Susan Collins on Homeland Security
Republican Jr Senator (ME)
"What I think we need is targeting based on individualized suspicion, reasonable suspicion that people are engaged in criminal or terrorist activity," she says in response to a question about what she thinks the NSA should be able to monitor.
Collins, seeking her fourth term, supports reforms to improve transparency and accountability but would not curtail the program to the extent Bellows wants to. "As we increase transparency and erect further barriers to intelligence collection, we must be careful that we do not put our country at greater risk of attack," she said in a statement last month.
Thanks to documents provided by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, we now know that the US government has taken unprecedented (and, according to 2 federal judges, unconstitutional) actions to invade our privacy & restrict our freedom.
We learned that the NSA collects a record of virtually every phone call, email, & instant message in the US--who people contact, when, for how long and where they are.
According to Collins, she was never informed about the bulk collection of information on Americans, despite being the ranking member on the Homeland Security Committee. Many politicians, perhaps conscious of not seeming soft on national security, have attacked Snowden personally or have argued that the security ends have justified the mass surveillance means. Collins, now that she has been informed about the programs, has done both.
According to Sen. Collins, she was never informed about the bulk collection of information on Americans, despite being the ranking member on the Homeland Security Committee. Collins now attacks Snowden personally & argues that the security ends have justified the mass surveillance means.
Shenna Bellows is running against Collins and has made our freedom from unwarranted surveillance a centerpiece of her campaign. We need smart people in Congress who understand technology, who take the time to understand the intricacies of these issues and who stand up for our rights.
Q: Sen. Collins put out a statement saying that she's not aware of a justification for collecting intelligence on Chancellor Merkel, and that she would be telling the German ambassador that "it was wrong" for the administration to do that.
BELLOWS: We absolutely need to stop listening in on phone calls of allies like Merkel. But we also need to stop spying on millions of Americans.
Q: What about the comparative attention that those two kinds of surveillance get?
BELLOWS: It's certainly concerning to international relations to learn that we were spying on the phone conversations of some of our closest allies. But it's equally important to address the issue of spying on millions of ordinary Americans.
COLLINS: There's a lot of justifiable anger at Congress and at the president for failing to solve these [government shutdown and budget] problems. But I do want to say that despite what people may read, there are a lot of constructive discussions going on behind the scenes.
Q: Any kind of budget deal?
COLLINS: There could be a substitution of some of the mandatory spending cuts--such as the farm bill which would save $23 billion over ten years-- for some of the cuts in defense and biomedical research that are very troubling to me personally.
Proponent's Argument for voting Yes:
[Rep. Smith, R-TX]: America is safe today not because terrorists and spies have given up their goal to destroy our freedoms and our way of life. We are safe today because the men and women of our Armed Forces, our intelligence community, and our law enforcement agencies work every single day to protect us. And Congress must ensure that they are equipped with the resources they need to counteract continuing terrorist threats. On Feb. 28, three important provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act will expire. These provisions give investigators in national security cases the authority to conduct "roving" wiretaps, to seek certain business records, and to gather intelligence on lone terrorists who are not affiliated with a known terrorist group. The Patriot Act works. It has proved effective in preventing terrorist attacks and protecting Americans. To let these provisions expire would leave every American less safe.
Opponent's Argument for voting No:
[Rep. Conyers, D-MI]: Section 215 of the Patriot Act allows a secret FISA court to authorize our government to collect business records or anything else, requiring that a person or business produce virtually any type record. We didn't think that that was right then. We don't think it's right now. This provision is contrary to traditional notions of search and seizure which require the government to show reasonable suspicion or probable cause before undertaking an investigation that infringes upon a person's privacy. And so I urge a "no" vote on the extension of these expiring provisions.
Status: Passed 86-12
Sen. CORNYN. The problem I have with this bill is that the US Treasury is not bottomless, and the funding that is being provided to create this new pension would literally be at the expense of US veterans. The $221 million that is addressed by Sen. Burr's amendment would actually go back in to supplement benefits for US veterans. And while we appreciate and honor all of our allies who fought alongside of us in WWII, certainly that doesn't mean we are going to grant pension benefits to all of our allies, [like] the British or the Australians. Vote for the Burr Amendment because certainly our American veterans should be our priority.
[The PAA allows] acquiring all the calls and e-mails between employees of a US company and a foreign company, with no requirement to get a warrant and no requirement that there be some link to terrorism. So any American who works at a company that does business overseas should think about that.
OPPONENT'S ARGUMENT FOR VOTING NO: Sen. BOND: The purpose of this bill is, and always has been, to enable the intelligence community to act to target foreign terrorists and spies overseas.
The amendment, as it is drafted, will have a totally unexpected impact. It is difficult to explain, in an unclassified session, why this amendment is unworkable. There are only certain communications which the intelligence community is lawfully permitted to acquire, and which it has any desire to acquire, because to acquire all the communications from all foreigners is an absolutely impossible task.
I cannot describe in a public setting how they go about ascertaining which collections are important. But to say that if Osama bin Laden calls somebody in the US, we cannot listen in to that communication, unless we have an independent means of verifying it has some impact or a terrorist threat--That is the most important communication we need to intercept.
LEGISLATIVE OUTCOME:Amendment Rejected, 38-57
A modified version, S.2011, failed; it called for amending FISA to provide that a court order is not required for the electronic surveillance of communication between foreign persons who are not located within the US for collecting foreign intelligence information, without respect to whether the communication passes through the US or the surveillance device is located within the US.
Opponents recommend voting NO because:
Sen. LEVIN: Both bills cure the problem that exists: Our intelligence agencies must obtain a court order to monitor the communications of foreigners suspected of terrorist activities who are physically located in foreign countries. Now, what are the major differences? Our bill (S2011) is limited to foreign targets limited overseas, unlike the Bond bill (S1927), which does not have that key limitation and which very clearly applies to US citizens overseas. Our bill does not. Now, if there is an incidental access to US citizens, we obviously will permit that. But the Bond bill goes beyond that, citing "any person." It does not say a "foreign person." We avoid getting to the communications of Americans. There you have to go for a warrant.
Proponents support voting YES because:
Sen. LIEBERMAN: I will vote for the Bond proposal (S1927) because we are at war, & there is increased terrorist activity. We have a crisis. This proposal will allow us to gather intelligence information on that enemy we otherwise would not gather. This is not the time for striving for legislative perfection. Let us not strive for perfection. Let us put national security first. We are going to have 6 months to reason together to find something better.
Proponents support voting YES because:
Sen. HAGEL: The war in Iraq has pushed the US Army to the breaking point. When we deploy our military, we have an obligation to ensure that our troops are rested, ready, prepared, fully trained, and fully equipped. Today's Armed Forces are being deployed repeatedly for increasing periods of time. This is quickly wearing down the troops and their families, impacting the mental and physical health of our troops. Further, these deployments are affecting the recruiting and retention rates of the military. For example, the Army reached only a little over 80% of its recruiting goal for June. This is the second month in a row that the Army has failed to recruit the number of new soldiers needed to fill the ranks. And this is with $1 billion in large cash bonus incentives.
Opponents recommend voting NO because:
Sen. KYL: Time in theater and dwell times should be a goal, rather than an absolute fixed requirement that becomes the policy of the US military determined by congressional action. By mandating a certain policy for deployment time or dwell time, the Congress is engaged in the most explicit micromanaging of what is obviously a function for the Commander in Chief and military commanders to perform. This is not something Members of Congress are knowledgeable about or would have the ability to dictate in any responsible fashion. It also would be unconstitutional. Clearly, the dwell times of troops or the amount of time in theater is an obligation of the Commander in Chief, not something for the Congress to determine.
Opponents recommend voting NO because:
One of the authors of the 9/11 Commission report said, the President's announced strategy should be given a chance to succeed. That is what I think we should do, give this plan a chance to succeed. Our troops in theater, our commanders, and the Iraqi leaders all believe they can see early signs of success in this program, even though it has just begun, and they are cautiously optimistic that it can succeed. I think it would be unconscionable for the Congress, seeing the beginnings of success here, to then act in any way that would pull the rug out from under our troops and make it impossible for them to achieve their mission.
Sen. GRAHAM [recommending NO]: The fundamental question for the Senate to answer when it comes to determining enemy combatant status is, Who should make that determination? Should that be a military decision or should it be a judicial decision? That is something our military should do.
Sen. SPECTER [recommending YES]: My amendment would retain the constitutional right of habeas corpus for people detained at Guantanamo. The right of habeas corpus was established in the Magna Carta in 1215 when, in England, there was action taken against King John to establish a procedure to prevent illegal detention. What the bill seeks to do is to set back basic rights by some 900 years. This amendment would strike that provision and make certain that the constitutional right of habeas corpus is maintained.
GRAHAM: Do we really want enemy prisoners to bring every lawsuit known to man against the people fighting the war and protecting us? No enemy prisoner should have access to Federal courts--a noncitizen, enemy combatant terrorist--to bring a lawsuit against those fighting on our behalf. No judge should have the ability to make a decision that has been historically reserved to the military. That does not make us safer.
SPECTER: The US Constitution states that "Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it." We do not have either rebellion or invasion, so it is a little hard for me to see, as a basic principle of constitutional law, how the Congress can suspend the writ of habeas corpus.
GRAHAM: If the Supreme Court does say in the next round of legal appeals there is a constitutional right to habeas corpus by those detained at Guantanamo Bay, then Sen. Specter is absolutely right.
Opponents recommend voting NO because:
I question the need for a very lengthy, detailed report every 3 months. We will probably see those reports leaked to the press.
This amendment would spread out for the world--and especially for al-Qaida and its related organizations--precisely what interrogation techniques are going to be used.
If we lay out, in an unclassified version, a description of the techniques by the Attorney General, that description will be in al-Qaida and Hezbollah and all of the other terrorist organizations' playbook. They will train their assets that: This is what you must be expected to do, and Allah wants you to resist these techniques.
We are passing this bill so that we can detain people. If we catch someone like Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, we have no way to hold him, no way to ask him the questions and get the information we need, because the uncertainty has brought the program to a close. It is vitally important to our security, and unfortunately this amendment would imperil it.
A bill to clarify that individuals who receive FISA orders can challenge nondisclosure requirements, that individuals who receive national security letters are not required to disclose the name of their attorney, that libraries are not wire or electronic communication service providers unless they provide specific services, and for other purposes.
Expresses the sense of the Senate that: (1) small business participation is vital to U.S. defense and should play an active role in assisting the military, Federal intelligence and law enforcement agencies, and State and local police to combat terrorism through the design and development of innovative products; and (2) Federal, State, and local governments should aggressively seek out and purchase innovative technologies and services from, and promote research opportunities for, American small businesses to help in homeland defense and the fight against terrorism. Passed/agreed to in Senate.
Peace Action, the merger of The Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy (SANE) and The Freeze, has effectively mobilized for peace and disarmament for over forty years. As the nation's largest grassroots peace group we get results: from the 1963 treaty to ban above ground nuclear testing, to the 1996 signing of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, from ending the war in Vietnam, to blocking weapons sales to human rights abusing countries. We are proof that ordinary people can change the world. At Peace Action we believe...
The ratings are based on the votes the organization considered most important; the numbers reflect the percentage of time the representative voted the organization's preferred position.
OFFICIAL CONGRESSIONAL SUMMARY:
LEGISLATIVE OUTCOME:Referred to Senate Committee
OnTheIssues.org Explanation: This amendment would ban waterboarding at Guantanamo prison. McCain specifies several international treaties which include bans on waterboarding; and cites "regardless of physical location" to include Guantanamo. McCain cites too that this ban is nothing new; but the US has, in fact, been using waterboarding at Guantanamo.
OFFICIAL CONGRESSIONAL SUMMARY: To prohibit cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment of persons under the custody or control of the United States Government.
SPONSOR'S INTRODUCTORY REMARKS: Sen. McCAIN: This amendment would prohibit cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment of persons in the detention of the US Government. The amendment doesn't sound like anything new. That is because it isn't. The prohibition has been a longstanding principle in both law and policy in the United States. All of this seems to be common sense and in accordance with longstanding American values.
EXCERPTS OF BILL:
LEGISLATIVE OUTCOME:Proposed amendment withdrawn 11/4/2005.
OnTheIssues.org Explanation: Since the start of both the Afghanistan war and the Iraq war, expenditures for those war have been voted for in "emergency supplemental spending bills," instead of in the normal defense spending bill. That implies that the expenditures are unexpectedly high, which may have been true in the early years of the war. This amendment requires regular budgeting for the Afghanistan & Iraq wars.
OFFICIAL CONGRESSIONAL SUMMARY: To require regular budgeting for ongoing military operations.
EXCERPTS OF BILL:
LEGISLATIVE OUTCOME:Agreed to in Senate by Yea-Nay Vote, 98-0, Vote Number: 170.
Honoring Our Nation's Obligation to Returning Warriors Act (HONOR Warriors Act): House version is H.R.6268; Senate versions are S.2963 and S.3008. Legislative Summary:
A bill to improve educational assistance for members of the Armed Forces and veterans in order to enhance recruitment and retention for the Armed Forces.
Congressional Summary: HR 1735: The National Defense Authorization Act authorizes FY2016 appropriations and sets forth policies regarding the military activities of the Department of Defense (DOD), and military construction. This bill also authorizes appropriations for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO), which are exempt from discretionary spending limits. The bill authorizes appropriations for base realignment and closure (BRAC) activities and prohibits an additional BRAC round.
Wikipedia Summary: The NDAA specifies the budget and expenditures of the United States Department of Defense (DOD) for Fiscal Year 2016. The law authorizes the $515 billion in spending for national defense and an additional $89.2 billion for the Overseas Contingency Operations fund (OCO).
Opposition statement by Rep. Gerry Connolly (May 15, 2015): Congressman Connolly said he opposed the bill because it fails to end sequestration, and pits domestic investments versus defense investments. Said Connolly, "This NDAA uses a disingenuous budget mechanism to circumvent sequestration. It fails to end sequestration."
Support statement by BreakingDefense.com(Sept, 2015): Republicans bypassed the BCA spending caps (the so-called sequester) by shoving nearly $90 billion into the OCO account, designating routine spending as an emergency war expenses exempted from the caps. This gimmick got President Barack Obama the funding he requested but left the caps in place on domestic spending, a Democratic priority. "The White House's veto announcement is shameful," Sen. John McCain said. "The NDAA is a policy bill. It cannot raise the budget caps. It is absurd to veto the NDAA for something that the NDAA cannot do."
Legislative outcome: House rollcall #532 on passed 270-156-15 on Oct. 1, 2015; Senate rollcall #277 passed 70-27-3 on Oct. 7, 2015; vetoed by Pres. Obama on Oct. 22, 2015; passed and signed after amendments.
Authorizes the Secretary to furnish care to a newborn child of a woman veteran receiving VA maternity care for up to seven days after the birth of the child.
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