looks like you get 5 years for screaming mushroom clouds in a crowded country


Mr. SENSENBRENNER. Mr. Speaker, I move to suspend the rules and pass the bill (H.R. 3209) to amend title 18, United States Code, with respect to false communications about certain criminal violations, and for other purposes, as amended.

The Clerk read as follows:
H.R. 3209

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,


This Act may be cited as the ''Anti-Hoax Terrorism Act of 2001''.


(a) PROHIBITION ON HOAXES.--Chapter 47 of title 18, United States Code, is amended by inserting after section 1036 the following:``§1037. False information and hoaxes

``(a) CRIMINAL VIOLATION.--Whoever engages in any conduct, with intent to convey false or misleading information, under circumstances where such information may reasonably be believed and where such information concerns an activity which would constitute a violation of section 175, 229, 831, or 2332a, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 5 years, or both.

``(b) CIVIL ACTION.--Whoever engages in any conduct, with intent to convey false or misleading information, under circumstances where such information concerns an activity which would constitute a violation of section 175, 229, 831, or 2332a, is liable in a civil action to any party incurring expenses incident to any emergency or investigative response to that conduct, for those expenses.

``(c) REIMBURSEMENT.--The court, in imposing a sentence on a defendant who has been convicted of an offense under subsection (a), shall order the defendant to reimburse any party incurring expenses incident to any emergency or investigative response to that conduct, for those expenses. A person ordered to make reimbursement under this subsection shall be jointly and severally liable for such expenses with each other person, if any, who is ordered to make reimbursement under this subsection for the same expenses. An order of reimbursement under this subsection shall, for the purposes of enforcement, be treated as a civil judgment.''.

(b) CLERICAL AMENDMENT.--The table of sections at the beginning of chapter 47 of title 18, United States Code, is amended by adding after the item for section 1036 the following:

``1037. False information and hoaxes.''.

The SPEAKER pro tempore. Pursuant to the rule, the gentleman from Wisconsin (Mr. SENSENBRENNER) and the gentleman from California (Mr. SCHIFF) each will control 20 minutes.

The Chair recognizes the gentleman from Wisconsin (Mr. SENSENBRENNER).


Mr. SENSENBRENNER. Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent that all

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Members may have 5 legislative days within which to revise and extend their remarks and include extraneous material on H.R. 3209, the bill presently under consideration.

The SPEAKER pro tempore. Is there objection to the request of the gentleman from Wisconsin?

There was no objection.

[Time: 22:00]

Mr. SENSENBRENNER. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Speaker, H.R. 3209 would impose civil and criminal penalties to deter and punish a person or persons for perpetrating a hoax that others could reasonably believe is or may be a biological, chemical, nuclear attack, or an attack using some other type of weapon of mass destruction.

Mr. Speaker, today is a very important day to this Nation in many respects. It has been 3 months since New York and the Pentagon were turned into Ground Zero and our national innocence was shattered. Since that time, anthrax and the U.S. mail have become synonymous; monthly Federal warnings about new terrorist attacks have become expected; and a heightened level of alertness on the part of the American people has become necessary.

In the wake of September 11, 2001, and the anthrax attacks, the news media has graphically described the likely devastation caused by chemical, biological, or nuclear attacks on our citizens and on our country. America is in a state of high alert, and this has brought both apprehension and new responsibility.

Due to these concerns, Americans are responsibly reporting suspicious behavior and events to the authorities. This is necessary to protect our country and our freedoms. Unfortunately, while our emergency responders and law enforcement are stretched to the limits responding to real threats, they have had to respond to an increased number of hoaxes. These hoaxes are not meant to be funny; rather, they are meant to terrorize and to frighten.

These hoaxes distract Federal, State, and local law enforcement, criminal investigators, and emergency responders from real crises and real threats. As a result, they place both the public and our national security at risk.

Amazingly, the criminal code does not always cover such crimes. While under current law it is a felony to commit a hoax with regard to tampered food products, it is not necessarily a felony to commit a hoax that scares the public into believing that they have been exposed to a deadly disease such as anthrax, a disease that has been militarized and used to kill innocent Americans since September 11.

H.R. 3209, the Anti-hoax Terrorism Act of 2001, closes the existing gap. This is important and necessary legislation, as it will make it a felony to perpetrate a hoax related to biological, chemical, nuclear, and weapons of mass destruction attacks. The person or persons committing such a hoax will be subject to civil and criminal penalties and responsible for reimbursement of any emergency or investigative expense due to the hoax.

The Department of Justice and the FBI have testified before the Subcommittee on Crime and made it clear that these types of hoaxes threaten the health and safety of the American public and our national security.

Mr. Speaker, I urge my colleagues to support this bill, and I reserve the balance of my time.

Mr. SCHIFF. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the gentleman from Wisconsin (Chairman SENSENBRENNER) for his leadership on this issue, and I would also like to extend my appreciation to the chairman of the Subcommittee on Crime, the gentleman from Texas (Mr. SMITH), for introducing this bill and for all of his leadership on this issue.

I am proud to serve as a member of the Subcommittee on Crime where the bill was first heard, and also to be a cosponsor of H.R. 3209.

Mr. Speaker, our communities are struggling every day to meet the demands of our citizens and prepare for all kinds of potential terrorist attacks. They are working around the clock to develop and strengthen protocols to respond swiftly and safely in the event of an attack.

But our communities are doing all of this with very limited resources. Every time a threat is identified, authorities spring into action, donning protective gear, bolstering hospital staffing, coordinating local, State, and Federal efforts, and calling upon additional law enforcement personnel to respond.

These reports from our citizens are critical. We certainly want to encourage people to continue to be vigilant and report suspicious activity. A false alarm, however, is a false alarm. But every time a suspected threat turns out to be a hoax, it costs the taxpayers an enormous amount.

In Los Angeles, a man who phoned in an anthrax threat because he wanted to avoid appearing in bankruptcy court that day, his call succeeded in shutting down the court and the courthouse, and cost taxpayers $600,000.

In addition to closing down the very functioning of government, it is a tremendous waste of our precious resources. The resources that could be going into prevention and training are wasted. The manpower that is required to respond to a hoax is wasted. The funding that could be used to hire additional emergency personnel is wasted.

While millions of dollars are going into the effort to combat terrorism, we frankly do not have a dollar to waste. We simply cannot allow reports that come from hoaxes to clog up the investigation of other potentially life-threatening dangers. Our citizens need to be acutely aware that hoaxes have consequences. It shakes our sense of safety; the fear that many citizens are struggling to cope with continues to grow as a result of hoaxes; there are financial consequences; and there are community consequences. There ought to be criminal consequences.

The Anti-Hoax Terrorism Act of 2001, H.R. 3209, would create criminal and civil penalties for falsely reporting a chemical, biological, or nuclear threat. This would include threats that are in written or verbal form, as well as those communicated through physical actions. It is legislation that should not be necessary, but, regrettably, is certainly needed now. Those who would prey on the fears of the American public should be punished.

As America works to regain its footing and return to as much of a normal life as possible, hoaxes only serve as a cruel joke on the American public. Those who would commit the ultimate prank on this Nation must be aware that they are, in effect, serving as accomplices to terrorism. They are interrupting murder investigations, and they are obstructing justice.

According to the FBI, there are an estimated 7,000 agents spread out across the country investigating possible sources and suspects in the anthrax attacks. Can we really afford to have even one of those agents pulled off the killer's trail because of a hoax?

Mr. Speaker, we cannot allow these hoaxes to go unchallenged. We do not have a minute to waste, we do not have a dollar to waste, we do not have an investigator to waste, we do not have a citizen to waste. The time for anti-hoax legislation is now. I urge the House to adopt the strongest possible measure.

Again, I want to thank the gentleman from Wisconsin (Chairman SENSENBRENNER) and the gentleman from Texas (Chairman SMITH) for bringing this bill to the floor today.

Mr. Speaker, I yield 3 minutes to the gentlewoman from Texas (Ms. JACKSON-LEE).

(Ms. JACKSON-LEE of Texas asked and was given permission to revise and extend her remarks.)

Ms. JACKSON-LEE of Texas. Mr. Speaker, this is a good bill. I rise to support this legislation.

I met with my emergency first responders a few days after September 11 and then sometime after the beginning of the anthrax scares around the Nation. The hazardous materials team in my Houston Fire Department in just a couple of days had some 75 calls of individuals who thought they saw or thought they were reporting the sight of anthrax.

Those are innocent calls, but they do take up a lot of the resources of our first responders and our community resources. Those individuals, however, should not be prosecuted.

My concern with this legislation is to ensure that that does not happen. I am hoping that the legislative history and the debate in the committee will make

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it clear that our intent in this legislation is to ensure that those with criminal intent, to do harm by calling in hoaxes and frightening communities, should be punished. I agree with that.

I offered an amendment, however, to be sure that that was the case; that the hoax would be perpetrated with malicious intent. That amendment was not approved, but I believe there was sufficient discussion in the committee to suggest that those that we are attempting to prosecute are those with criminal intent.

For example, we would hope that the incident of a local prosecutor in Chicago who recently placed an envelope containing sugar on a colleague's desk, who was administratively punished by being forced to resign from his job, would not be subject to this particular legislation. The prank demonstrates poor taste and bad judgment, but he should not be subject to Federal prosecution.

Likewise, our youth should not be subject to Federal prosecution if they are engaged in a prank, of course, that we would not approve of, but certainly that did not have the criminal intent.

I think it is important, Mr. Speaker, that as we move through these very trying times, that we can be aware that we can balance legislative intent with protecting Americans. I hope that this House will have an opportunity to address some of the executive orders that deal with the violation of the sixth amendment that allows the Justice Department to listen in on those who are addressing or having a relationship with their attorney.

At the same time, I hope we will be able to address the question of the thousands of detainees who are being detained by the Justice Department, and I hope we will also have an ability to address in this House military tribunals. We can protect Americans, provide legislation that makes sense, and at the same time, uphold our Constitution, our Bill of Rights, and our values.