Testimony of Stephen M. Flatow
House of Representatives
Committee on the Judiciary
Secret Evidence Repeal Act of 1999
May 23, 2000
Mr. Chairman, good morning. Thank you for inviting me to testify this morning about H.R. 2121, the Secret Evidence Repeal Act of 1999. My 20 year old daughter Alisa was murdered in a 1995 bomb attack in Gaza. She was a passenger in a public bus when a suicide bomber of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad rammed the bus with a van loaded with explosives. Seven others died that April morning.
While I am by profession a lawyer, I appear before you this morning not as such but in my role as a father who has been working for more than five years to accomplish two things. First, to bring his daughter's killers to justice, and, second, to put terrorists wherever they may be found out of business. I am driven by the belief that no other father, mother, brother or sister should have to experience what my family and many others have gone through these past years.
In the fall of 1995, six months after Alisa's murder, I was shocked to learn that associates of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorists who killed my daughter were freely operating here in the United States in Tampa, Florida.
Due to great work by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Immigration and Naturalization Service and U.S. Customs, several arrests of Palestinian Islamic Jihad activists were made and bases of operations were broken-up. As a result of these operations, I believe this country became a place far safer from the threat of terrorism than it was previously.
I do not consider myself a constitutional scholar but I should believe it is obvious that the guarantees of our great Constitution do not require us to allow us to stand-by idly while people take up residence in this country for the purpose of using it a base for terrorist activity.
On April 9, 1995, while my daughter was boarding a bus for a few days vacation, Ramadan Abdallah Shallah, the current head of Palestinian Islamic Jihad was raising money from his base of operations in Florida. He was assisted by one Mazzen Al-Najjar who is now in American custody and who has become a "poster boy" for proponents of HR 2121.
Having crossed the line of human decency by murdering innocent civilians, terrorists and those who aid and abet them forfeit some of the protection law abiding citizens so highly value and take for granted in the United States. It is the terrorist's blatant disregard for the sanctity of human life that requires us to assist those who are committed to protect us by giving them special tools to fight it; even if some would usually call those tools a violation of one's constitutional rights.
Sadly, if one's knowledge of the use of secret evidence was solely dependent upon various civil liberty and Arab and Muslim American advocacy groups, one could not help but say that the law has to go. After all, we are told by the American Civil Liberties Union that "virtually every recent secret evidence case that has come to public attention involves a Muslim or an Arab." I do not believe for a second that one's ethnicity or religion should be the focus of attention here. And inserting that charge into the discussion diverts us from the real issue--will this country use all tools at its disposal to make this country, indeed the world, safe from terrorism.
The focus of your attention as you debate H.R. 2121 should be how to best protect America and the rest of the world from the threat of terrorism. Neither our legal system nor the rights of its law abiding citizens will be weakened one iota by the continued use of secret evidence in its strictly limited application.
If we are going to eliminate terrorism, we must deny its supporters a base of operations. Terrorists and their compatriots must not be allowed to hide behind the facade of a "normal family life" because their sole purpose is to deny law abiding citizens a normal and tranquil family life. We must not allow them to set down roots in this country and we must be ever vigilant to remind those who raise the banner of civil liberty that victims have rights, too.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
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