Letter from Woolsey
To Mr. Frank Scott [Coastal Post Columnist]
Thank you for contacting me about the terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Since Sept. 11, my office has received more than 5,000 letters, emails, faxes and phone calls related to the attacks and our nation's response. I appreciate that you've taken the time to share your thoughts and given me the opportunity to let you know what Congress is doing. I regret the delay in responding.
Like you, I am outraged and saddened by the events of Sept. 11. In an instant, we've been propelled into a new era that requires us to carefully assess what is an appropriate response to this new threat. To what extent should the federal government help the people and industries directly affected by the attacks? How can we increase our national security without unnecessarily infringing on our civil liberties? Questions like these deserve careful consideration. That's why I continually urge my colleagues to remember that just as Sept. 11 changed our country, our response will also leave an indelible mark on the lives of the American people.
Please know my vote to authorize Presidential use of force was without question the most difficult during my service in Congress, because like the overwhelming number of my constituents, I oppose indiscriminate military action. That's why when the resolution was being drafted, I insisted our leadership narrow it in scope and not allow it to be a "blank check" for any future military action. Once those concerns were addressed, it was right for me to stand in unity with my colleagues and demonstrate our nation's steadfast determination to address terrorism. As I stated on the House floor, it's my expectation that our absolute resolve to bring the terrorists to justice must always be tempered with wisdom. We must keep diplomatic efforts and coalition-building activities as a focal point for the duration of "Operation Enduring Freedom." With the onset of air strikes and limited use of ground troops, we must take a very measured, deliberate approach that carefully targets only military and political installations of the al Qaeda network and the Taliban. Our nation has no argument with the innocent people of Afghanistan, and we must take every precaution to ensure that we do not add to the number of innocent victims. I support the humanitarian aid drops, and see them as a sign the Administration grasps the importance of helping the innocent even as we punish the guilty.
In the wake of the attacks, Congress has debated proposals to fund recovery efforts, bring financial stability and increase security to affected industries-including the airline and insurance industries-as well as an antiterrorism package that includes new, broad law enforcement powers. The $40 billion recovery aid package that I supported will be used for: federal, state and local preparedness efforts to counter, investigate and prosecute domestic and international terrorism; increased security for transportation; repairing damage to public facilities and systems; and supporting national security efforts. Of the $40 billion total, at least $20 billion is to be allocated for New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.
Please know I voted against the bill that provided $15 billion to the airline industry because it didn't include protections for airline workers who lost, or will soon lose, their jobs due to Sept. 11. Workers need relief because they're now jobless, and most without health care and adequate unemployment insurance for themselves and their families. By not including help for workers, we severely hinder our ability to carry out the needed security measures that are labor intensive and require skilled, experienced employees.
It's crucial that Congress updates security measures to increase passenger and flight safety, as Sept. 11 showed the weaknesses in the current system. That's why I support a Democratic proposal that steps up aviation security by placing it in the hands of federal law enforcement personnel, including baggage and passenger screeners. This same proposal passed the Senate 100-0. Unfortunately, the House defeated it in lieu of a Republican measure that keeps the same private contractors in charge of aviation security. This is unacceptable. You can be certain I'll continue to urge that the final version includes the House Democratic and the Senate language that protects passengers and restores public confidence in our aviation security by federalizing aviation security personnel.
On Nov. 1, President Bush signed into law an antiterrorism bill that contains many provisions that go far beyond the powers necessary to fight terrorism on American soil. I voted against this bill in the House because it created a false sense of security by authorizing broad new law enforcement powers that will diminish civil liberties. The law enforcement community does need additional tools to combat terrorism and ensure Americans' safety. Nevertheless, we cannot embrace proposals that encroach on Americans' civil liberties and ultimately make us less free. Congress must not let terrorism win by weakening our government's system of checks and balances. For example, the antiterrorism bill lifted limits on programs like Carnivore, the tool to read private email correspondence, and leaves it up to the FBI to decide what email content they would read and how the information would be treated. In fact, an individual wouldn't even know their email is being read. The people of Marin and Sonoma counties know the difference between inconvenience and loss of civil liberties, and have made it overwhelmingly clear that an unchecked power grab by law enforcement is unacceptable.
Again, thanks for keeping in touch during this national tragedy. it is a privilege to represent the people of Marin and Sonoma counties in Congress, and I hope you are doing well.
Member of Congress
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