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: I oppose drone attacks and all forms of extrajudicial killing. I also oppose the use of “signature strikes” to target people. We cannot ‘bomb our way to peace.’ We need to move to greater diplomacy, accountability for human rights violators and fund reparations in countries where US militarism has caused chaos and destruction. I have actively protested drone attacks at Hancock Air Force Base and in Washington, DC.
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.
a. Do you agree that warrantless collection of metadata is itself a violation of Fourth Amendment rights?
Comments: Yes, I oppose warrantless bulk surveillance and I oppose bulk surveillance in general. In addition to interfering with personal privacy, it creates so much data that it is impossible to process, making us less secure, and it also requires massive amounts of electricity and water to store the data. I have written about the security state here http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/17208-confronting-the-growing-national-insecurity-state.
b. Will you work to stop continued warrantless electronic data and metadata surveillance by the NSA by funding cuts, the Surveillance State Repeal Act, or other legislative means?
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: This is a high priority for me. We need to close military bases and outposts around the world, end support for military projects that even the Pentagon rejects such as the F-35 and the surveillance blimps in Maryland, disarm our nuclear weapons, stop the “War on Terror” and work towards being a cooperative member of the world. We can afford a comprehensive Medicare for all health system right now. I would use funds from the military budget to support education from pre-K up and provide free or low-cost education at public universities, rebuild infrastructure and develop a green economy which includes green transportation. Let’s bring our military home and provide a just transition into the civilian economy for them.
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?
Comments: I support these and additional measures to give greater control over policing to members of the community. We also need to restrict the use of SWAT teams to live shooter situations, decriminalize or end the prohibition of drugs and use a public health approach to drug use and we need to focus police efforts on violent and property crimes instead of nuisance crimes and stop and frisk practices. We also need to get police out of our schools and promote conflict resolution programs. I supported the Baltimore Uprising over the past year by marching with them and providing some basic street medic services.
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 US should sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty and work towards global disarmament through diplomacy and by setting an example. And the US needs to clean up the mess created by the Uranium Rush in the 50’s and 60’s. There are more than 15,000 abandoned uranium mines throughout the US that continue to contaminate air, land and water and cause cancers, birth defects and other health conditions. I have been working with www.CleanUpTheMines.org to pass legislation to clean them up.
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.
Will you support legislation such as the ENCRYPT Act, which prevents states from passing legislation mandating backdoors into devices?
Comments: All people should have the right to encrypt their data in order to protect their privacy. I have worked with organizations such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Fight for the Future to protect Internet freedom and privacy.
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 strongly support ending military aid to Israel. The conflict between Israel and Palestine is severely unbalanced. The US should recognize Palestine as a nation state and join the BDS movement until Israel ends its apartheid practices, stops expanding its settlements and opens Gaza so that much needed supplies can be brought in. We also need to cut military weapons sales and support to Saudi Arabia.
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?
Yes, as someone who has been very active in nonviolent movements, I believe that we should recognize the important role of movements like these throughout history to bring about much needed social changes.
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?
Comments: Yes, it is commonsense that a crime should be suspected before an investigation is initiated. We have so much white collar crime that goes uninvestigated. The FBI ought to shift its resources to that area. I endorsed the Bank Whistleblowers United 19-point plan to use existing law to hold Wall Street accountable and downsize the big banks.
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: There is a clear link between US intervention in Iraq and the creation of ISIS. We should take responsibility for our actions through accepting refugees, changing our foreign policy to promote stability in the region and supporting international efforts to provide basic necessities for the refugees wherever we can.
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?
Comments: I have protested the prison in Guantanamo. I applaud the efforts of Witness Against Torture and the Center for Constitutional Rights to continue to fight for justice for the prisoners in Guantanamo. Their work has led to the release of many of the men. Those who have been cleared for release should be freed and those who remain should be charged and tried fairly. Let’s close the prison in Guantanamo Bay and return the land to Cuba.
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: Absolutely, this type of program foments fear and overreaction which will destroy the lives of innocent people. We already see the harm that is being done to our Muslim brothers and sisters in the US. Violent extremism is rare. Let’s focus on ending the root causes of it and build stronger constructive relationships with the Muslim community.
* Margaret Flowers web site:flowersforsenate.org
* Copy of returned questionnaire
* References supporting statements of fact in each question: click here
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