Bernie Sanders on Homeland Security

Democratic primary challenger; Independent VT Senator; previously Representative (VT-At-Large)


We spend $750B on military & don't know who our enemy is

As the former chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs, we cannot express our gratitude to all of the men and women who have put their lives on the line to defend us, who have responded to the call of duty. But I think, also, I am the only person up here to have voted against all three of Trump's military budgets.

I don't think we have to spend $750 billion a year on the military when we don't even know who our enemy is.

I think that what we have got to do is bring this world together-bring it together on climate change, bring it together in fighting against terrorism. And make it clear that we as a planet, as a global community, will work together to help countries around the world rebuild their struggling economies and do everything that we can to rid the world of terrorism. But dropping bomb on Afghanistan and Iraq was not the way to do it.

Source: September Democratic Primary debate in Houston , Sep 12, 2019

Cut military spending to pay for fixing climate change

Q: Your climate plan is specific about how you will spend $16 trillion [over 15 years]. Can you be equally specific about where that money is coming from?

SANDERS: We have a moral responsibility to act boldly, and to do that, yes, it is going to be expensive. This is how we get the money.

  1. Insanely, right now we are giving the fossil fuel industry approximately $400 billion every single year in subsidies and tax breaks. Obviously, we end that.
  2. We believe that the federal government is the best way to move aggressively to produce sustainable energy, like wind and solar. We will expand public power concepts like the TVA.
  3. We are not going to have to spend money on the military defending oil interests around the world. We can cut military spending there, as well.
  4. Our program will create up to 20 million good- paying jobs over the period of the 15 years. And when we do that, you're going to have a lot of taxpayers out there who will be paying more in taxes
Source: CNN Climate Crisis Town Hall marathon (10 Democrats) , Sep 4, 2019

CIA torture policy means US service members get tortured too

Q: You have announced your opposition to President Trump's nominee, Gina Haspel, to be the first woman CIA director. Is it because Haspel was in the CIA when enhanced interrogation techniques, otherwise known by human rights groups as torture, were used?

SANDERS: Well, on this one, I would agree with John McCain, and tell you what our leaders in the armed forces say. If the US condones torture for other people, then that subjects our own men and women who are captured to be tortured as well.

Q: But you didn't have reservations about John Brennan, whom Obama nominated; you voted for John Brennan who was also in the CIA at the same time as Haspel. Whatever reservations you have about Gina Haspel, why didn't they apply to Obama's nominee?

SANDERS: It's not just the issue of torture. It goes deeper than that. And that is the foreign policy that we have seen from Mr. Trump, which is something that I also strongly disagree with.

Source: CNN 2018 interviews of 2020 hopefuls , May 13, 2018

Undertake comprehensive audit of Department of Defense

On domestic policy, there are major differences between the Democratic Party and the Republican Party. On foreign policy, not so much.

Several months ago, Democrats, with virtually no opposition, gave President Trump every nickel that he wanted in increased defense spending. At a time [of great domestic needs], there were very few Democrats opposed to Republican efforts to increase military spending by $165 billion over two years.

Democrats, for good reason, vehemently oppose almost everything Trump proposes, but when he asks for a huge increase in military spending, there are almost no voices in dissent. Why is that? Do we really have to spend more on the military than the next ten nations combined--most of which are our allies? Why do we dramatically increase funding when the Department of Defense remains the only government agency not to have undertaken a comprehensive audit? Why is there so little discussion about the billions in waste, fraud, and cost overruns at the Pentagon?

Source: Where We Go From Here, by Bernie Sanders, p.182-3 , Apr 16, 2018

Don't privatize the Veterans Administration

Q: Will you support Dr. Ronny Jackson as the nominee for the Veterans Administration?

SANDERS: Well, we know nothing about Dr. Jackson's vision for the VA. But what concerns me is that, right now in Washington, we have a family called the Koch brothers--with a few of their other billionaire friends--their view has been we have got to privatize, privatize, and privatize. And Dr. Shulkin [the previous DVA chief], who Trump fired this week, said the reason for his firing is that he resisted privatization of the Veterans Administration. I work very closely with the major veterans organizations, and what they say is they want to strengthen the VA, not dismember it, not privatize it.

Q: Well, the White House says, at this time, they have no intent to privatize the VA.

SANDERS: They have been putting more money into the private sector with VA money. I do not believe them on that issue. I think they are listening to the Koch brothers. And I think that that is a very, very bad idea.

Source: CBS Face the Nation 2018 interviews of 2020 hopefuls , Apr 1, 2018

Global War on Terror has undermined our moral standards

Terrorism is a very real threat, as we learned so tragically on September 11, 2001, and many other countries knew already too well. But as an organizing framework, the Global War on Terror has been a disaster for the American people and for American leadership. Orienting US national security strategy around terrorism essentially allowed a few thousand violent extremists to dictate policy for the most powerful nation on earth. It responds to terrorists by giving them exactly what they want.

In addition to draining our resources and distorting our vision, the war on terror has caused us to undermine our own moral standards regarding torture, indefinite detention, and the use of force around the world, using drone strikes and other airstrikes that often result in high civilian casualties.

A heavy-handed military approach, with little transparency or accountability, doesn't enhance our security. It makes the problem worse.

Source: Westminster College speech in Where We Go From Here, p.105-6 , Sep 21, 2017

Spending on military means fewer resources for people

How many cities of forty thousand, which is the population of Burlington, have a foreign policy? Well, we did. During my tenure as mayor we made the point that excessive spending on the military and unnecessary wars meant fewer resources to address the needs of ordinary people. Somewhere in the Reagan Library, or wherever these things are kept, there is a letter from the mayor of Burlington opposing the U.S. funding of contras in Nicaragua. The letter stated, "Stop the war against the people of Nicaragua. Use our tax dollars to feed the hungry and house the homeless. Stop killing the innocent people of Nicaragua."

As mayor of Burlington, I helped establish two sister-city programs. One was with the town of Puerto Cabezas in Nicaragua. The other was with the city of Yaroslavl in what was then the Soviet Union. Both programs continue today.

Source: Our Revolution, by Bernie Sanders, p. 38 , Nov 15, 2016

Care for our veterans, even if we disagree about wars

While serious people can have legitimate differences of opinion about when our country should go to war, there should never be a debate as to whether we fulfill the promises made to the men and women who served this country in the military. As a nation, we have a moral obligation to provide the best-quality care to those who have put their lives on the line to defend us. But we have often fallen short of that obligation.
Source: Our Revolution, by Bernie Sanders, p. 414 , Nov 15, 2016

CIA activities in Iran and Chile led to dictatorships

Q: You said the CIA is a dangerous institution that has got to go; that the CIA was accountable to no one except right-wing lunatics who use it to prop up fascist dictatorships. Do you stand by those comments?

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.

Source: 2016 CNN Town Hall on eve of South Carolina primary , Feb 23, 2016

Strengthen the V.A.; don't privatize the V.A.

CLINTON: I'm absolutely against privatizing the V.A. 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. .

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.

Source: MSNBC Democratic primary debate in New Hampshire , Feb 4, 2016

It does us no good to NOT talk to adversaries

CLINTON: We have to figure out how to deal with Iran as the principal state sponsor of terrorism in the world. If we were to normalize relations right now, [as Senator Sanders suggests,] we would remove one of the biggest pieces of leverage we have. Part of the hard work of diplomacy is trying to extract whatever concessions you can get, and giving something the other side wants. Of course you've got to try to make peace with, and work with those who are your adversaries, but you don't just rush in, open the door, and say, "Here I am. Let's talk and make a deal." That's not the way it works.

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..

Source: MSNBC Democratic primary debate in New Hampshire , Feb 4, 2016

Promise to never privatize V.A.

Q: You will likely face a Republican opponent who wants to privatize or even abolish big parts of the V.A. It's a newly popular idea in conservative politics.

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.

Source: MSNBC Democratic primary debate in New Hampshire , Feb 4, 2016

We spend billions on nuclear weapons & only 10% on terrorism

Sen. SANDERS: This nation is the most powerful military in the world. We're spending over $600 billion a year on the military and yet, significantly less than 10% of that money is used to be fighting international terrorism. We are spending hundreds of billions of dollars maintaining 5,000 nuclear weapons. I think we need major reform in the military, making it more cost effective, but also focusing on the real crisis that faces us. The Cold War is over. And our focus has got to be on intelligence, increased manpower, fighting international targets.

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.

Source: 2015 CBS Democratic primary debate in Iowa , Nov 14, 2015

I opposed Vietnam as conscientious objector

Q [to WEBB]: You served in Vietnam. During the Vietnam War, the man standing next to you, Senator Sanders, applied for status as a conscientious objector.

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.

Source: 2015 CNN Democratic primary debate in Las Vegas , Oct 13, 2015

Shut down the NSA surveillance program

Q: You're the only one on this stage who voted against the Patriot Act in 2001 and the reauthorization votes. Would you shut down the NSA surveillance program?

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.

Source: 2015 CNN Democratic primary debate in Las Vegas , Oct 13, 2015

Snowden showed us our civil rights are being undermined

Q: Is Edward Snowden [the federal employee who released thousands of NSA documents] a traitor or a hero?

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].

Source: 2015 CNN Democratic primary debate in Las Vegas , Oct 13, 2015

PATRIOT Act was 99-1, and I was the one

Q: You and Hillary Clinton both voted for the Patriot Act which created the NSA surveillance program. You've emphasized civil liberties, privacy during your campaign. Aren't these two things in conflict?

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!]

Source: 2015 CNN Democratic primary debate in Las Vegas , Oct 13, 2015

I pushed bill for $15B for veterans' healthcare services

What we did is pass a $15 billion dollar piece of legislation which brought in many new doctors and nurses into the V.A. so that veterans could get health care when they needed it, and not be on long waiting lines. The other part of that legislation said that if a veteran is living more than 40 miles away from a V.A. facility, that veteran could get health care from the community health center or the private sector.
Source: 2015 CNN Democratic primary debate in Las Vegas , Oct 13, 2015

Continue using drones and special forces

Q: What does counterterrorism look like in a Sanders administration? Drones? Special Forces, or what does it look like?

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.

Source: Meet the Press 2015 interview moderated by Chuck Todd , Oct 11, 2015

NSA is unconstitutionally out of control

Q: What actions has Bernie taken to limit mass surveillance and reign in the NSA?

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.

Source: USA FREEDOM Act 14-S1123 on Apr 28, 2015

Exempt Veterans Affairs from federal hiring freeze.

Sanders signed exempting Veterans Affairs from federal hiring freeze

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.

We urge you to classify VA's delivery of health care as a national security and public safety responsibility, and exempt it from this hiring freeze. To do otherwise is to jeopardize the national security and public safety of our nation.

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.

Source: Letter on DVA 17LTR-DVA on Jan 26, 2017

Address abuses of electronic monitoring in the workplace.

Sanders co-sponsored addressing abuses of electronic monitoring in the workplace

Source: Privacy for Consumers and Workers Act (H.R.1900) 1993-H1900 on Apr 28, 1993

Restore habeas corpus for detainees in the War on Terror.

Sanders co-sponsored restoring habeas corpus for detainees in the War on Terror

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."

Source: Habeas Corpus Restoration Act (S.185/H.R.2826) 2007-S185 on Jun 22, 2007

Other candidates on Homeland Security: Bernie Sanders on other issues:
2020 Presidential Democratic Primary Candidates:
Sen.Michael Bennet (D-CO)
V.P.Joe Biden (D-DE)
Mayor Mike Bloomberg (I-NYC)
Gov.Steve Bullock (D-MT)
Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D-IN)
Sen.Cory Booker (D-NJ)
Secy.Julian Castro (D-TX)
Rep.John Delaney (D-MD)
Rep.Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI)
Sen.Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)
Gov.Deval Patrick (D-MA)
Sen.Bernie Sanders (I-VT)
CEO Tom Steyer (D-CA)
Sen.Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)
Marianne Williamson (D-CA)
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V.C.Arvin Vohra (Libertarian-MD)
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Gov.Bill Weld (L-NY,R-MA)
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Page last updated: Dec 29, 2019