Jamie Raskin, 8th CD (D)

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” programsReferences

1. Drone AttacksU.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[1] 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?
__X__Yes              ____No


Drone strikes that produce foreseeable civilian casualties are indefensible under basic just war principles of not killing noncombatants, minimizing casualties, and preserving necessity and proportionality.  According to the Colombia Law School Human Rights Clinic, there is considerable evidence that for every individual targeted in drone campaigns, many more innocent people lose their lives.[1]  This “collateral damage” is a propaganda bonanza for terrorists and helps generate backlash and extremism in drone combat zones.  For example, the drone-ridden country of Yemen has seen the growth of Al Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula.[2]  According to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, Pakistan and Afghanistan have seen similar increases in radicalization and terror networks in the aftermath of U.S. drone strikes.[3][4]

Aside from the actual boomerang consequences, under international law, drone strikes present a number of serious conceptual challenges.  The ones that kill civilians violate the “fundamental human right not to be arbitrarily deprived of one’s life.”[5]   In addition, the U.S.’s use of lethal force must adhere to obligations under international human rights and humanitarian law—specifically, respect for the rule that “if there is doubt as to whether a person is a civilian, the person is to be considered a civilian.”[6]  Drone strikes can also obviously violate nations’ territorial sovereignty and tend not to meet the requirements for self-defense under the United Nations Charter as interpreted by the International Court of Justice and customary international law.  The attacks thus also often violate the jus ad bellum requirements of necessity and proportionality and the jus in bello requirements of distinction and proportionality that place limits on acceptable wartime conduct.[7]

[1] http://web.law.columbia.edu/sites/default/files/microsites/human-rights-institute/files/COLUMBIACountingDronesFinal.pdf.

[2] http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2015/09/drone-war-yemen-al-qaeda/407599/.

[3] https://www.thebureauinvestigates.com/2015/07/01/drone-war-report-january-june-2015-controversial-signature-strikes-hit-yemen-and-pakistan/.

[4] http://www.strategicstudiesinstitute.army.mil/pdffiles/PUB1167.pdf.

[5] http://www.amnestyusa.org/research/reports/usa-targeted-killing-policies-violate-the-right-to-life.

[6] http://www.amnestyusa.org/sites/default/files/usa_targeted_killing.pdf.

[7] Andrew C. Orr, “Unmanned, Unprecedented, and Unresolved:  The Status of American Drone Strikes in Pakistan Under International Law,” 44 Cornell Int’l L.J. 729 (2011), pgs. 730-731, available at http://www.lawschool.cornell.edu/research/ILJ/upload/Orr-final.pdf.


2. NSAIn 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,[2] the House of Representatives failed, by 7 “no” votes,[3]  to pass an Amash-Conyers amendment[4] 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.

a. Do you agree that warrantless collection of metadata is itself a violation of Fourth Amendment[5] rights?
__X__Yes              ____No


Our government’s warrantless collection of metadata from all our telephone communications is almost certainly a violation of the Fourth Amendment.  Judge Richard J. Leon of the U.S. District Court of the District Columbia held that the metadata program under Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act “constitutes an unconstitutional search and seizure.”  There is reason to believe that our government has indiscriminately collected telephone metadata on hundreds of millions of American citizens “without any particularized suspicion of wrongdoing, retains all of that metadata for five years, and then queries, analyzes, and investigates that data without prior judicial approval of the investigative targets.”[1]

I was endorsed on the first day of my campaign by Congressman John Conyers.  As your next Congressman, I would support and push for repeal of the USA Patriot Act.  Specifically, I would work with my friend Congressman Mark Pocan (D-WI), who has endorsed my campaign, to campaign for passage of the Surveillance State Repeal Act.[2]

[1] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/marjorie-cohn/nsa-metadata-collection-f_b_4611211.html.

[2] Surveillance State Repeal Act, available at https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/house-bill/1466/all-info#titles.


b. Will you work to stop continued warrantless electronic data and metadata surveillance by the NSA by funding cuts, the Surveillance State Repeal Act[6], or other legislative means?
__X__Yes              ____No

Comments: I would vote for cuts to NSA funding for warrantless surveillance and would ardently support the Surveillance State Repeal Act and other legislative proposals to rein in the American surveillance state that is increasingly infringing upon people’s fundamental right to privacy.  As an amicus brief from various groups, including the Brennan Center for Justice, the American Library Association, the Electronic Privacy Information Center, and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers stated in United States v. Moalin, “This Court, therefore, should regard communications metadata as if it were considering the privacy of papers in a desk drawer.  In the digital age, there is no meaningful distinction.”[1]

[1] Brief for the Brennan Center for Justice et al. as Amicus Curiae, pg. 23, United States v. Moalin, No. 10-CR-4246, November 5, 2015, available at https://www.brennancenter.org/sites/default/files/analysis/151105%20-%20BCJ%20-%20Moalin%20Amicus%20STAMPED.pdf.

3. Military SpendingU.S. military spending accounts for 54 percent [7] of U.S. discretionary spending and 34 percent [8] of the world total; it exceeds the combined total of the next 8 [9] 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?
__X__Yes              ____No


The exorbitant portion of the U.S. budget allocated for military spending creates budget shortfalls and imbalances in healthcare, education, environmental initiatives, and infrastructure development.  What President Eisenhower called the “military-industrial complex” maintains a powerful presence on Capitol Hill and defense contractors have frequently overpriced their services, causing significant cost overruns on development and procurement programs.

In Congress, I would champion legislation to redirect funding to education, healthcare, and green infrastructure, and also to improve accountability and transparency to expose unfair pricing practices in federal defense contracting.

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.[10] 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[11] and the Stop Militarization of Police Act[12] to prevent police abuses, uphold the civil rights of suspects, and rein in the Pentagon’s 1033 program[13] transferring military equipment to police departments?
__X__Yes              ____No


I have been a leading champion among Democrats in Annapolis to reform criminal justice; I led the fight to abolish the death penalty, pass the Second Chance Act, restore voting rights to ex-felons, overthrow mandatory minimum drug sentences, and shift funding from incarceration to rehabilitation.  I strongly support all the pieces of federal legislation mentioned in the question.  There must be significantly more accountability for police abuses and determined effort to uphold the civil rights of suspects.  The federal government has a responsibility to reinstate community policing rather than continue the militarization of police activity.  I would back any and all efforts in Congress to provide funding for police-community outreach programs and anti-racist police practices, such as Representative Barbara Lee’s H.Res. 262 – Supporting the practice of community-oriented policing and encouraging diversity hiring and retention of law enforcement.[1]

[1] H.Res.262 – Supporting the practice of community-oriented policing and encouraging diversity hiring and retention in law enforcement, available at https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/house-resolution/262?q=%7B%22search%22%3A%5B%22community+policing%22%5D%7D&resultIndex=2.

5. Nuclear WeaponsDespite 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[14] 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?
__X__Yes              ____No


Absolutely.  My father—who worked for President Kennedy’s National Security Council and also on the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency—brought me up to believe in the fundamental importance of nuclear non-proliferation and investment in serious arms control efforts.  I strongly support the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC)’s Governing Under the Influence program, which seeks to curtail spending on military weapons.[1]  I would hope to advance AFSC’s agenda in Congress.  I have strongly backed the Joint Comprehensive Plan for Action, popularly known as the Iran Nuclear Agreement, in order to deny Iran both uranium and plutonium pathways to becoming a nuclear power.[2]  We must vigilantly enforce the terms of the agreement, including the comprehensive inspection regime, to ensure there is no cheating and that the “snap-back” sanctions remain a swift and effective deterrent to subterfuge and circumvention.  In the meantime, we should be pushing for dramatic human rights reform in Iran, a theocratic state with a pro-terrorist record and which is a human rights nightmare for its citizens, especially minority groups.

[1] http://gui.afsc.org/what-governing-under-influence.

[2] For further elaboration of my views on the JCPOA, which I endorsed, see https://jamieraskin.com/preventing-iran-developing-nuclear-weapons.

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[15] concludes that strong encryption is essential to protect free expression.

Will you support legislation such as the ENCRYPT Act[16], which prevents states from passing legislation mandating backdoors into devices?
__X__Yes              ____No

Comments: I strongly support the ENCRYPT Act.  I introduced with my colleague on the Judicial Proceedings Committee, former Republican Senator Chris Shank, a package of bills in 2014, which protect people against invasion of their privacy and civil rights in the Internet age:  The three bills that passed require state and local law enforcement to obtain a search warrant before accessing email accounts, cell phone data and cell phone tracking information and establish parameters for law enforcement in its use of automated license plate tracking data.   It is crucial, in light of the terrorist attacks in Brussels, that members of Congress exercise “patience and thoughtfulness” before passing legislation that “could harm Americans’ . . . privacy by weakening encryption security technology.”[1]

[1] http://www.ibtimes.com/brussels-attacks-increase-pressure-congress-act-encryption-2341472.

7. Israel/PalestineIn 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[17] 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[18], 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?
_____Yes              __X_No


No.  Israel has real enemies—both state and non-state actors—and faces continuing terror attacks.  Simply cutting off military aid to Israel is the wrong approach to promote security for all peoples, human rights, the rule of law, economic development, and peace in the region.  I favor the two-state solution and the renewal of mutual trust and confidence-building measures to build a pathway to peace, security and prosperity for Israelis and Palestinians alike.

8. Surveillance of First Amendment protected activity: In 2016, nearly seventy civil society groups sent a letter to Congress[19] 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?
__X__Yes              ____No


Yes.  When the news surfaced in 2007 that the Maryland State Police had been infiltrating and spying on nonviolent political groups, including peace groups, environmental activists, pro-choice organizations, and anti-death penalty groups, I spearheaded a legislative investigation and hearing, and introduced legislation which passed unanimously to end the practice.  The Freedom of Assembly and Expression Act forbids surveillance and infiltration of nonviolent political groups without reasonable articulated suspicion to believe that criminal activity is taking place.  This is a national model for protecting civil rights against police overreach against citizen groups.  I also strongly favor Congressional investigation of similar abuse of counterterrorism authority by federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies to infiltrate and spy on citizen movements engaged in First Amendment activity.  I am a passionate defender of the critical rights that the First Amendment protects.

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?
__X__Yes              ____No


Yes, the legislation that I wrote and we passed in Annapolis is a precise model for such legislation.  I am a steadfast advocate of people’s right to engage in First Amendment protected activity.

9. RefugeesThe refugee crisis in Europe, the biggest humanitarian emergency since World War II, is a direct result of the war in Iraq.[20]  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[21] 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?
__X__Yes              ____No


I am a passionate advocate for resettling at least 100,000 Syrian and Iraqi refugees in the U.S. this year.  In my capacity as Maryland State Senator, I penned a letter to Governor Hogan’s office in January endorsing the resettlement of Syrian refugees in Maryland and circulated this letter to my colleagues for their signatures.  In the letter, I write: “America was founded as a ‘haven of refuge,’ as Tom Paine put it, for people all over the world seeking a new life free from repression and war. As the Free State, Maryland has always done its part to welcome refugees fleeing crisis, and there is no justification for us to cut and run from our basic values today . . .  While Germany has committed to accept one million Syrian refugees, the U.S. has agreed to accept 10,000, a small number which makes it all the more appalling that certain politicians have urged closing the door on them . . . Our nation and our state were founded to give people fleeing persecution a safe haven.  Welcoming Syrian refugees, according to the law, and not scapegoating them according to fear, speaks to our best traditions and hopes for the future. We trust and hope that you and your administration will act accordingly and not fall for the demagoguery and paranoia that have overtaken the leadership of other states in the Union.”[1]

[1] https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B8L8vf0joWhQbHpXUVFFTElYa3NrRldjb25rLWdqTU4ydERj/view.


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.[22]  This raises the prospect of a “Guantanamo North” – prisoners held indefinitely, without legitimate due process, on American soil.[23]

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?
__X__Yes              ____No


I agree with President Obama that we should move past the “troubled era of wartime behavior.”  Keeping the Guantanamo detention center open is contrary to our country’s values and departs from our nation’s record “upholding the highest standards of rule of law.”  The president’s plan to close the facility would save the federal government between $65 and $85 million a year.[1]  Congress should shutter Guantanamo in the right way, which means ending indefinite detention without charge or trial, transferring detainees cleared of guilt, and giving all other detainees for whom there is evidence of wrongdoing a constitutionally mandated fair trial in the U.S. (thus, the president should eliminate the wanting military commissions).[2]

[1] http://www.cnn.com/2016/02/23/politics/guantanamo-bay-obama-prison-closure-plan/index.html.

[2] https://www.aclu.org/feature/close-guantanamo.


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[24]. While no empirical or scientific evidence supports that premise[25], the program — focused almost exclusively on the American Muslim Community[26] — is growing dramatically. The FBI and the National Counterterrorism Center are encouraging teachers[27], social workers, and health professionals[28] 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[29] and Countering Online Recruitment of Violent Extremists Act[30]?
_____Yes              ____No


Sorry, I don’t know anything about this legislation, but will research it as soon as my legislative session is over!  I am a staunch civil libertarian and opponent of ethnic and racial profiling and stereotyping.  We do not need to violate anyone’s rights or stigmatize entire communities to take a stand against violent extremism and theocratic ideas.  In the age of terror, we should tell widely the story of our past and continuing struggle to become an inclusive and pluralistic liberal democracy but we should do so without ever succumbing to prejudice and ethnic profiling.

* Candidate web site:www.jamieraskin.com
* Copy of returned questionnaire
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