[Congressional Record: April 23, 2009 (Senate)]
[Page S4680-S4682]


      By Ms. COLLINS (for herself and Mr. Lieberman):
  S. 879. A bill to amend the Homeland Security Act to provide immunity 
for reports of suspected terrorist activity or suspicious behavior and 
response; to the Committee on the Judiciary.
  Ms. COLLINS. Mr. President, the recent terrorist attacks in Mumbai, 
India, are a sobering reminder that terrorists continue to threaten our 
Nation and civilized people throughout the world. An alert citizenry is 
our first line of defense against terrorist attacks, particularly 
attacks like those in Mumbai. Our laws must protect individuals from 
frivolous lawsuits when they report, in good faith, suspicious behavior 
that may indicate terrorist activity. That is why I am introducing 
legislation, with Senator Lieberman, that will provide these important 
  In the 2007 homeland security law, Chairman Lieberman and I 
coauthored a provision to encourage people to report potential 
terrorist threats directed against transportation systems. This new 
legislation would expand those protections to reports of suspicious 
behavior in sectors other than transportation. For example, reports of 
suspicious activity could be equally important in detecting terrorist 
plans to attack ``soft targets'' like the hotels, restaurants, and 
religious institutions targeted in Mumbai.
  Real life examples highlight the need for this bill. In December 
2008, a Federal jury convicted 5 men from New Jersey of conspiring to 
murder American soldiers at Fort Dix. According to law enforcement 
officials, the report of an alert store clerk, who reported that a 
customer had brought in a video showing men firing weapons and shouting 
in Arabic, triggered their investigation. But for the report of this 
vigilant store clerk, law enforcement may not have disrupted this plot 
against Fort Dix.
  That store clerk's action likely saved hundreds of lives. It also 
reveals a core truth of the dangerous times in which we live. Our 
safety depends on more than just police officers, intelligence 
analysts, and soldiers. It also depends on the alertness and civic 
responsibility of all Americans.
  We must encourage citizens to be watchful and to report suspicious 
activity whenever it occurs. That imperative is even stronger in the 
aftermath of the November 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, where it 
appears that the terrorists performed reconnaissance on a number of the 
targets before the actual attacks.
  Senator Lieberman and I recently convened two hearings in the 
Homeland Security Committee to examine lessons learned from those 
horrific attacks. These hearings have reinforced our long-standing 
concern that terrorists might shift their attention from high-value, 
high-security targets to less secure commercial facilities, where there 
is the potential for mass casualties and widespread panic. As we 
witnessed during the three-day siege of Mumbai, commercial facilities 
or ``soft

[[Page S4681]]

targets,'' such as the Taj Mahal, Trident, and Oberoi Hotels, are 
vulnerable, tempting targets.
  Many of the Committee's witnesses during these hearings, including 
Charles Allen, DHS's Chief Intelligence Officer, Donald Van Duyn, the 
FBI's Chief Intelligence Officer, New York City Police Commissioner 
Raymond Kelley, and Al Orlob, Marriott International's Vice President 
for Corporate Security, endorsed the idea of expanding the 2007 law 
beyond the transportation sector. Indeed, Commissioner Kelley said that 
the 2007 law ``made eminently good sense'' and recommended ``that it be 
expanded [to other sectors] if at all possible.''
  Unfortunately, we have seen that our legal system can be used to 
chill the willingness of citizens to come forward and report possible 
dangers. As widely reported by the media in 2006, US Airways removed 6 
Islamic clerics from a flight after other passengers expressed concerns 
that some of the clerics had moved out of the their assigned seats and 
had requested, but were not using, seat belt extenders that could 
possibly double as weapons. In response to these concerns, US Airways 
officials removed these individuals from the plane so that they could 
further investigate.

  For voicing their reasonable fears that these passengers could be 
rehearsing or preparing to execute a hijacking, these honestly 
concerned travelers found themselves as defendants in a civil rights 
lawsuit and accused of bigotry. The old adage about how ``no good deed 
goes unpunished'' is quite apt here.
  The existence of this lawsuit clearly illustrates how unfair it is to 
allow private citizens to be intimidated into silence by the threat of 
litigation. Would the passengers have spoken up if they had anticipated 
that there would be a lawsuit filed against them? Even if such suits 
fail, they can expose citizens to heavy costs in time and legal fees.
  The bill we introduce today would provide civil immunity in American 
courts for any person acting in good faith who reports any suspicious 
transaction, activity, or occurrence related to an act of terrorism. 
Specifically, the bill would encourage people to pass on information to 
Federal officials with responsibility for preventing, protecting 
against, disrupting, or responding to a terrorist act or to Federal, 
State, and local law enforcement officials without fear of being sued 
for doing their civic duty. Only disclosures made to those responsible 
officials would be protected by the legislation.
  Once a report is received, those officials would be responsible for 
assessing its reasonableness and determining whether further action is 
required. If they take reasonable action to mitigate the reported 
threat, they, too, would be protected from lawsuits. Just as we should 
not discourage reporting suspicious incidents, we also should not 
discourage reasonable responses to them.
  Let me make very clear that this bill does not offer any protection 
whatsoever if an individual makes a statement that he or she knows to 
be false. No one will be able to use this protection as cover for 
mischievous, vengeful, or biased falsehoods.
  Our laws and legal system must not be hijacked to intimidate people 
into silence or to prevent our officials from responding to terrorist 
threats. Protecting citizens who make good faith reports--and that's an 
important condition in this bill--of potentially lethal activities is 
essential to maintaining our homeland security. Our bill offers 
protection in a measured way that discourages abuses from either side.
  Each of us has an important responsibility in the fight against 
terrorism. It is not a fight that can be left to law enforcement alone. 
The police simply can't be everywhere. Whether at a hotel, a mall, or 
an arena, homeland security and law enforcement officials need all 
citizens to alert them to unattended packages and behavior that appears 
out of the ordinary.
  Many national organizations, such as the Fraternal Order of Police, 
the National Sheriffs' Association, the National Troopers Coalition, 
and the National Association of Town Watch, support this legislation.
  If someone ``sees something'' suspicious, Congress has an obligation 
to ensure that he or she will ``say something'' about it. This bill 
promotes and protects that civic duty. I urge my colleagues to support 
  There being no objection, the material was ordered to be placed in 
the Record, as follows;

                                   National Troopers Coalition

                                                   March 24, 2009.
     Hon. Susan Collins,
     Ranking Member, Committee on Homeland Security and 
         Governmental Affairs, U.S. Senate, Washington, DC.
       Dear Senator Collins: On behalf of the National Troopers 
     Coalition and its 40,000 members comprised of State Troopers 
     and Highway Patrol Officers, I am writing in support of your 
     efforts to pass the ``See Something, Say Something Act''. We 
     applaud your efforts to keep this country safe.
       Our nation is currently at war against terrorists that want 
     to destroy our country and disrupt our way of life. It is 
     vital that we remain vigilant in our efforts to combat 
     terrorism and keep our country safe. The See Something, Say 
     Something Act, will provide necessary liability protections 
     for citizens that report suspicious activity and for law 
     enforcement officers that act upon these reports. We live in 
     a litigious society and one should not be fearful of 
     litigation when determining if he or she should report 
     suspicious activities that could prevent catastrophic loss of 
     life. What we have learned in our efforts to combat terrorism 
     is that everyone needs to remain vigilant and report all 
     suspicious activities.
       We support your efforts to provide liability protections 
     for citizens acting in good faith that report suspicious 
     activity. We can not turn a ``blind eye'' to the terrorists 
     we are fighting and we must encourage and support an ever 
     vigilant society.
     A. Bradford Card,
       Federal Government Affairs (NTC), for: Michael Edes, 
     Chairman, National Troopers Coalition.

                               National Sheriffs' Association,

                                   Alexandria, VA, March 24, 2009.
     Hon. Susan M. Collins,
     Dirksen Senate Office Building,
     Washington, DC.
       Dear Senator Collins: On behalf of the National Sheriffs' 
     Association (NSA), I am writing to express our support for 
     the See Something, Say something Act of 2009.
       As you may know, the National Sheriffs' Association is the 
     creator of the Neighborhood Watch Program which is one of the 
     oldest and best-known citizen and law enforcement based crime 
     prevention concepts in the United States. In the late 1960s, 
     an increase in crime heightened the need for a crime 
     prevention initiative focused on residential areas involving 
     local citizens. We responded, creating the National 
     Neighborhood Watch Program in 1972 to assist citizens and law 
       For nearly four decades, particularly after the terrorist 
     attacks in 2001, the nation's sheriffs have witnessed 
     firsthand, citizens becoming more empowered by becoming 
     active in homeland security efforts through participation in 
     Neighborhood Watch. Thus, we understand and recognize the 
     importance of encouraging citizen involvement and the role 
     they play in ensuring homeland security.
       The proposed measure would build on this concept by 
     providing the needed legal protections to individuals who 
     report suspicious activity to an authorized official, in good 
     faith, that might reflect terrorist threats. Additionally, it 
     would provide qualified immunity from civil liability for an 
     authorized official who takes reasonable action in good faith 
     to respond to the reported activity.
       We thank you for your continued leadership and support of 
     the nation's emergency responders.
                                            Sheriff David A. Goad,

                                       National Association of

                                                   Town Watch,

                                    Wynnewood, PA, March 24, 2009.
     Hon. Susan M. Collins,
     Washington, DC.
       Dear Senator Collins: On behalf of the National Association 
     of Town Watch (NATW), I am writing to express our support for 
     the See Something, Say Something Act of 2009.
       The National Association of Town Watch is a nonprofit, 
     crime prevention organization whose members include citizen 
     crime watch groups, law enforcement agencies and other 
     organizations across the country involved in organized, 
     anticrime activities. NATW also sponsors the annual 
     ``National Night Out'' crime prevention event which has grown 
     to involve over 15,000 communities from all 50 states on the 
     first Tuesday each August.
       Since 1981, NATW has always promoted the concept of 
     citizens working in close cooperation with their local law 
     enforcement and serving as ``extra eyes and ears.'' The 
     proposed legislation blends beautifully with NATW's mission. 
     It is critical to legally protect individuals who report 
     suspicious activity to an authorized official, in good faith, 
     that might reflect terrorist threats. This legislation also 
     would provide qualified immunity from civil liability for an 
     authorized official who takes reasonable action in good faith 
     to respond to the reported activity.
       We thank you for bringing this legislation forward and for 
     supporting law enforcement

[[Page S4682]]

     and concerned citizens across our great nation.
                                                   Matt A. Peskin,
     Executive Director.

                                          National Fraternal Order

                                                    of Police,

                                   Washington, DC, April 22, 2009.
     Hon. Susan M. Collins,
     Ranking Member, Committee on Homeland Security and 
         Governmental Affairs, U.S. Senate, Washington, DC.
       Dear Senator Collins, On behalf of the membership of the 
     Fraternal Order of Police, I am writing to advise you of our 
     strong support for the bill you have introduced entitled the 
     ``See Something, Say Something Act.''
       Following the terrorist attacks on 11 September 2001 every 
     American, especially law enforcement officers, have become 
     more vigilant. Unfortunately, the increasingly litigious 
     nature of our society may result in many citizens choosing to 
     ``stay out of it''--even if they see something or someone 
     suspicious. Citizens who have reported suspicious activity 
     and law enforcement officers who have acted on these reports 
     have been sued in Federal, State and local courts even though 
     their concerns were reasonable and without malice. The result 
     is that all of us may be more hesitant to report or act upon 
     any suspicious behavior we might see.
       Congress took a step in the right direction in 2007 when it 
     passed legislation granting immunity from civil liability for 
     citizens who report suspicious activity and law enforcement 
     officers who act upon such reports involving threats to 
     transportation security. Your bill would expand this immunity 
     to cover all suspicious activity whether it is in a train 
     station, a Federal building, or a sports stadium. This bill 
     will not only protect vigilant individuals from frivolous 
     lawsuits, but it also greatly increases our nation's 
       On behalf of the more than 327,000 members of the Fraternal 
     Order of Police, I would like to thank you again for your 
     leadership on this issue. If I can be of any further 
     assistance, please do not hesitate to contact me, or 
     Executive Director Jim Pasco, in my Washington office.
                                                 Chuck Canterbury,
                                               National President.