Ron Paul's Texas Straight Talk - A weekly Column

October 15, 2001

Effective and Practical Counter-Terrorism Measures

Over the past month I have introduced several bills designed to address terrorism and make Americans feel more secure. While many counter-terrorism proposals were considered in Congress last week, my belief is that the most effective steps we can take do not infringe upon the civil liberties of American citizens. In fact, I believe only a free society can ever be truly secure. The goal should be to make terrorists feel threatened, not the American people.

Here are some concrete steps Congress can take immediately to make our borders, our cities, and our skies more secure:

Arm Pilots: It is unthinkable to leave pilots defenseless in the cockpit after the events of September 11th. We trust pilots to operate multimillion dollar machines filled with human cargo, yet incredibly we do not trust them with firearms. While airport security certainly can be strengthened, pilots must have the choice to carry weapons as a last line of defense against future hijacking attempts.

Immigration Restrictions: Common sense tells us that we should not currently be admitting aliens from nations that sponsor or harbor terrorists. Remember, only U.S. citizens have constitutional rights; non-citizens are in the country at the discretion of the State department. While we should generally welcome people from around the world whenever possible, we cannot allow potential enemies or terrorists to enter the country now under any circumstances. My legislation would restrict immigration, including the granting of student visas, by individuals from nations listed as terrorist threats by the State department.

Better intelligence gathering: Burdensome regulations and bureaucratic turf wars hamper the ability of federal law enforcement personnel to share information about terrorists. My proposal would slash regulations and make sure the CIA, FBI, State department, Justice department, and military work together to coordinate anti-terrorism efforts.

Harsher criminal penalties for terrorists: The federal statute of limitations for terrorist offenses should be eliminated, so that suspects can never breathe easy even 10 or 20 years from now. Jail sentences and penalties should be increased, and the death penalty should be possible for many offenses. Terrorist attempts and conspiracies should be treated as harshly as completed acts.

Letters of marque and reprisal: This constitutional tool can be used to give President Bush another weapon in the war on terrorism. Congress can issue letters of marque against terrorists and their property that authorize the President to name private sources who can capture or kill our enemies. This method works in conjunction with our military efforts, creating an incentive for people on the ground close to Bin Laden to kill or capture him and his associates. Letters of marque are especially suited to the current war on terrorism, which will be fought against individuals who can melt into the civilian population or hide in remote areas. The goal is to avail ourselves of the intelligence of private parties, who may stand a better chance of finding Bin Laden than we do through a conventional military invasion. Letters of marque also may help us avoid a wider war with Afghanistan or other Middle Eastern nations.

End legal preferences for terrorist suspects: Congress should clarify all federal criminal statutes to insure that so-called "extralegal" preferences for criminal terrorist suspects are eliminated. In some past terrorist investigations, federal rules have been interpreted to require law enforcement to show something more than standard probable cause to obtain warrants. Law enforcement officials should never have to demonstrate anything more than standard probable cause when seeking a warrant in the war on terrorism.