[Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents Volume 37, Number 43 (Monday, October 29, 2001)]
[Pages 1550-1552]
[Online from the Government Publishing Office, www.gpo.gov]

Remarks on Signing the USA PATRIOT ACT of 2001

October 26, 2001

    Good morning and welcome to the White House. Today we take an 
essential step in defeating terrorism, while protecting the 
constitutional rights of all Americans. With my signature, this law will 
give intelligence and law enforcement officials important new tools to 
fight a present danger.
    I commend the House and Senate for the hard work they put into this 
legislation. Members of Congress and their staffs spent long nights and 
weekends to get this important bill to my desk. I appreciate their 
efforts and bipartisanship in passing this new law.
    I want to thank the Vice President and his staff for working hard to 
make sure this law was passed. I want to thank the Secretary of State 
and the Secretary of Treasury for being here, both of whom lead 
important parts of our war against terrorism. I want to thank Attorney 
General John Ashcroft for spending a lot of time on the Hill to make the 
case for a balanced piece of legislation. I want to thank the Director 
of the FBI and the Director of the CIA for waging an incredibly 
important part on the two-front war, one overseas and a front here at 
    I want to thank Governor Tom Ridge for his leadership. I want to 
thank the Members of Congress who are here on the stage, the leaders, on 
this impressive effort: Senator

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Hatch and Senator Leahy and Senator Sarbanes and Senator Graham and 
Senator Reid.
    I also want to thank Representative Porter Goss, LaFalce, Oxley, and 
Sensenbrenner for their hard work. And I want to welcome the men and 
women of law enforcement who are here in the White House with us today, 
as well.
    The changes, effective today, will help counter a threat like no 
other our Nation has ever faced. We've seen the enemy and the murder of 
thousands of innocent, unsuspecting people. They recognize no barrier of 
morality. They have no conscience. The terrorists cannot be reasoned 
with. Witness the recent anthrax attacks through our Postal Service.
    Our country is grateful for the courage the Postal Service has shown 
during these difficult times. We mourn the loss of the lives of Thomas 
Morris and Joseph Curseen, postal workers who died in the line of duty. 
And our prayers go to their loved ones.
    I want to assure postal workers that our Government is testing more 
than 200 postal facilities along the entire eastern corridor that may 
have been impacted. And we will move quickly to treat and protect 
workers where positive exposures are found.
    But one thing is for certain: These terrorists must be pursued; they 
must be defeated; and they must be brought to justice. And that is the 
purpose of this legislation. Since the 11th of September, the men and 
women of our intelligence and law enforcement agencies have been 
relentless in their response to new and sudden challenges.
    We have seen the horrors terrorists can inflict. We may never know 
what horrors our country was spared by the diligent and determined work 
of our police forces, the FBI, ATF agents, Federal marshals, custom 
officers, Secret Service, intelligence professionals, and local law 
enforcement officials. Under the most trying conditions, they are 
serving this country with excellence and often with bravery.
    They deserve our full support and every means of help that we can 
provide. We're dealing with terrorists who operate by highly 
sophisticated methods and technologies, some of which were not even 
available when our existing laws were written. The bill before me takes 
account of the new realities and dangers posed by modern terrorists. It 
will help law enforcement to identify, to dismantle, to disrupt, and to 
punish terrorists before they strike.
    For example, this legislation gives law enforcement officials better 
tools to put an end to financial counterfeiting, smuggling, and money 
laundering. Secondly, it gives intelligence operations and criminal 
operations the chance to operate not on separate tracks but to share 
vital information so necessary to disrupt a terrorist attack before it 
    As of today, we're changing the laws governing information-sharing. 
And as importantly, we're changing the culture of our various agencies 
that fight terrorism. Countering and investigating terrorist activity is 
the number one priority for both law enforcement and intelligence 
    Surveillance of communications is another essential tool to pursue 
and stop terrorists. The existing law was written in the era of rotary 
telephones. This new law that I sign today will allow surveillance of 
all communications used by terrorists, including e-mails, the Internet, 
and cell phones. As of today, we'll be able to better meet the 
technological challenges posed by this proliferation of communications 
    Investigations are often slowed by limit on the reach of Federal 
search warrants. Law enforcement agencies have to get a new warrant for 
each new district they investigate, even when they're after the same 
suspect. Under this new law, warrants are valid across all districts and 
across all States.
    And finally, the new legislation greatly enhances the penalties that 
will fall on terrorists or anyone who helps them. Current statutes deal 
more severely with drug-traffickers than with terrorists. That changes 
today. We are enacting new and harsh penalties for possession of 
biological weapons. We're making it easier to seize the assets of groups 
and individuals involved in terrorism. The Government will have wider 
latitude in deporting known terrorists and their supporters. The statute 
of limitations on terrorist acts will be lengthened, as will prison 
sentences for terrorists.

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    This bill was carefully drafted and considered. Led by the Members 
of Congress on this stage and those seated in the audience, it was 
crafted with skill and care, determination and a spirit of 
bipartisanship for which the entire Nation is grateful. This bill met 
with an overwhelming--overwhelming--agreement in Congress because it 
upholds and respects the civil liberties guaranteed by our Constitution.
    This legislation is essential not only to pursuing and punishing 
terrorists but also preventing more atrocities in the hands of the evil 
ones. This Government will enforce this law with all the urgency of a 
nation at war. The elected branches of our Government and both political 
parties are united in our resolve to find and stop and punish those who 
would do harm to the American people.
    It is now my honor to sign into law the USA PATRIOT ACT of 2001.

Note: The President spoke at 9:49 a.m. in the East Room at the White 
House. In his remarks, he referred to Thomas L. Morris, Jr., and Joseph 
P. Curseen, Jr., postal workers at the Brentwood postal facility in 
Washington, DC, who died as a result of anthrax infections contracted 
from contaminated mail processed at the facility. H.R. 3162, Uniting and 
Strengthening America By Providing Appropriate Tools Required To 
Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism (USA PATRIOT ACT) Act of 2001, approved 
October 26, was assigned Public Law No. 107-56.