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?
Drone strikes have been justified as a targeted measure of self-defense in the war against radical terrorists. However leaked documents as well as statements by former drone operators reveal that the strikes have inadequate oversight, are based on poor intelligence, and kill more civilians than terrorists, including children (reportedly referred to as “fun sized terrorists” by drone operators.) One former drone operator called the program “one of the most devastating driving forces for terrorism and destabilization around the world.” Top U.S. intelligence officials have come to see the program as futile and have called for a new approach based on apprehension and interrogation of suspected terrorists. We must stop the drone strikes immediately.
Furthermore, the US Executive Branch’s recent expansion to drone assassinations of any person, in any country of the world, at any time, without Congressional authorization of a war against that country, arrives at the nightmare of a global, indefinite war of unlimited assassination and civilian casualtie, with no accountability. This violates many of our fundamental ethics, and will never be the way to a sure, dependable peace.
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.
Almost every advance in technology has been used by the US government to erode and eliminate the protections granted in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. We must reverse this. The Green Party and I are committed to reversing this gross invasion of our lives, thoughts, and relationships.
I believe Edward Snowden should be provided the full protection of the US Whistleblower Protection Program, and allowed to return safely to the US. I believe the founders of our country would have agreed with him. As Thomas Jefferson wrote, “I hold it that a little rebellion now and then is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical.” Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, Paris, January 30, 1787. Jefferson’s statement certainly holds true in this case. The intensity of the US Administration’s drive to return him for prosecution, forsimply asserting a Constitutional protection for all Americans, is a measure of how dangerously warped our government has become. Those government resources and staff salaries should be spent on positive actions, such as switching their agencies to 100% renewable energy to avert worldwide climate collapse, and stopping the international trade in sexual slavery and trafficking into the US with its minute by minute tragedy of pain and suffering. The waste of tax dollars on this illegal program is measured not only in the fear and distrust of our government which is now the norm in our country, but in the opportunities lost to building trust and moving our progressive agenda forward.
Having worked in four government agencies, I can testify from my own observations that the only truly definitive action Congress takes to influence existing programs is cutting funding to that program. Congress’ job is simply to stop funding any programs which have gone beyond their legislative mandate or beyond the Constitution and Bill of Rights. The typical refusal of the Democratic and Republican Congresses to stop funding this surveillance program, and many other rogue programs, is a major source of the elite’s hold on power. Since the Green Party takes not a penny from corporations, particularly military contractors, we can be trusted to stand up to this fog of indecision, which actually hides massive violations of our rights. I think these data sweeps would have horrified the founders of this country, as they do me. I also think there are probably many additional, similar violations in surveillance programs not yet brought to public view, and the current situation of the US having 17 national intelligence agencies needs a complete structural overhaul.
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 am proud to be a Green Party candidate particularly on this issue, because the Green Party is the only political party in the US that doesn’t take a penny from arms manufacturers in campaign contributions.
Military spending can be cut substantially without affecting military readiness. Calls for cutting military spending have come from across the political spectrum. Reducing military spending is one of the major keys to solving climate change, because those funds are needed immediately for a national, emergency program to switch our entire industrial base to renewable energy. We need to be funding rapid ramp-up of solar, wind and geothermal electric production. Congress has failed miserably in its job of oversight of the Pentagon budget. Having worked on a major efficiency program in the Department of Defense for four years, I look forward to identifying many areas that can be reduced by DoD in our Defense authorizing and appropriations bills in Congress. In addition, several major weapons programs should be stopped or scaled back, saving additional tens of billions of dollars per year. The DoD resources should prioritize switching military facilities to renewable energy, and bringing renewable technology to areas of conflict where basics of electricity and clean water would go far to promote peace, instead of furthering conflict and war.
One of the major uses of this money would be to help small businesses handle the cost of raising the national minimum wage to $17.07 per hour. This is the actual minimum wage required in Montgomery County, MD for self sufficiency for one person, as calculated by the Center for Women’s Welfare based on careful research. This simply allows a single person to live without being dependent on any public funds. Seattle, Washington has enacted a similar minimum wage. And this level is the minimum wage of 1964 simply adjusted for inflation!
The erosion of the minimum wage over the past 40 years by the same two, pre-Civil War parties that enacted it must be reversed. Small businesses should be assisted by the Small Business Administration during their adjustment period using these funds from a reduced military, to address an underlying cause of many of our social problems – enforced poverty by corporate non-livable wages.
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?
In addition to supporting legislation above, I would lead a shift away from our partnership with the military weapons manufacturers, who are major contributors to political campaigns and underlie much of our relationships with our “allies” – countries we provide “foreign assistance” tax dollars in the tens of millions, which flow back to those US arms manufacturers. The militarization of our domestic, civil police forces is another new market for our US arms dealers, using the DoD budget as a pass-through. The last thing our police forces need is Humvees and military assault weapons, which are not requested by the local police and are expensive to maintain. Our police forces need philosophical and structural overhaul, with a focus on community policing and support. One proposal is for a year of social work required as part of police training, before serving as an armed officer. Another proven success in reducing violence, and the perceived need for violent police response, is the Green Party-led reduction in street violence in Richmond, California, which now has the lowest recorded murder rate in its history. The Green Party-led city council supported a program that reached out to violent offenders as people perceiving themselves with no future, and mentored them back into a productive life. This is an example of the proven best practices that myself and other Green Party leaders bring to our communities.
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?
Pursuit of any nuclear weapons is beyond criminal at this point. The world is dying of climate change, with ocean acidification, massive glacier melt, dropping groundwater, increasing extreme weather, and spreading drought. Every penny, every second, every breath spent on anything except planetary survival and human survival is a tragedy. The single stupidest thing we can spend our resources on is weapons that we can never use (because of their hemisphere-wide deadly impact), and which need massive yearly funds on security because they’re even dangerous when not being used. This is simply sick, and I oppose modernizing these weapons. We can build real peace with the same dollars invested in women’s empowerment, girls’ education, full funding for family planning, sustainable agriculture, renewable energy, and supporting democracy. The basic building blocks of peace need our money, not unstable, unusable, leftover 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 concludes that strong encryption is essential to protect free expression.
When the United States was founded, one of the main complaints the colonists had against the British was their use of “general warrants”. In the Bill of Rights, the 4th Amendment enshrines the right of the people to be “secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized”. This surveillance is so egregious that I think it worthwhile for us all to read the original words again, hence the quote above. It is immutable. When the US government of today sweeps up all email and other electronic and voice communication, and scans it with computers, this is an Unwarranted General Search of the modern day “letters” of the people.
The right to privacy has also been upheld in Supreme Court decisions. In the modern age, where so many communications and so much information is transmitted and stored digitally, encryption is the means to obtain privacy. Encryption and privacy experts such as Lawrence Lessig and Bruce Schneier agree that this is the way people can communicate in private. Private communication is essential to true democracy – and if any political movement’s communications are transparent to the government, real change is impossible. Creating “built in back doors” to something that is supposed to be secure destroys our right to real privacy.
The US government was recently been found to be doing things like looking up personal information of ex-lovers (the NSA – “SIGLOVE”), lying to Congress about whether they are surveilling US citizens (James Clapper), and most recently, insisting they should be able to compel Apple to create a permanent back door into iPhones — essentially, a permanent open window into our personal lives that was forbidden by the 4th amendment.
Given our government’s proven violation of the Bill of Rights on a large scale, we cannot trust them with automated means to invade our privacy at will.
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?
The US made a commitment to provide this funding as part of a historic peace deal many years ago, and we should keep to that commitment at this time, including our commitments to other countries. The US also provides major funding at similar levels to other countries in the region, and I support continuing this fragile and uncomfortable but working balance. This question of is part of a larger balance of power unfortunately in the entire area. For instance, the US gave a fully equipped, large military base to the Saudi government for which we had paid tens of millions, built in Saudi Arabia. We also provided a $5 billion loan guarantee through the International Monetary Fund for the Saudis – not an impoverished nation – to build the world’s largest petroleum processing plant. Most importantly, stopping these funds will not affect Israel’s policies in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The problems are far deeper than any funding amount, for any program. More than any other area, we need to use our funds to build our way to peace in the area, including major funding for renewable energy in West Bank and Gaza to provide the basis for a stable civil society.
I will put women’s rights at the center of American advocacy, as a deep cultural shift is needed on both sides to change the values and strategic goals to a fundamental respect for human rights and dignity in all people including our most vulnerable people, women and girls. Historically and today, the most peaceful societies have an equal or dominant role by women in the home and public affairs, which has yet to be tried in this area. Any situation so gender-imbalanced as the dominant, territorially oriented conflict-focused cultures on both sides has little historical chance of resolution. The most peaceful societies historically and today have an equal or dominant role by women in the home and public affairs. The first step is respect for human life regardless of ideology, which means the US should encourage, train, and support women to make that a reality at all levels and deal with women leaders locally. No solution will work. There will be no solution until the appetite for unilateral physical domination is reduced or eliminated on all sides.
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?
There is additional abuse at the local level. Oakland, CA police had informers attending elderly peace group meetings, and Maryland Governor Ehrlich’s administration was spying on peaceful groups here in our state. The surveillance programs should be investigated, and where citizens’ rights have been violated, the agencies should be prosecuted, just as with any other violation of US law by a federal agency.
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?
Absolutely. I will introduce the legislation, build coalitions to pass it, and publicize it, to re-establish our First Amendment rights.
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 should support these people, and help them gain skills to help rebuild their country as a sustainable, just, prosperous and equalitarian society. We must help protect human life, as a duty of all people. At the beginning of the 20th century, our local governments had active outreach programs to help immigrants. The federal government should provide funding for strong education and integration programs, particularly on the rights and freedoms of the US, and equality of women.
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?
Indefinite detention of prisoners at Guantanamo has received criticism from our allies and from human rights organizations. An Amnesty International report called it a “Gulag for our times.” Many of the early detainees were held on the flimsiest of hearsay evidence, denied basic rights such as Habeus Corpus, and subject to torture. Guantanamo is a recruiting tool for radicalized Muslims. It should be shut down immediately.
Since these prisoners were captured in a so-called “War on Terror”, they are prisoners of war. I think they should be exchanged where possible for prisoners held by terrorist groups, including women and girls who are prisoners of war and being tortured daily. The Saudis established a rehabilitation program for the Guantanamo detainees they accepted, and have a 90% success rate at reintegrating them. That is better than a permanent hold in the US (which is illegal) or a criminal trial which would be open to massive political exploitation by all concerned.
The major point here is that we have allowed “permanent war” to be waged by our own government for the first time in hour history, which is therefore blurring the lines between civilian and military roles and rights. This entire larger issue needs national discussion and resolution. Guantanomo is a symptom, along with others cited in this survey, of the military/violent establishment takeover of our civilian life. Not only do we need to shut down Guantanamo Bay, we need to ensure another one does not happen.
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?
Same response as above on First Amendment rights. I will introduce the legislation, build coalitions to pass it, and publicize it, to re-establish our First Amendment rights.