Bernie Sanders on Homeland Security
Socialist Jr Senator; previously Representative (VT-At-Large)
SANDERS: No, I don't. That was 40 years ago. But let me tell you this, I do have concerns about past activities of the CIA. CIA was involved in the overthrow of a gentleman named Mohammad Mosaddegh way back when in Iran, overthrew him on behalf of British oil. And you know what happened? That led to the Iranian Revolution and we are where we are today. The CIA was involved in the overthrow of Salvador Allende in Chile, a democratic candidate, he won a fair election, the CIA overthrew him. So I have a lot problems with some parts of our history, which continues to the present.
Q: But the institution itself of the CIA?
SANDERS: Oh, the CIA plays an important role. But have they done things which they should not have done on behalf of the United States government? Absolutely.
SANDERS: Republicans give a lot of speeches about how much they love veterans. I work with the American Legion, the VFW, the DAV, the Vietnam Vets, and virtually every veterans organization to put together the most comprehensive piece of the veterans legislation in the modern history of America. Every Democrat voted for it; I got two Republicans. That is pathetic. So Republicans talk a good game about veterans, but when it came to put money on the line to protect our veterans, frankly, they were not there. Secretary Clinton is absolutely right, there are people, Koch brothers among others, who have a group called Concerned Veterans of America, funded by the Koch brothers, yes, there are people out there who want to privatize it. We've got to strengthen the V.A. We do not privatize the V.A.
SANDERS: I think President Obama had the right idea, and the bottom line is that of course there have to be conditions. But, of course it doesn't do us any good to not talk with our adversaries..
SANDERS: Republicans give a lot of speeches about how much they love veterans. But when it came to put money on the line [in my comprehensive veterans bill], to protect our veterans, frankly, they were not there. There are people, Koch brothers among others, who have a group called Concerned Veterans of America, who want to privatize it.
CLINTON: I'm absolutely against privatizing the V.A. And I am going do everything I can to build on the reforms that Senator Sanders and others in Congress have passed to try to fix what's wrong with the V.A. There are a lot of issues about wait times and services that have to be fixed because our veterans deserve nothing but the best. Yes, let's fix the V.A., but we will never let it be privatized, and that is a promise.
Gov. O'MALLEY: The nature of warfare has changed. This is a new era of conflict where traditional ways of huge standing armies do not serve our purposes as well as special ops & better intelligence.
Secretary CLINTON: We do have to take a hard look at the defense budget and we do have to figure out how we get ready to fight the adversaries of the future, not the past. But we have to also be very clear that we do have some continuing challenges.
WEBB: As long as they go through the legal process that our country requires, I respect that.
Q [to SANDERS]: Tell an American soldier why you can be commander-in- chief given that you applied for conscientious objector status.
SANDERS: When I was a young man, I strongly opposed the war in Vietnam. Not the brave men like Jim who fought in that war, but the policy which got us involved in that war. That was my view then. I am not a pacifist. I supported the war in Afghanistan. I supported President Clinton's effort to deal with ethnic cleansing in Kosovo. I support air strikes in Syria and what the president is trying to do. Yes, I happen to believe from the bottom of my heart that war should be the last resort that we have got to exercise diplomacy. But yes, I am prepared to take this country into war if that is necessary.
SANDERS: Absolutely. Of course.
Q: You would, point blank.
SANDERS: Well, what exists right now is that virtually every telephone call in this country ends up in a file at the NSA. That is unacceptable to me. But it's not just government surveillance. I think the government is involved in our e-mails; is involved in our websites. Corporate America is doing it as well. If we are a free country, we have the right to be free. Yes, we have to defend ourselves against terrorism, but there are ways to do that without impinging on our constitutional rights and our privacy rights.
CHAFEE: The courts have ruled that what he did was say the American government was acting illegally.
CLINTON: He broke the laws of the United States.
O'MALLEY: Snowden put a lot of Americans' lives at risk.
Q: Senator Sanders, on Edward Snowden?
SANDERS: I think Snowden played a very important role in educating the American people to the degree in which our civil liberties and our constitutional rights are being undermined.
Q: Is he a hero?
SANDERS: He did break the law, and I think there should be a penalty to that. But I think what he did in educating us should be taken into consideration before he is [sentenced].
CHAFEE: No, that was a 99-to-1 vote for the PATRIOT Act, and it was seen as modernizing our ability to tap phones which always required a warrant.
Q: Do you regret that vote?
CHAFEE: As long as you're getting a warrant, I believe that under the Fourth Amendment, you should be able to do surveillance. And in the Patriot Act, section 215 started to get broadened too far. So I would be in favor of addressing and reforming section 215 of the Patriot Act.
Q: Secretary Clinton?
CLINTON: No, I don't. I think that it was necessary to make sure that we were able after 9/11 to put in place the security that we needed.
SANDERS: It was 99 to one and I was maybe the one. [Note: See related FactCheck--he was not the one!]
SANDERS: All of that and more.
Q: You're okay with the drone?
SANDERS: A drone is a weapon. When it works badly, it is terrible and it is counterproductive.
Q: But you're comfortable with the idea of using drones if you think you've isolated an important terrorist? That continues?
SANDERS: Yes. And look, we all know, that there are people as of this moment plotting against the United States. We have got to be vigorous in protecting our country, no question about it.
It is with this vision in mind that Bernie supports the Iran nuclear pact. Similarly, Bernie has been working to reduce nuclear weapons stockpiles around the world. In 2015, Bernie co-sponsored the Smarter Approach to Nuclear Expenditures Act, which would reduce the nuclear weapons budget by $100 billion over the next ten years.
A: While Bernie appreciates a strong defense system, he has also views the cost of endless wars and tremendous peacetime defense spending as detracting from facing "some of the most pressing economic issues affecting the well-being of ordinary Americans." Bernie firmly rejects any increase to defense spending at the cost of cuts to domestic social spending.
Q: Why is Bernie so concerned with the defense budget?
A: Bernie sees a lack of accountability on defense spending. Explaining his "no" vote on the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act, which set the military's budget at $560 billion, Bernie expressed concern that "the military is unable to even account for how it spends all of its money." Bernie also voted against the 2012 and 2013 defense authorization bills, voicing alarm at the size of the defense budget despite the US having withdrawn all military members from Iraq.
SANDERS: I may well be voting for it. It doesn't go as far as I would like it to go. I voted against the original Patriot Act, and I voted against its reauthorization. Look, we have got to be vigorous in fighting terrorism and protecting the American people. But we have to do it in a way that protects the constitutional rights of the American people. And I'm very, very worried about the invasion of privacy rights that we're seeing not only from the NSA and the government but from corporate America, as well. We're losing our privacy rights. It's a huge issue.
Q: The government is going to be asking corporate America to keep this data under the USA Freedom Act. You're comfortable with that?
SANDERS: No, I'm not. But we have to look at the best of bad situations. The question is whether the NSA keeps it, the question is whether it is transferred to the phone companies, who already keep records for an extended period of time.
SANDERS: What I do believe is that there is enormous waste in military. The Department of Defense can't even audit itself--massive cost overruns. Of course, ISIS is a terrible organization that has to be defeated. And, of course, we need a strong military. But just as with every other agency of government, you know what, the military also has got to get rid of waste and fraud and cost overruns. So, I want a strong military. But I do not believe, among other things, that without an audit, we should be throwing tens of billions of dollars more into the Department of Defense.
SANDERS: Clearly, there are incompetent administrators. But I think one point that sometimes gets lost in the shuffle. If you speak to veterans organizations, they will tell you that, by and large, the quality of care that veterans receive in VA hospitals around this country is good to excellent.
Q: Sure, but, if you can't get in, it doesn't do any good that it's great care.
SANDERS: That is quite right. The VA has established a self-imposed goal of getting people into the system in 14 days. That's pretty ambitious. That's more ambitious in general than the private sector. And I think there are places around the country where they simply do not have the resources to accommodate the fact that two million more people have come into the system in recent years. And I think some people may be cooking the books to make it look like they're accommodating people in 14 days.
Sanders said he was proud of the Vermont Air National Guard. "The F-35, whether one may like it or not, is the plane of choice not only for the U.S. Air Force, but for the Navy, Marines and much of NATO," Sanders said in a statement issued by his Washington office. "If the F-35 ends up not being located here, it will end up at a National Guard base in Florida or South Carolina. I would rather it be here."
Opponents say the planes, which are noisier than the F-16s they will replace, could erode the quality of life along the flight path. Sanders said the neighbors had legitimate concerns about the noise and that he and other members of the delegation would do all they could to minimize the problem, should the Air Force decide to base the planes in Vermont.
Secretary CLINTON: We need better intelligence cooperation from friends and allies around the world.
Governor O'MALLEY: We need better biosurveillance systems, and better prepared first responders.
Senator SANDERS: I agree with what the secretary said, and what Governor O'Malley said. But here's an issue that we also should talk about. We have a $600 billion military budget. It is a budget larger than the next eight countries'. Unfortunately, much of that budget continues to fight the old Cold War with the Soviet Union. Very little of that budget -- less than 10 percent -- actually goes into fighting ISIS and international terrorism. We need to be thinking hard about making fundamental changes in the priorities of the Defense Department.
SANDERS: Together, leading the world, this country will rid our planet of this barbarous organization called ISIS.
O'MALLEY: ISIS, make no mistake about it, is an evil in this world.
Q [to Clinton]: Was ISIS underestimated? In 2014, the president referred to ISIS as the "J.V."
CLINTON: ISIS has developed [since 2014]. I think that there are many other reasons why it has in addition to what happened in the region, but I don't think that the United States has the bulk of the responsibility. I really put that on Assad and on the Iraqis and on the region itself.
SANDERS: She said the bulk of the responsibility is not ours. Well, in fact, I would argue that the disastrous invasion of Iraq, something that I strongly opposed, has unraveled the region completely and led to the rise of al-Qaeda and to ISIS.
BERNIE SANDERS: I suspect that if you ask Bergdahl's feelings about what happened, they will feel very, very good. I think we need to have more information about the long-term consequences, and do everything that we can to make sure that these terrorists do not get back onto the battlefield.
So when we talk about Iraq, it is not only the terrible loss of life that our soldiers and the Iraqi people have experienced, let's not forget what it has done to the deficit and the national debt. We did not pay for the war in Iraq. We just put it on the credit card.
Given their enormous success in selling the Persian Gulf debacle, there is no reason to expect that the government and the media will behave any differently when the next war comes. If they could win massive public support for defending "freedom" in Kuwait, they can use the same techniques to build support for ANY war.
In 2009 Bernie voted against the proposals the Obama administration suggested for closing the prison. The bill was defeated with strong bipartisan support (90-6). Given Bernie's human rights concerns regarding the facility, he likely voted against it because the plans did not address the human rights violations--including being held indefinitely without trial--that he and so many other Americans are most concerned about with regards to Guant namo.
In terms of the defense budget, 75 House Democrats--out of 197--supported the outrageous boost in military expenditures. Of course, almost all of the Republicans (including those fierce "deficit hawks") backed the increase. The Cold War is over, we spend many times more than all of our "enemies" combined and, with very little fanfare, the defense budget is significantly raised.
Proponent's Argument for voting Yes:
[Rep. Smith, R-TX]: America is safe today not because terrorists and spies have given up their goal to destroy our freedoms and our way of life. We are safe today because the men and women of our Armed Forces, our intelligence community, and our law enforcement agencies work every single day to protect us. And Congress must ensure that they are equipped with the resources they need to counteract continuing terrorist threats. On Feb. 28, three important provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act will expire. These provisions give investigators in national security cases the authority to conduct "roving" wiretaps, to seek certain business records, and to gather intelligence on lone terrorists who are not affiliated with a known terrorist group. The Patriot Act works. It has proved effective in preventing terrorist attacks and protecting Americans. To let these provisions expire would leave every American less safe.
Opponent's Argument for voting No:
[Rep. Conyers, D-MI]: Section 215 of the Patriot Act allows a secret FISA court to authorize our government to collect business records or anything else, requiring that a person or business produce virtually any type record. We didn't think that that was right then. We don't think it's right now. This provision is contrary to traditional notions of search and seizure which require the government to show reasonable suspicion or probable cause before undertaking an investigation that infringes upon a person's privacy. And so I urge a "no" vote on the extension of these expiring provisions.
Status: Passed 86-12
Sen. CORNYN. The problem I have with this bill is that the US Treasury is not bottomless, and the funding that is being provided to create this new pension would literally be at the expense of US veterans. The $221 million that is addressed by Sen. Burr's amendment would actually go back in to supplement benefits for US veterans. And while we appreciate and honor all of our allies who fought alongside of us in WWII, certainly that doesn't mean we are going to grant pension benefits to all of our allies, [like] the British or the Australians. Vote for the Burr Amendment because certainly our American veterans should be our priority.
[The PAA allows] acquiring all the calls and e-mails between employees of a US company and a foreign company, with no requirement to get a warrant and no requirement that there be some link to terrorism. So any American who works at a company that does business overseas should think about that.
OPPONENT'S ARGUMENT FOR VOTING NO: Sen. BOND: The purpose of this bill is, and always has been, to enable the intelligence community to act to target foreign terrorists and spies overseas.
The amendment, as it is drafted, will have a totally unexpected impact. It is difficult to explain, in an unclassified session, why this amendment is unworkable. There are only certain communications which the intelligence community is lawfully permitted to acquire, and which it has any desire to acquire, because to acquire all the communications from all foreigners is an absolutely impossible task.
I cannot describe in a public setting how they go about ascertaining which collections are important. But to say that if Osama bin Laden calls somebody in the US, we cannot listen in to that communication, unless we have an independent means of verifying it has some impact or a terrorist threat--That is the most important communication we need to intercept.
LEGISLATIVE OUTCOME:Amendment Rejected, 38-57
A modified version, S.2011, failed; it called for amending FISA to provide that a court order is not required for the electronic surveillance of communication between foreign persons who are not located within the US for collecting foreign intelligence information, without respect to whether the communication passes through the US or the surveillance device is located within the US.
Opponents recommend voting NO because:
Sen. LEVIN: Both bills cure the problem that exists: Our intelligence agencies must obtain a court order to monitor the communications of foreigners suspected of terrorist activities who are physically located in foreign countries. Now, what are the major differences? Our bill (S2011) is limited to foreign targets limited overseas, unlike the Bond bill (S1927), which does not have that key limitation and which very clearly applies to US citizens overseas. Our bill does not. Now, if there is an incidental access to US citizens, we obviously will permit that. But the Bond bill goes beyond that, citing "any person." It does not say a "foreign person." We avoid getting to the communications of Americans. There you have to go for a warrant.
Proponents support voting YES because:
Sen. LIEBERMAN: I will vote for the Bond proposal (S1927) because we are at war, & there is increased terrorist activity. We have a crisis. This proposal will allow us to gather intelligence information on that enemy we otherwise would not gather. This is not the time for striving for legislative perfection. Let us not strive for perfection. Let us put national security first. We are going to have 6 months to reason together to find something better.
Proponents support voting YES because:
Sen. HAGEL: The war in Iraq has pushed the US Army to the breaking point. When we deploy our military, we have an obligation to ensure that our troops are rested, ready, prepared, fully trained, and fully equipped. Today's Armed Forces are being deployed repeatedly for increasing periods of time. This is quickly wearing down the troops and their families, impacting the mental and physical health of our troops. Further, these deployments are affecting the recruiting and retention rates of the military. For example, the Army reached only a little over 80% of its recruiting goal for June. This is the second month in a row that the Army has failed to recruit the number of new soldiers needed to fill the ranks. And this is with $1 billion in large cash bonus incentives.
Opponents recommend voting NO because:
Sen. KYL: Time in theater and dwell times should be a goal, rather than an absolute fixed requirement that becomes the policy of the US military determined by congressional action. By mandating a certain policy for deployment time or dwell time, the Congress is engaged in the most explicit micromanaging of what is obviously a function for the Commander in Chief and military commanders to perform. This is not something Members of Congress are knowledgeable about or would have the ability to dictate in any responsible fashion. It also would be unconstitutional. Clearly, the dwell times of troops or the amount of time in theater is an obligation of the Commander in Chief, not something for the Congress to determine.
Opponents recommend voting NO because:
One of the authors of the 9/11 Commission report said, the President's announced strategy should be given a chance to succeed. That is what I think we should do, give this plan a chance to succeed. Our troops in theater, our commanders, and the Iraqi leaders all believe they can see early signs of success in this program, even though it has just begun, and they are cautiously optimistic that it can succeed. I think it would be unconscionable for the Congress, seeing the beginnings of success here, to then act in any way that would pull the rug out from under our troops and make it impossible for them to achieve their mission.
Proponents support voting YES because:
Intelligence is the first line of defense in the war on terrorism. That means we have to have intelligence agencies and capabilities that are agile, that are responsive to changes in technology, and that also protect the civil liberties of Americans. Let me make an analogy. With modernization, we replaced Route 66 with Interstate 40. We no longer have the stoplights and the intersections. We created on ramps and off ramps and concrete barriers to protect the citizens where traffic was moving very quickly. That is like what we are trying to do here--FISA needs modernization.
Opponents support voting NO because:
We are legislating in the dark. We do not even know what the President is doing now because he will not tell us. The New York Times exposed that the administration had authorized secret surveillance of domestic conversations. When exposed, the President claimed he was operating under inherent powers, but court decisions have found that the President cannot simply declare administration actions constitutional and lawful, whether or not they are.
Yet rather than finding out what is going on, this legislation retroactively legalizes whatever has been going on. The President already has broad latitude to conduct domestic surveillance, including surveillance of American citizens, so long as it is overseen by the FISA court.
This bill does not enhance security, but it does allow surveillance without the traditional checks and balances that have served our Nation well.
Peace Action, the merger of The Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy (SANE) and The Freeze, has effectively mobilized for peace and disarmament for over forty years. As the nation's largest grassroots peace group we get results: from the 1963 treaty to ban above ground nuclear testing, to the 1996 signing of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, from ending the war in Vietnam, to blocking weapons sales to human rights abusing countries. We are proof that ordinary people can change the world. At Peace Action we believe...
The ratings are based on the votes the organization considered most important; the numbers reflect the percentage of time the representative voted the organization's preferred position.
Repeals current Department of Defense policy [popularly known as "Don't-Ask-Don't-Tell"] concerning homosexuality in the Armed Forces. Prohibits the Secretary of Defense, and the Secretary of Homeland Security with respect to the Coast Guard, from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation against any member of the Armed Forces or any person seeking to become a member. Authorizes the re-accession into the Armed Forces of otherwise qualified individuals previously separated for homosexuality, bisexuality, or homosexual conduct.
Nothing in this Act shall be construed to require the furnishing of dependent benefits in violation of section 7 of title 1, United States Code (relating to the definitions of 'marriage' and 'spouse' and referred to as the 'Defense of Marriage Act').
Press Release from Sen. Merkley's officeCiting the dangers to US national security posed by terrorists and rogue states seeking nuclear weapons, a bipartisan group of 26 senators sent a letter last week to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), calling on the President to support increased funding in the FY2016 budget to more rapidly secure and permanently dispose of nuclear and radiological materials. The letter comes in response to the President's proposals in recent years to decrease funding for nuclear material security and nonproliferation programs.
The senators indicated that unsecured nuclear material poses unacceptably high risks to the safety of Americans and argued that the rate at which nuclear and radiological materials are secured and permanently disposed of must be accelerated. The senators expressed concern that cutting funds would slow what has been a successful process of elimination and reduction of highly enriched uranium (HEU) and separated plutonium in the international community. In just the last five years, nuclear security and non-proliferation programs have proven successful in eliminating HEU and separated plutonium from 13 countries, including Ukraine.
"Reducing budgets for agencies and programs that help keep nuclear and radiological materials out of the hands of terrorists is out of sync with the high priority that the President has rightly placed on nuclear and radiological material security and signals a major retreat in the effort to lock down these materials at an accelerated rate," the senators wrote. "The recent spate of terrorism in Iraq, Pakistan, and Kenya is a harrowing reminder of the importance of ensuring that terrorist groups and rogue states cannot get their hands on the world's most dangerous weapons and materials."
In the past two fiscal years, Congress has enacted $280 million additional dollars to the President's proposed funding for core non-proliferation activities.
A bill to restore habeas corpus for those detained by the United States; to the Committee on the Judiciary.
Sen. SPECTER. "I introduce this legislation, denominated the Habeas Corpus Restoration Act. Last year, in the Military Commissions Act, the constitutional right of habeas corpus was attempted to be abrogated. I say "attempted to be abrogated" because, in my legal judgment, that provision in the Act is unconstitutional.
"It is hard to see how there can be legislation to eliminate the constitutional right to habeas corpus when the Constitution is explicit that habeas corpus may not be suspended except in time of invasion or rebellion, and we do not have either of those circumstances present, as was conceded by the advocates of the legislation last year to take away the right of habeas corpus.
"We have had Supreme Court decisions which have made it plain that habeas corpus is available to non-citizens and that habeas corpus applies to territory controlled by the US, specifically, including Guantanamo. More recently, however, we had a decision in the US District Court applying the habeas corpus jurisdiction stripping provision of the Military Commissions Act, but I believe we will see the appellate courts strike down this legislative provision.
"The New York Times had an extensive article on this subject, starting on the front page, last Sunday, and continuing on a full page on the back page about what is happening at Guantanamo. It is hard to see how in America, or in a jurisdiction controlled by the United States, these proceedings could substitute for even rudimentary due process of law."
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