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: Yes and no. I feel that drone attacks, especially during this administration, have become “politically convenient” as compared to boots on the ground; an easy way to assert authority without infantry operations. Although I do agree that they may cause more harm than good in many cases, especially with civilian casualty and potentially flawed intelligence, I could never say that I would never support a future drone attack.
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: If it is truly necessary, for national security reasons, to collect metadata without warrant, it should be approved by “We the People” in a national referendum.
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 would certainly support a smaller military budget, but above and beyond simply “redirecting” tax dollars, I would also support legislation aimed at reducing our national debt and working towards a balanced budget. I would like to see efficiency, necessity and transparency at work on Capitol Hill. And when it comes to spending – affordable health care, affordable higher education, infrastructure projects and developing a green economy are not choices anymore, they should be priorities.
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?
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 world has too many nuclear weapons lying around born of an era that we should consider history. We should be fixing the country, not nuclear warheads. BUT, since this horrifying technology does exist, it would only be logical for the US to retain a small number of ICBM nuclear warheads.
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.
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 “could” support legislation in reducing military aid to Israel – in the hope for serious Israeli- Palestinian negotiations and discussions, but I can’t make such a blanket statement without having actual legislative text in front of me.
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?
Comments: I “would” support a larger Syrian and Iraqi resettlement program pending a proper and thorough vetting process but I cannot give a hard number.
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?
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: I have not studied this issue enough to answer this question.