Al Franken on Homeland Security
DFL Jr Senator (MN)
Franken counters that he's been on top of the issue for years: "In 2009, we knew that Shabab in Somalia was beginning to recruit from our communities. The first days I was in office I went to the FBI and got a briefing," he said during a debate last week "I have worked with law enforcement. I pressed the secretary of Homeland Security. I pressed the director of the FBI in [Senate Judiciary Committee] hearings on this recruitment."
It is estimated that anywhere between 20 and 40 Minnesotans recruited from the state's sizable Somalian emigre population have left the U.S. and joined the Al Shabab terror network since 2008, and another 10 or 12 have joined ISIS.
Documents leaked by now infamous contract employee Edward Snowden revealed that the NSA has been collecting the phone & web records of millions of Americans using secret court orders. "Americans still have no way of knowing whether the government is striking the right balance between privacy & security--or whether their privacy is being violated," Franken said. "There needs to be more transparency."
Google offered support for Franken's legislation, which would lift gag orders on companies & allow them to report information about data requests they get from the government. [An opponent] said that disclosing the requests would give terrorists an advantage; they'd gravitate to companies that receive no requests.
Thus the emotional and personal groundwork was laid for a brutal campaign years before Franken announced his own ambitions. Franken-Coleman 2008 was not Wellstone-Coleman 2.0.
Q: Will you cosponsor a resolution in Congress supporting the establishment of a UN Emergency Peace Service if one is introduced?
A: Yes. I would support anything that helps shorten the time it takes for peacekeepers to be deployed.
A: Yes. The US has numbers of nuclear weapons way beyond what we might need as a deterrent. The most senior officials from earlier administrations are all stressing the urgency of reducing our arsenal. As we work to stop nuclear programs in Iran and North Korea, reductions on our part will help us regain the moral high ground. And, of course, a good first step is to abandon any plans to build new nuclear weapons.
Q: Do you support U.S. ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty?
A: Yes. Nuclear weapons tests are a key threshold for aspiring nuclear powers, as we saw recently in North Korea. The CTBT is an important pillar of the nonproliferation effort, and I support it.
As an official, bipartisan body, the 9/11 Commission couldn't come right out and say, as I did, that Bush had dropped the ball on terrorism over and over again from the minute he came into office. But anyone who reads the report can't come to any other conclusion.
To me, the most infuriating passage deals with Bush's nonreaction to the August 6 Presidential Daily Brief, memorably titled "Bin Laden Determined to Strike Inside US." The brief warned, among other things, "preparations for hijackings or other types of attacks, including recent surveillance of federal buildings in NY."
Furthermore, the 9/11 Commission found that following the August 6 PDB, "We have found no indication of any further discussion before September 11th between the President and his advisors about the possibility of a threat of al Qaeda attack in the US."
It is my firm belief that President Bush never read the August 6 PDB.
Sorry, cynics! Asked about a possible political motive the day after the suspiciously unwarranted August 1 alert, Tom Ridge was firm: "We don't do politics in the Department of Homeland Security."
On the other, cynical, hand, it did come out after the election that Ridge had met with hotshot GOP pollsters [regularly]. What we don't know is whether the pollsters specifically focus-group-tested the phrase "We don't do politics in the Department of Homeland Security."
The terror alerts served no purpose other than to remind people that they could be incinerated at any moment. But that reminder was exactly the point.
But the State Department had made a number of small mistakes, including leaving out the terrorist attacks that had taken place during an unusually busy terrorist attack season from Nov. 12 through Dec. 31. [After those corrections], the number of "significant" terrorist attacks had shot up from the previous year, reaching, not the lowest, but the HIGHEST level ever recorded.
The next year, the State Department's report on terrorism did not include statistics on terrorist attacks--the very activity that defines terrorism. Which isn't to say they didn't COLLECT the statistics: [they just stopped reporting them].
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
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.
The Uniting and Strengthening America by Fulfilling Rights and Ensuring Effective Discipline Over Monitoring Act of 2014 or the USA FREEDOM Act: Congressional Summary:
Opposing argument: (ACLU, "Surveillance Reform After the USA Freedom Act", June 3, 2015): The USA Freedom Act that passed by a 67-32 margin is not as strong as we wanted. It is markedly weaker than the original version of the USA Freedom Act that the ACLU first supported in 2013. We supported a sunset of the provisions in an effort to advance more comprehensive reform, including rejecting surveillance through cybersecurity information-sharing legislation. Notwithstanding this, however, it is very clear that the USA Freedom Act is a historic step forward.
Opposing argument: (Cato Institute , "Cato scholars differ on USA Freedom Act", Oct., 2015): The privacy community remained divided over the USA Freedom Act. The final version of the bill reauthorized several expiring Patriot Act provisions, but limited bulk collection. Some legislators argued that to pass new legislation would only provide the government convenient new legal justification for its spying--which it would interpret broadly. On the opposite side of the argument stood some pro-privacy groups who held that modest reforms were better than no reforms at all.
Congressional summary:: Uniting and Strengthening America by Fulfilling Rights and Ending Eavesdropping, Dragnet-collection, and Online Monitoring Act or the USA FREEDOM Act:
Opponent's argument against (Electronic Frontier Foundation): The bill only addresses a small portion of the problems created by NSA spying. It does not touch problems like NSA programs to sabotage encryption standards; it does not effectively tackle the issue of collecting information on people outside of the US; and it doesn't address the authority that the government is supposedly using to tap the data links between service provider data centers, such as those owned by Google and Yahoo. The bill also does not address excessive secrecy; it won't deal with the major over-classification issues or the state secrets privilege.
Opponent's argument against (J. Kirk Wiebe, former NSA Senior Intelligence Analyst interview with TheRealNews.com): It's window dressing. Stopping bulk collection is a good step, but the only thing that's going to fix this is direct access into NSA's databases by an independent group of hackers, techie types, people like Snowden who know how to get into a network and look at things and verify that the data they're collecting and what they're doing with it complies with the Constitution. The NSA has essentially operated illegally--unconstitutionally--for 60% of its existence.
Excerpts from Letter from 53 Senators to President Trump We are deeply troubled that your freeze on the hiring of federal civilian employees will have a negative and disproportionate impact on our nation's veterans. As such, we urge you to take stock of this hiring freeze's effect on our nation's veterans and exempt the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) from your Hiring Freeze.
Opposing argument: (Heritage Foundation, "Eliminate Redundant Government Hiring," May 9, 2017): It's not hard to find federal programs that are duplicative or ineffective. The president's executive order requires all agency heads to submit plans for reorganizing their operations. Their proposals are to "include recommendations to eliminate unnecessary agencies and programs." That all sounds great, but what does it actually mean?
Well, for starters, it means the previous federal hiring freeze is no more. But it doesn't mean programs and departments are free to hire willy-nilly. Instead, they've been instructed to follow a smart-hiring plan, consistent with the President's America First Budget Blueprint.
A few agencies, like the Defense Department and Veterans Affairs, will beef up staff. Most, however, will have to pare down employment. All federal employees can expect to see resources shift to higher-priority ones. Many may be asked to do something new or different with the goal of optimizing employees' skills and time.
|Other candidates on Homeland Security:||Al Franken on other issues:|
Senate races 2017-8:
AZ: Flake(R) vs. Ward(R) vs.Sinema(D) vs.Abboud(D) vs.McSally(R) vs.Arpaio(R) vs.Marks(L)
CA: Feinstein(D) vs. Eisen(I) vs. Sanchez?(D) vs.de_Leon(D)
CT: Murphy(D) vs.Adams(D) vs.Corey(R)
DE: Carper(D) vs.
FL: Nelson(D) vs.
HI: Hirono(D) vs.
IN: Donnelly(D) vs.
MA: Warren(D) vs. Ayyadurai(I) vs.
MD: Cardin(D) vs.Vohra(L) vs.Manning(D) vs.Faddis(R)
ME: King(I) vs.Brakey(R) vs.Lyons(L)
MI: Stabenow(D) vs.
MN-6: Klobuchar(D) vs.Newberger(R) vs.Overby(G)
MO: McCaskill(D) vs.Petersen(R) vs.Monetti(R) vs.Hawley(R)
MS-2: vs.Hyde-Smith(R) vs. McDaniel(R) vs.Espy(D) vs.
MS-6: Wicker(R) vs.Bohren(D)
MT: Tester(D) vs.Olszewski(R) vs.Rosendale(R)
ND: Heitkamp(D) vs.Peyer(D) vs.Cramer(R) vs.
NE: Fischer(R) vs.Raybould(D)
NJ: Menendez(D) vs.
NM: Heinrich(D) vs.Rich(R)
NV: Heller(R) vs.
NY: Gillibrand(D) vs.
OH: Brown(D) vs.
PA: Casey(D) vs.
RI: Whitehouse(D) vs.Nardolillo(R)
TN: Corker(R) vs.Bredesen(D) vs.
TX: Cruz(R) vs.
UT: Hatch(R) vs.
VA: Kaine(D) vs.
VT: Sanders(I) vs.Milne(D) vs.MacGovern(D)
WA: Cantwell(D) vs.Ferguson(D) vs.Luke(L) vs.Strider(L)
WI: Baldwin(D) vs.Vukmir(R)
WV: Manchin(D) vs.
WY: Barrasso(R) vs.Trauner(D)
Senate Votes (analysis)
Email Contact Form