Congressional Record: January 23, 2003 (Senate)
Page S1463                        

                          SECURITY DEPARTMENT

  Mr. JEFFORDS. Mr. President, I rise to speak on the nomination of 
Governor Tom Ridge to head the newly created Department of Homeland 
Security. Although I support his confirmation, I would like to 
elaborate on my expectation that Governor Ridge will be responsive to 
Congressional committees as he carries out his duties.
  As the ranking member on the Senate Environment and Public Works 
committee, I have been deeply concerned about the creation of this new 
department. I voted against the legislation creating the Homeland 
Security Department in part because of concerns about the Federal 
Emergency Management Agency, FEMA, role in the new organization and its 
ability to carry out its mission once moved into the Department. The 
Environment and Public Works Committee, EPW, will continue to have 
oversight of FEMA within the new department. I fully expect Governor 
Ridge to answer any and all questions we may have about FEMA's new role 
in a responsive and timely fashion.
  I also expect the Department to act to protect our chemical and 
nuclear plants from attack and to support legislation such as S. 157, 
the Chemical Security Act sponsored by Senator Corzine and myself in 
the 108th Congress, and favorably reported by the EPW Committee in the 
107th Congress as S. 1602, and S. 1746, the Nuclear Security Act 
sponsored by Senator Reid and reported favorably by the EPW Committee 
in the 107th Congress.
  Governor Ridge expressed his concern about these important security 
issues in testimony before the EPW Committee on July 10, 2002, stating, 
``The fact is, we have a very diversified economy and our enemies look 
at some of our economic assets as targets. And clearly, the chemical 
facilities are one of them.'' The Washington Post published a letter on 
Sunday, October 6, 2002 from Governor Ridge and Administrator Whitman 
expressing the commitment of the Bush Administration to reduce the 
vulnerability of America's chemical facilities to terrorist attack. In 
this letter the Governor stated that voluntary efforts alone are not 
sufficient to provide the level of assurance Americans deserve. I agree 
with the Governor and expect his engagement in the development of 
legislation to address this issue.
  As Senator Levin pointed out in Governor Ridge's confirmation hearing 
before the Government Affairs committee last week, language contained 
in section 214 of the implementing legislation for the Homeland 
Security Department could be interpreted to exempt from disclosure any 
information included in a voluntary submission, including evidence of 
illegal activity such as hazardous waste dumping. Further information, 
even if discovered independently of the submission, could not be used 
in any action against that company. Even a Member of Congress would be 
prevented from taking any action with that information.
  In other words, this language could give substantial legal shelter to 
companies acting illegally. The potential environmental consequences of 
this are enormous.
  While I note the potential for this interpretation, I do not believe 
it is the correct interpretation, and I was heartened to hear that 
Secretary Ridge shares my views on this. In last week's confirmation 
hearing, he said, ``That certainly wasn't the intent, I'm sure, of 
those who advocated the Freedom of Information Act exemption--to give 
wrongdoers protection, or to protect illegal activity. And I'll 
certainly work with you to clarify that language.''
  I agree with the Secretary that ambiguities in this language must be 
clarified to make clear that it is only the physical document being 
submitted to the Department of Homeland Security that is intended to be 
protected by this provision. Records generated elsewhere or by other 
means, even if they contain similar or identical information to that 
which was submitted to Homeland Security, would not be affected by this 
provision but would continue to be treated under existing Freedom of 
Information Act provisions or other applicable law. This allows 
confidentiality of the information voluntarily submitted to Homeland 
Security, while still allowing other Government agencies to proceed 
with their duties under existing law. It also allows the public 
continued access to information to which it has traditionally been 
entitled under our public information laws.
  I look forward to working with Governor Ridge as he assumes his new