01.11.11

Senator Leahy's Remarks On Security For Public Officials

On Tuesday, January 11, Senator Patrick Leahy delivered a speech on his agenda for the Senate Judiciary Committee in the 112th Congress. Following his official remarks, the Senator took questions from the audience. The following is a transcript of a question and answer exchange in which the Senator addresses concerns related to security for elected and public officials.

Question:  Mr. Chairman, you were the target of an attack in 2001, I’m wondering if you could talk about whether that attack or this one will change how you interact with constituents or other Senators do.

Answer: The question I was asked -- I had an attack on myself shortly after 9/11, I received one of the deadly, or was addressed to me, one of the deadly anthrax letters.  People died because of a letter that was addressed to me.  I still wonder who sent it and why they sent it.  I think I’ll probably wonder that for the rest of my life.  For a period of time, the Capitol Police were superb -- provided security.  I felt I really didn’t need it.   I feel perfectly safe in my state of Vermont, it’s one of the safest states in the nation.  I know our local and state police in Vermont have procedures for public meetings in Vermont, I am very satisfied with what they are.  I will obviously not go into details of it for the security reasons. 

The Capitol itself is very, very secure.  I think of what it was like when I was in law school, you just walk in and all the doors are open.  It’s a bit different today, so I don’t feel any worry being there.  I would not want to see every member of Congress walking around with security.  We have it for the obvious ones -- the leadership and the speaker, and I have no problem with that.  I don’t want to see members of Congress all walking around with security.  I think it isolates you from the people you represent.  It’s not the kind of country we are. 

I’ve been in countries, totalitarian countries where every single person seems to have security.  People from some of these countries come to visit and are surprised to see me get in my own car and drive home.  I want to keep it that way.  I think it would be a mistake if we put any more barriers.  The one place we can really be ourselves is at home.  I want that to continue.  The country is better off if we can.

I would urge, I really would urge  -- I’d urge this of the right and the left. Stop, every time you disagree, disagree with somebody in public office, stop attacking their motives and ascribing some kind of a nefarious motive just because they disagree with you. 

We have good men and women across the political spectrum who represent people in this country across the political spectrum.  But let us understand there are no easy answers to the problems facing Americans, there never have been.  There weren’t easy answers in World War I or World War II.  There weren’t easy answers during the Great Depression, but we had men and women who came together and sought the best answers possible to make this a greater and stronger country. 

Don’t we owe that to our children and our grandchildren?  Step back from the rhetoric, start going to reality, step back from the symbols and go to substance.  Start working together.  This is a great and wonderful country.  We’re a beacon to the rest of the world, let’s make sure that beacon is a little bit brighter than it has been. 

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