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?
I am a Marine Corp Veteran. I am the only veteran amongst a long field of candidates seeking the 8th District seat in the upcoming congress. I am a Veteran who believes in life, liberty, and happiness for all people, not just Americans. I am against our current international policies, most specifically the drone strikes that we use without fear of retaliation and concern for life. I recognize that drones provide our nation with a capability to reach out and destroy our adversaries, but we have this tool at a gross cost. We create more anti-American resentment, more western civilization resentment, and more terrorist because of our actions in the Middle East.
The attacks in Brussels, Paris, and in our country are motivated by our international policies. It is up to us to destroy terrorism, and the only available means to do so that we have not yet tried is a policy change. Now is the time to be strong and to have integrity, to express our regrets for the lives that we have taken as a Nation, which we have authorized our leaders to do on our behalf. We have to admit when we are involved in injustice, and we have to explain how we can achieve a more peaceful world for our children.
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.
The Constitution was not written for our modern times, but it doesn’t take a stretch of logic to conclude that personal effects such as computers, cell phones, and online data are within the realm of the 4th amendment. It seems quite obvious that a person’s data is their own, unless they were engaged in activities that destroy another’s life, freedom, or property. Yes, 4th amendment rights should be automatically extended to these forms of information.
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?
I cannot answer this question with a simple yes or no response. This is what I will say on the matter:
As a reminder, I am a US Marine Corps Veteran and have been employed by defense contractors for many years following my enlistment. I have seen firsthand the creation of jobs, opportunity, and communities by our military spending. I have also seen our failures as a country in international relations, and I witness frequently inefficiencies and ineffective actions that are caused by our stretch of influence. Due to our desire to promote our power and expand our reach around the world, we have now overstretched our military. We are attempting to correct the problem with more technology, hoping that we can have less boots on the ground in foreign lands, and in hopes that our technology will protect us from the event of a terrorist attack or invasion on our homeland. Sadly, I am of the opinion that our military is stretched too thin to protect the entire nation. It is too ineffective in stopping the radicalization of mankind in Africa, the Middle East, and in Southeast Asia.
It would be extremely irresponsible of me and naïve to think that we can simply cut cost of our military and not have a disastrous effect on our economy, international standing, and without completely crippling our government, which is centered on military spending and war. With that stated, we need a transition plan so that we can begin painting the picture of an America without such domineering military spending and externalized force.
We need to completely overhaul our international policies, and our fiscal policies. Among these overhauls I strongly support a shift in military policies, including our footprint in other nations, our focus on externalizing our dominance, and using our military force as a tool of diplomacy. I am convinced that the United States Military should be much more focused on defending our own homeland, rather than spreading our troops throughout the world. This transition would cost the government a rather large sum of money, however it is a more feasible long term strategy for our National development, protection, economy, and safety.
If we were to continue in our current military policies, we will have to continue spending at our current levels. This is what needs to be change. Simply defunding the military will place millions of people out of work, not only for those serving on active duty, but also the entire network of government contractors, small business that furnish the bases and troops, and a wealth of effects that would take research to draw conclusions on. The fabric of our current economy is based on the military spending, the government spending, the socio-economic programs for veterans and active military personnel, and the fiscal strength of many companies that service the government and military. This analysis doesn’t include, but needs to, the effects that cost cutting will have areas that are primarily military locations without any natural economy.
I believe that we have the opportunity now to cut college cost, as well as to improve on all levels of our education without cutting military spending, though I think it needs to be done. I believe that we have the ability to transition our military engineers to civil engineers in order to rebuild our infrastructure. I believe that we can revolutionize our environment, agriculture and go sustainable without even considering our military. In order to do these things, we as a nation need to come together and decide that we don’t want to crumble as a nation. Changing the direction of the military (our National Military/Defense Strategy) and transitioning to a sustainable long term outlook on our defense will greatly improve our effectiveness, efficiency, and international dialogue. It will make the pressing national concerns much easier to manage as well.
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?
As a Black man, who has witnessed to open and hidden racism, who has been deeply affected by the war on drugs, I am very interested in ensuring justice and equality are served to every American. I am against the transitioning of military equipment to our civil protectors, as the equipment is designed for combat situations, against armed combatants who are opposing military force with equal force.
I will strongly work toward, speak towards, and produce actions towards ensuring that all people are treated fairly and equitably in the justice system.
I have far too much to say about this topic to comment in this restricted format. I am very motivated and driven to speak to your organization at the earliest possible convenience for you.
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?
I oppose the current Nuclear Modernization Program because it assumes that the future of our national security, and the world for that matter, will be generally the same as today. The program and the vision of it is not only costly, but it doesn’t respect the amount of spent fuel from our National reactors, the possible development of nuclear weapons by our adversaries, and it doesn’t even consider lowering our nuclear stockpile in a good faith effort to promote peace. I strongly oppose continuing our policies in international relations, as well as our Nuclear weapons policies. I am convinced that through policy changes, continued diplomacy, and shifting focus from international dominance to homeland protection that Americans can continue to be safe without a Nuclear deterrent at our current levels.
We do need to modernize our Nuclear Weapons program, our Nuclear energy program, and our entire perspective of on our National Security. We need to find ways to cut our spending, as well as our a way to lower our national debt, and the tax burden on all Americans. Continuing to operate in this manner will only lead us further from the positive future that we can achieve through revolutionizing our minds and moving into a state of rebuilding.
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.
I do not support the government forcing any company to give the government unauthorized access to personal devices.
I do not support the government forcing private citizens to forfeit any of their rights, including the right to privacy, due to security concerns without warrants.
I do not support “back-door” encryption to cell phones, computers, or other electronic device legislation.
I will work to support personal liberties, while remaining resilient and vigilant in the face of our adversaries.
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?
I do not support United States Aid to Israel, nor do I support United States Aid to the Egyptian Military.
I support ending aid to Israel regardless of any stipulations.
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?
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?
We all know the causes and the circumstances of the war in Iraq, and the effect it has had on the Syrians. I would support the housing and care of refugees regardless of the cause of the need. I do, however, think that we as Americans will have to find a way to vet the refugees, establish a signed agreement for them detailing our requirements, and that we should help them create a micro community where they can live in protection without being integrated into general American society. We need to ensure that we have a plan for them to come, live, and to exit, as well as criteria for entry and living and to measure our successes or failures in their care.
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?
I support the closing of Guantanamo. I do not support relocating non-citizen detainees into the United States. If we have reason to suspect that the detainees are in fact guilty of accusations, then they should be tried. If they are not guilty, or if there is evidence to the contrary, or a lack of evidence, then they should be freed.
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?
The United States government should admit that our actions have supported the recruitment, and the radicalization of terrorist all over the world due to our actions abroad. These acknowledgements would go a long way to repair the damage done around the world, but will also provide a solid place by which to work to de-radicalize those on the path to radicalization.
Policies that target subsets of the population out of fear and concern are usually the most intensely divisive, causing damage to the fabric of society.
Of course, if any person believes that someone is engaged in destructive behavior, they should develop a plan to get them assistance in changing that behavior. If someone thinks that a youth or young adult is becoming radicalized, in any way, they should promote conversations that instruct the person in truth and allows them to learn the perspective of the “other”. These should not be, however, reasons to falsely accuse, harras, or jail