Chris Van Hollen, Senate (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

Comments:
I believe we should curb drone strikes abroad as part of our anti-terrorism efforts and believe that any use of drones by the United States must be done so in accordance with international law. It is also imperative that the U.S. takes all precautions available to avoid any civilian casualties when deploying drones for reasons of national security.



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

Comments:
We have a constitutional responsibility to ensure that we protect civil liberties as we protect our national security. The PATRIOT Act failed that test, and ever since, I’ve been fighting to restore the balance in a comprehensive and sustained way. While I agreed with the intent of the Amash-Conyers amendment, I wanted to address the issue in a more comprehensive and effective way through authorizing statute, rather than in an annual appropriations bill.

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:
While some partial efforts have been made to reform the invasive government surveillance into innocent American lives, they simply didn’t go far enough. The Second Circuit in ACLU v. Clapper made clear that Section 215 is illegal, and Congress responded with modest reforms. We must do more. We still need to address Section 702 of the PATRIOT Act, which opened the door to some of the most troublesome surveillance practices that have come to light in recent years. I’ve also called for a strong citizens civil rights advocate at the FISA Court to represent privacy interests, working on a bipartisan basis with Congressman Jim Jordan on the FISA Court Reform Act.



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

Comments:
I have led the fight against excessive spending in the Overseas Contingency Account. As former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, has said, we have to reform our defense budget to make sure that every dollar is effectively invested to support readiness and 21st Century needs. We should refocus our investments away from unnecessary weapons systems that do nothing to advance our security and to innovative technologies that support our troops, saving a significant amount from the defense budget.



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

Comments:
I am a cosponsor of the End Racial Profiling Act and the Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act. When I was in the Maryland General Assembly, I helped pass legislation to end racial profiling at traffic stops.



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

Comments:
The nuclear weapons budget should be reduced. I am deeply concerned that the development of a new nuclear cruise missile could have a destabilizing impact, as the difficulty in distinguishing between a conventional cruise missile and a nuclear warhead could lead to unintended escalation. It would be better to pursue a global ban on this technology. Additionally, the expense of the nuclear modernization program will either require dramatic increases in the Defense budget or will crowd out more conventional weapons that could be used in current fights against ISIS and other existing threats.



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:
Americans have a right to privacy on their personal devices. A patchwork of state laws allowing difference backdoor access would erode cybersecurity and create impossible standards for tech companies to meet.



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

Comments:
I strongly supported the efforts of President Obama and Secretary Kerry to negotiate a two-state solution with Israel and Palestine. I think our hand is strengthened to facilitate that if we assure the Israelis that their security will be guaranteed. With respect the the Iran Nuclear Agreement, I am a strong supporter and, after thoroughly reviewing the deal, I wrote a statement of support that Joe Cirincione of the Ploughshares Fund called “a tipping point in the fierce battle over how best to stop Iran from getting the bomb.”



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

Comments:

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

Comments:
I support the intent of such legislation, but would want to see the legislative text.



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

Comments:
I have been an outspoken supporter of bringing more refugees to the United States. We have an obligation to join our international allies to protect human rights for those fleeing violence.



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

Comments:
The Guantanamo detention center undermines our national security and serves as a recruiting tool for terrorist organizations. I have consistently supported efforts to close it, and believes the President’s proposal to do so should be considered quickly by Congress.



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]?
__X__Yes              ____No

Comments:
While community outreach can build relationships between law enforcement and communities, it is unproductive to couple it with surveillance and erode the trust that is necessary for community members to come forward when a real threat exists. The Muslim community is a critical ally in our effort to combat extremism and we must work closely and cooperatively with American Muslims to further that goal. Divisive and anti-Muslim rhetoric is an affront to American values and jeopardizes our national security.


* Candidate web site: www.vanhollen.org
* Copy of returned questionnaire
* References supporting statements of fact in each question: click here
* Return to 2016 Senate candidates list

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