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Statement of Senator Patrick Leahy,
Chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee
Subcommittee on Technology, Terrorism and Government Information
"The Role of Technology in Preventing the Entry of Terrorists in the United States"
October 12, 2001

I am pleased that Senator Feinstein is holding this hearing on a critical matter of concern. After the events of September 11, no one can doubt that we need to do a better job of preventing terrorists from entering our nation, and this hearing will provide valuable options for the Senate to consider. I would like to thank all of our witnesses for their testimony today. In particular, I would like to welcome Commissioner Ziglar, who has certainly endured a baptism by fire over the last month.

First, I would like to point out that one of the major security issues we face involves our border with Canada. The USA Act, the bipartisan anti-terrorism legislation that I co-sponsored and the Senate approved Thursday night by a vote of 96-1, includes important provisions that protect the chronically understaffed northern border. While the number of border patrol agents along the southern border has increased over the last few years to more than 8,000, the number at the northern border has remained the same as a decade ago at 300. This remains true despite the fact that Admad Ressam, the Algerian who planned to blow up the Los Angeles International Airport in 1999, and who has been linked to those involved in the September 11 attacks, chose to enter the United States at our northern border. It will remain an inviting target until we dramatically improve our security.

The USA Act triples the number of Border Patrol, INS inspectors, and Customs Service employees in each of the States along the 4,000-mile northern border. I was gratified when 22 Senators – Democrats and Republicans – wrote to the President supporting such an increase, and I am pleased that the Administration agreed that this critical law enforcement improvement should be included in the bill. Senators Cantwell and Schumer in the Committee and Senators Murray and Dorgan have been especially strong advocates of these provisions and I thank them for their leadership. Now more than ever, we must patrol our border vigilantly and prevent those who wish America harm from gaining entry. At the same time, we must work with the Canadians to allow speedy crossing to legitimate visitors and foster the continued growth of trade that benefits both countries.

Beyond increasing security at our northern border, we need to take additional steps to protect our country. For example, we need to enhance information sharing between our intelligence agencies and the agencies that determine who gets into the United States – the State Department and the INS. The USA Act gives the State Department and INS access to the FBI's National Crime Information Center database, but we must go further to enhance the sharing of information from other agencies.

We also must make sure we develop the best possible biometric technology to identify potential terrorists entering the United States, such as facial recognition or fingerprint systems. The USA Act includes a section requested by Senator Cantwell that requires the Attorney General to report to Congress on the feasibility of enhancing FBI's Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System and other identification systems to better identify people with foreign passports or visas who may be wanted in connection with criminal investigations in the US or abroad.

In short, we need to examine the methods the State Department and the INS use to prevent terrorists from entering the United States, and provide those agencies with the enhanced resources they may need. We should also remember that although we need to call those agencies to make necessary improvements, they cannot bear all of the burden. To prevent future terrorist attacks, we must improve our intelligence-gathering capabilities, and make sure that intelligence about potential terrorists is shared with necessary actors throughout the government.

I am glad that Senator Feinstein is shedding light on these issues through this hearing, and I am very interested in hearing the testimony of today's witnesses.

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