Responses: 1.Drone attacks – 2.NSA – 3.Military spending – 4.Police practices – 5.Nuclear weapons – 6.Encryption – 7.Israel/Palestine – 8.Surveillance of First Amendment protected activity – 9.Refugees – 10.Guantanamo, indefinite detention – 11. “Countering Violent Extremism” programs – References
1. Drone Attacks: U.S. strikes in Pakistan, Yemen and other countries using drone aircraft have killed many civilians, with observers claiming that far more civilians have been killed than have members of militant groups and that these strikes create more violent extremists than they kill. Recent research based on leaked classified documents suggests that nearly 90% of people killed in recent drone strikes were not the target. Moreover, targeted assassinations in foreign countries are contrary to international law.
Do you oppose drone attacks which kill numerous civilians, undermine democratic principles, foment new terrorists, and may trigger a new global killer drone arms race?
Comments: I oppose drone strikes that unnecessarily place innocent civilians in harm’s way, and I would never support military action against any target without making 100% certain that it was absolutely necessary. With that being said, I do support taking the fight to our enemy, and not allowing them to bring the fight to the shores of the United States. If we have verifiable, credible intelligence, of a target that needs eliminating, that by doing such is in the best interest of the United States and its citizens, I support using drones to accomplish that mission. I do not support unnecessarily placing American troops in danger, by forcing them to be on the ground in dangerous conditions, if we can accomplish that with drones instead.
2. NSA: In 2013, Edward Snowden revealed National Security Agency (NSA) warrantless bulk surveillance of Americans’ telephone and electronic communications and metadata. While legal experts, lawmakers, and courts agreed the NSA had overstepped its bounds, the House of Representatives failed, by 7 “no” votes, to pass an Amash-Conyers amendment that would have stopped spending on these NSA programs. Representatives Van Hollen (8th CD) and Delaney (6th CD) were among the “no” votes allowing the NSA programs to continue.
Comments: I support the Constitution of the United States, and in it the very premise that the Government should not be violating the privacy of its citizens, without going through proper judicial channels. I find the warrantless collection of metadata not only a violation of the 4th Amendment, but it violates of the trust that the people have in its government.
Comments: I think that we can all agree that we must make sure that every part of our government operates within the confines of the United State Constitution, including the 4th Amendment. We must get back to the premise of a limited government that works to serve the people, and not the people serving the government.
3. Military Spending: U.S. military spending accounts for 54 percent  of U.S. discretionary spending and 34 percent  of the world total; it exceeds the combined total of the next 8  highest spending countries. Cuts in military expenditures would allow the federal government to expand health care, cut college costs, develop a green economy, and rebuild crumbling infrastructure. (1)
Would you support legislation to significantly reduce the military budget and redirect the savings to social needs?
Comments: I believe that the United States of America should have the strongest military in the world, one that no other country on earth would be capable of defeating. I understand that we have a huge portion of our funding going to the military, and I agree that not all of that money is probably put to good use.I would always advocate for proper checks and balances and reviews of where the money is being spent.
I would never advocate for reducing our defense spending in an effort to cut college costs or developing green energy. It is not the prerogative of government to get involved in these issues, where the private sector can excel far better.
4. Police practices: In recent years, the public has been galvanized by heightened exposure of police abuses, especially of minorities and their communities: racial profiling; use of excessive force, including shooting unarmed suspects; and the deployment of surplus military vehicles and weaponry to quell protests. In Maryland, the ACLU has documented at least 109 police-involved deaths between 2010 and 2014, with nearly 70 percent of victims being black and over 40 percent unarmed. Local efforts to hold police accountable for abuses and to improve police practices are not uniformly vigorous or successful.
Will you support federal legislation including the End Racial Profiling Act and the Stop Militarization of Police Act to prevent police abuses, uphold the civil rights of suspects, and rein in the Pentagon’s 1033 program transferring military equipment to police departments?
Comments: I am an ardent supporter of our Law Enforcement Community and will always vote to make sure they have the resources necessary to safely perform their jobs, which is to enforce the rule of law and keep us safe. Law Enforcement Officers put their lives on the line each and every day to protect and serve, and I am always appreciative and grateful that they do.
Law Enforcement Agencies in the United States are not above the law itself, and should be held accountable for their actions. Racial profiling and discrimination have no place in our society, and I will always support equal protection under the law, even during the application of enforcing the law. There will always be room for improvement with law enforcement agencies and the citizens they are sworn to protect and serve. I believe strongly that the local law enforcement agencies that police our communities should not be militarized, but have a fair balance to protect themselves and those whom they serve.
5. Nuclear Weapons: Despite reductions in the nuclear arsenal, a commitment to refrain from producing new nuclear weapons, and a decreased reliance on the stockpile in U.S. security strategy, the U.S. government is planning to spend up to one trillion dollars on nuclear weapons activities in the next thirty years.
Do you oppose the proposed US nuclear modernization program, with an estimated cost of $1 trillion over the next 30 years, which assumes the US would continue to have nuclear weapons for another 100 years?
Comments: The United States’ Nuclear Triad is the backbone of our strategic national defense. It is absolutely critical that we maintain our defenses in the highest state of readiness, while at the same time trying to mitigate and end a nuclear arms race that is spreading across the Middle East and beyond. The use of nuclear submarines, strategic bombers, and land based Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles, may be expensive, but I will never vote to cut funding from those programs if it compromises their state of readiness, and reduces our strategic nuclear defense. I remember the days of the Cold War when people would build bomb shelters in their basements, or backyards, out of fear of a nuclear war, and I pray that we never have to re-live those days. Wishful thinking and even the best of diplomacy sometimes, is still not enough. We must maintain our national defense no matter what the cost is, our very survival and way of life may just depend on it.
6. Encryption: The FBI is suing Apple to force the company to unlock the iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino shooters, in a case that would set a precedent allowing law enforcement to gain backdoors into a wide array of other devices. Critics of the FBI’s approach have pointed out that this will adversely impact cybersecurity, the competitiveness of American tech companies, privacy, and the right to free expression. A UN report concludes that strong encryption is essential to protect free expression.
Comments: The question before us today is; does the Lead Law Enforcement Agency in the United States (The FBI) a Federal Court or the United States Congress have, or should have, the ability to order a public or private company to give up its trade secrets, or create a backdoor to its products’ security encryption for “national security”? My answer is no for many reasons.
First; Apple is not owned by the government and the government should not have the right to force any company to do anything, especially create something that doesn’t exist without its consent. The Constitution is clear about this and gives people protection against a tyrannical government.
Second; Apple created a product that by its very nature and design, was encrypted and safe from hacking, on any level. Now the FBI wants Apple to create a backdoor access to its own product’s encryption. If Apple were to do this, and give the FBI access to it for this application, what’s stopping that information from being hacked by foreign governments or entities wishing to do the same thing? The US government has shown time and time again that it is incapable of keeping sensitive secrets; look no further than Hillary Clinton and Edward Snowden.
Third; doesn’t the government already have the information they are seeking somehow anyway? If they’re looking for coconspirators to the radical Islamic terrorists from San Bernardino, wouldn’t they already know who they called, and how long they talked for, and all pertinent information? Wouldn’t that be enough info for them to discover if they had help?
If Apple willingly agreed to help the FBI, then this wouldn’t be an issue. But in my opinion the government should not be able to force people or private companies to create products, loopholes, or even backdoors to their own products for the government use without their consent.
On a closing note, this case clearly illustrates how important the private sector is for the United States. It is the economic driver for growth and innovation, and shows that the government is not as powerful as its citizens are, which is the very premise our Founding Fathers wrote into the Constitution.
7. Israel/Palestine: In 2015, Israel’s prime minister inserted himself into U.S. politics in an attempt to undercut U.S. diplomacy and derail the Iran nuclear deal. Despite being the biggest recipient of aid of any country in the world, Israel continues to defy the U.S. by expanding illegal settlements in the West Bank, demolishing Palestinian homes, and maintaining a devastating blockade of the Gaza Strip. And yet, the US continues to supply Israel with vast amounts of military aid amounting to more than $3 billion/year, with talks underway to dramatically increase that amount.
Do you support ending or reducing U.S. military aid to Israel until it abides by international and U.S. law?
Comments: I support Israel 100% without any preconditions. Israel is a sovereign nation and stands alone in the Middle East as the only democracy. The right of a free and democratic nation to protect and defend themselves, must remain their number one priority, and it will be mine as a member of Congress. I do support cutting funding to Hamas, and the Palestinian Authority who refuses to accept peace agreements, and uses schools to launch their missile attacks against Israeli cities and target innocent civilians.
I stood with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu when he came to the United States to address a joint session of Congress, and I still stand with him now. I believe that the Iranian Nuclear Deal was a total failure and a disaster. As a member of Congress, I would not have voted for the deal, and if elected to Congress, I will vote to repeal the deal. We gave Iran Billions of Dollars, of which even Secretary of State John Kerry acknowledges, will be used to fund terrorism around the world. How sad is that, that we give them money to fund global terrorism? Surely we could have done better than that?
8. Surveillance of First Amendment protected activity: In 2016, nearly seventy civil society groups sent a letter to Congress urging investigation of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s and Department of Homeland Security’s abuse of counterterrorism resources to monitor First Amendment protected activity. The letter was prompted by revelations that both agencies had collected information about or even infiltrated Black Lives Matter, Occupy Wall Street, School of the Americas Watch, and anti-Keystone XL Pipeline groups. Released documents show both agencies acknowledged the groups were nonviolent, yet still devoted counterterrorism resources to surveilling them.
a. Will you support Congressional investigation of abuse of counterterrorism authorities by federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies to gather information on political protest and social movements?
Comments: The Constitution of the United States is very clear that the people have the right of freedom of speech and the right to assemble, and the government should not interfere with any organization that truly is non-violent. Organizations such as Black Lives Matter and Occupy Wall Street, have that right to assemble peaceably, but have been extremely disruptive at times, and non-productive in cities across America; look no further than Ferguson and Baltimore.
While law enforcement agencies across our country need to understand that peaceful organizations have the right to assemble and protest, they must also do their due diligence in making sure that dangerous conditions and threats are mitigated before they can escalate into violent situations. This does not necessarily mean that civil rights are violated, but again, they must work within the confines of the US Constitution.
b. Will you support legislation barring federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies from investigating First Amendment protected activity, absent evidence that a crime is likely to be or has been committed?
9. Refugees: The refugee crisis in Europe, the biggest humanitarian emergency since World War II, is a direct result of the war in Iraq. President Obama has said that only 10,000 of these desperate people will be resettled in the U.S. this year, despite the fact that some 4.8 million refugees have left Syria and Iraq in search of safety, with millions more displaced inside these two countries.
Do you support the resettlement of at least 100,000 Syrian and Iraqi refugees in the U.S. this year?
Comments: I am a compassionate conservative, and I do not support the resettlement of tens of thousands of Syrian refugees in the United States at this time, without proper vetting. When the director of the FBI says in testimony before Congress that we have no capability to properly vet these refugees, we must take note. I think at this time we must take special caution to really know who we are allowing into our country. We are a nation of immigrants, and a giant melting pot from folks from all over the world, who come here to seek the American Dream. I would not deprive immigrants of today of that same dream, that even my ancestors sought, but I would have them do it the legal and proper way, and with proper vetting.
I believe there are many other ways we can help these refugees. I advocate providing them assistance in the Middle East, and partnering with our Muslim allied countries to get them to provide much needed assistance. I think it’s time that we demand countries like Saudi Arabia, Jordan, The UAE, Turkey, and others, to do their part in helping in this crisis. Maybe the answer is having NATO provide protected refugee camps that shelters them until such a time as they can return home, or to another nearby country that welcomes them.
10. Guantanamo, indefinite detention: President Obama recently renewed his vow to close the Guantanamo detention center, arguing that its continued operation undermines national security. Part of his proposal involves relocating detainees posing a “continuing significant threat” to a secure location in the United States. This raises the prospect of a “Guantanamo North” – prisoners held indefinitely, without legitimate due process, on American soil.
Will you support legislation closing the Guantanamo detention center, and oppose denial of writ of habeas corpus and due process to any detainees moved to the United States?
Comments: I do NOT support closing Guantanamo Detention Center, and I vehemently oppose bringing foreign national combatants into the United States of America. I disagree with the President, when he claims that our prison there further causes justification of war against us. It wasn’t the prison at Guantanamo Bay Cuba that caused the attack on The USS Cole, which killed 17 US NAVY Veterans, one of whom is from my own Washington County. It was Gitmo that was responsible for the attacks on the US Embassy in Kenya and Tanzania the year before, or the 9/11 attack in the US the year after. Gitmo wasn’t responsible for the many dozens of attacks since then either, but they do all have something in common; Radical Islamic Terrorism. We must not allow Radical Islamic Terrorism to prevail. We must do whatever we can to stop it, and we must not allow them to be brought to jails in our own communities. We have enough trouble with overcrowding prisons here in the US from our own citizens, we don’t need to import enemy combatants into them on top of that. Let’s keep the terrorists and enemies of the United States at Gitmo, not here in our own communities.
11. “Countering Violent Extremism” programs: The Department of Justice and FBI’s Countering Violent Extremism program is based on the premise that the adoption of extreme or “radical” ideas places individuals on a path toward violence, and that there are observable “indicators” to identify those who are “vulnerable” to “radicalization” or “at risk” of being recruited by terrorist groups. While no empirical or scientific evidence supports that premise, the program — focused almost exclusively on the American Muslim Community — is growing dramatically. The FBI and the National Counterterrorism Center are encouraging teachers, social workers, and health professionals to monitor and report on the beliefs and associations of their students and clients, framing First Amendment protected activities as predictors of future violence.
Will you oppose legislation that expands this program, such as the CVE Act and Countering Online Recruitment of Violent Extremists Act?
Comments: As I mentioned earlier, I don’t believe that the government of the United States should be spying on its citizens without proper and just cause, in violation of the US Constitution. We must work within the framework of it. We must not allow ourselves to live in fear and live like the fascists, and communist do, and report every little thing about our friends and neighbors to the government. We must maintain ourselves as a free society, who uphold the rule of law and are served by a limited government, of the people, for the people, and by the people.