Introduction of “See Something, Say Something Act”: Bill Protects Citizens Who Report Possible Terror Activity

Washington, D.C - House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith today joined Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Joseph Lieberman and Ranking Member Susan Collins in introducing legislation to better protect citizens who report suspicious activity indicating possible terror activity. The See Something, Say Something Act expands protections against lawsuits for individuals who report terrorist-related activity and for law enforcement officers who respond to the tip.

Just a few weeks ago in Texas, a tip from an alert citizen led to the arrest of a Saudi-national who was plotting to use a weapon of mass destruction against innocent civilians. According to the affidavit, Khalid Ali-M Aldawsari’s list of targets included former U.S. military service members, dams, nuclear power plants and even the home of former President George W. Bush. The plot was uncovered when a chemical supplier notified the FBI about Aldawsari’s attempt to purchase a toxic chemical called phenol. In 2010, a plot to bomb Times Square was thwarted when two individuals notified the NYPD after seeing smoke coming from a parked car.

Chairman Smith: “Time and again the brave actions of alert citizens have helped to thwart terror plots and save lives. It is not enough for intelligence officials and investigators to combat the terror threat alone. We need the help of alert citizens who see something suspicious and say something to authorities. This bill provides legal safeguards for vigilant citizens who provide tips regarding possible terror activity and the law enforcement officers who follow up on those leads. We cannot afford to let those who help prevent terror attacks become the targets of senseless liability suits.”

Senator Collins: “An alert citizenry can be our first line of defense against terrorist attacks. We saw this during the Times Square attempted bombing and just recently in Lubbock, Texas. If not for the concerned citizens in these cases, the consequences may have been deadly. Our current legal system actually deters some citizens from coming forward and reporting these potential dangers. For example, in 2006, a group of US Airways passengers found themselves as defendants in a civil rights lawsuit after they reported six Islamic clerics requesting seat changes and asking for, but not using, seat belt extenders that could potentially be used as weapons. They were acting in good faith to report suspicious activity and ended up in tangled litigation. Our laws must do more to protect individuals like these, encouraging them to report suspicious activity when they see it and promote a sense of civic duty.”

Senator Lieberman: “Time and again, we’ve seen terrorist plots disrupted because alert citizens noticed suspicious behavior and alerted law enforcement. Just last month, the FBI arrested a man in Texas who tried to buy dangerous chemicals from a supplier who notified authorities. We want to encourage such behavior and not let the threat of lawsuits deter honest citizens who see something, to say something.”

A copy of the bill can be found here.

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