority not simply to review the actions of one

department, but to watch the counterterrorism activities of

all agencies, to assure their adherence to the Constitution

and their full respect for Constitutional rights.

     Besides the power to review, under our bill the new

inspector general would have the power to act, in three

significant ways:

     First, agencies would be required to keep this new

inspector general informed of requests for judicial or

administrative authorization for searches, wiretaps, and

similar surveillance activities. The new inspector general

would be kept similarly informed about deportation actions

related to the fight against terrorism.  In connection with

all these proceedings, the new inspector general could make

suggestions, or question the requested surveillance or

deportations, to the extent appropriate in order to protect

Constitutional rights.

     Second, the new inspector general would receive public

complaints about alleged or potential violations of

Constitutional rights. Upon receiving these complaints, the

inspector general could require relevant agencies to


     Finally, the new inspector general would be responsible

for submitting periodic reports to the president and the

Congress concerning the observance of Constitutional

requirements, and the protection of Constitutional rights,

in connection with federal counterterrorism activities, and

to make suggestions for improvements.

     Just as important as these particular powers, Mr.

Chairman, would be the restraining effect of the mere

existence of such an independent inspector general.  The

requirements for immediate Constitutional accountability

that the office would impose on tendency a government

official might have to be casual about Constitutional


     Mr. Chairman, the american public has a very real stake

in being protected from terrorism.  it also has a high stake

in seeing that the government doesn't cut Constitutional

corner in providing that protection.

     We do not need to trade our Constitutionally-protected

rights, including the rights to privacy, free assembly, and

free speech, for enhanced protection from terrorists. If we

should make that mistake, terrorism will have achieved a


     To avoid that result, Mr. Chairman, I urge the

committee to include the provisions of H.R. 1738 in any anti

terrorism measure your Committee reports to the House. In

that way, the Committee and the House can demonstrate our

commitment to protecting both public safety and personal

freedom while providing the right response to the public's

fears both of violence and of government abuse of civil


     A nation which so rightly reveres its constitution

deserves no less from its government.