Transcript: Rep. Bernie Sanders

This is a partial transcript from "Your World with Neil Cavuto," June 16, 2005, that was edited for clarity.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: If you thought the Patriot Act violated your right to privacy, then you're probably glad my next guest is on your side, because, thanks to him and pretty much him alone, investigators cannot check up on the books while you're checking out of the library.

Joining us to explain is independent Vermont Congressman Bernie Sanders.

Congressman, good to have you back on the show.

REP. BERNIE SANDERS, I-VT.: Good to be with you, Neil.

CAVUTO: So, you got your way with this, but you want the whole thing scrapped, the whole Patriot Act scrapped. Why?

SANDERS: No, no, no, no. That's not true. I don't want the whole Patriot Act scrapped.

There are a number of provisions which are sunsetted. And we want to take a hard look at them. They're sunsetted for a number of reasons. The bottom line here is, Neil, terrorism is very serious business. And I think every member of Congress has the constitutional responsibility to make sure that we do everything that we can to protect the American people from terrorist attacks.

But, in my view, we can and must do that without undermining the constitutional rights that make us a free country. And I'm very happy that, on yesterday's amendment, you know, at a time when so much acrimony exists here in Washington, we had 38 Republicans, including some of the most conservative Republicans, joining with us to make sure that we're going to protect constitutional rights in America.

CAVUTO: What are some of the others you want to sunset away?

SANDERS: Well, I think there's the sneak-and-peek provision which concerns me. I don't think it is a great idea to be able to give the FBI the right to go into your home, go through your belongings any time they want without independent judicial review.

What yesterday was about was simply saying that, if the FBI wants to go into a library — and, in some cases, they may well want to go into a library because they believe somebody is a terrorist — they just can't go in there. They need to have a certain standard. There needs to be a probable cause by which they tell a judge or a grand jury, we have reason to believe that this guy is involved in terrorism. And the court will then give them the permission to do that. I don't think most Americans...

CAVUTO: But don't you give the heads-up to that guy that he's going to be looked at?

SANDERS: No, absolutely not. Of course you don't.

CAVUTO: How do you know?

SANDERS: Because you don't. I mean, this has been traditional law enforcement forever. And of course you don't want to tip off terrorists.

But, right now, to say that the FBI, without getting any probable cause, can go and check on any American, maybe somebody wrote a letter to the editor that somebody didn't like. Is that a reason to do an investigation on that person? And then the librarian is in the impossible position of not being able to say anything. If she says something, she's in violation of the law. I don't think that is what America is about.

And what we've seen, by the way, in terms of the USA Patriot Act, Neil, we've seen seven states in this country. We've seen 379 communities go on record and say, we have concerns. So, I think the goal here is not to say that we don't want to be vigorous at protecting the American people from terrorism. But we want to do it within the context of the greatest document ever written, the United States Constitution.

CAVUTO: Are you concerned, though, Congressman, that, if there is another attack on this country, you might have, with the best of intentions, contributed to it?

SANDERS: No. No, I don't. No, because I think we are not taking away the tools that the FBI needs.

You know, Neil, you can carry this argument to an absurd extreme. If you really want to be safe, maybe we should have the FBI tap every phone in America and open every letter and give every American an I.D. card which tells the government wherever they walk, whatever they do. Do we think that's a good idea? I don't think so.

What some of us are trying to do is develop a balance, a balance by which our government can vigorously protect us and fight against terrorism, but at the same time protect the rights that make us a free country.

CAVUTO: Congressman, could I ask you this? If we knew back in 2001 there were, let's say, oh, I don't know, maybe 80 to 90 suspicious individuals that were responsible for curious chatter that something would happen on September 11, and only about 19 of those ended up being real, that clearly undeniably terrorists, but we went ahead and eavesdropped on all 80 or 100 — would that have been so wrong?

SANDERS: No, it would not have been so wrong, Neil, if the government has reason to believe. They're not going to be right every time. No one holds the FBI to an impossible standard.

CAVUTO: Well, the fear, the fear is, with the best of intentions, sir, that that's what you're doing here.


CAVUTO: You are going to make authorities more leery of doing any of this.

SANDERS: Not at all. That's not true.

CAVUTO: And we will be hit again.

SANDERS: No. Neil, we may well be hit again. But I don't think you hold the position that we should move us to a position where we abrogate constitutional rights, that young people who take out a book on a certain subject should be fearful that the FBI is looking over their shoulders because of the title of that book.

CAVUTO: All right.

SANDERS: I do not accept the fact that we're making America less safe.

CAVUTO: Sir, while I still have you here, you're a front-runner for Senate from your state right now, by almost all polls.

SANDERS: I'm going to be announcing. Whether I'm a front-runner or not remains to be seen.

CAVUTO: You're going to announce one way or the other.

But let me ask you this. If you do win — and all the polls indicate you would — do you enter the Senate as an independent or vote and be recognized as a Democrat?

SANDERS: I will enter the Senate if I win in the same way I have — the role that I have played here in the House.

I am an independent. I caucus with the Democrats. But I will certainly remain as an independent. We're going to have a whole lot of Republican support and independent support in Vermont.

CAVUTO: Congressman, thank you very much. Good having you on.

SANDERS: Thank you, Neil.

CAVUTO: Bernie Sanders of Vermont, could be soon Senator Bernie Sanders from Vermont.

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