To protect our homeland in the 21st century, we must have with a deep understanding of the science and technology underlying nuclear, chemical, biological, and cyber attacks. Too often, though, Congress seems to write laws to protect us from the imagined threats we see in Hollywood movies – leading to a policy response that is mismatched to real-world dangers and that imposes serious costs in dollars, lives, and lost civil liberties.
As a former nuclear weapons intelligence analyst for our government, I understand the real threats posed by nuclear weapons. That’s why I repeatedly voted for robust funding for programs designed to collect “loose nukes” and keep them out of the hands the likes of al Qaeda.
I have also been a strong proponent of a real, independent investigation of the government’s flawed response to the 2001 anthrax attacks. My Congressional office was shut down by the anthrax attacks, so I saw firsthand how federal investigators bungled the early stages of the investigation. As a scientist, I remain troubled that the FBI has not conclusively tied these biological attacks back to their sources. If we are to prevent future attacks, we must invest in better investigative tools, and we must hold law enforcement accountable for past mistakes.
Also, as former chairman of the House Select Intelligence Oversight Panel, I brought greater oversight and fiscal accountability to the intelligence community, and forced both the Bush and Obama administrations to trim or reform programs and activities to make sure they keep America safe and spend taxpayer dollars wisely. In the Senate, I will demand an end to the NSA’s abuse of technology to conduct mass-scale surveillance of innocent Americans, which has violated our Constitutional rights but done little or nothing to keep us safe.
In the immediate aftermath of the September 11th attacks, Congress passed a series of emergency bills to provide wide-ranging, near-unilateral authorities to the executive branch. Most notably, Congress dramatically expanded the surveillance authorities of law enforcement through the PATRIOT Act, and it enacted an Authorization for the Use of Military Force against those involved in carrying out the terrorist attacks.
Congress’s intent was to provide the short-term authorities required to respond to a national crisis. Yet now, 12 years later, few of these authorities have been revoked, and some have been expanded. The result is that America has entered a state of endless war against ill-defined adversaries, with federal authorities claiming ever-greater authorities in the name of uncertain goals.These laws have been abused and must be changed. In the Senate, I will fight to repeal the PATRIOT Act and to end the Authorization for Use of Military Force – replacing them, if necessary, with far narrower authorizations that fit today’s real threats. To further draw a sharp break with the mistakes of our past and to reestablish America’s moral credibility in the world, I will work to finally close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay.
America is a stronger nation than some of our leaders give us credit for. We need not sacrifice our most fundamental values in order to keep ourselves safe. To the contrary, part of being the strongest nation on earth is standing by our values.
To ensure the safety of America’s homeland, we must create the conditions for prosperity around the globe. A wealthier world is a more stable and less violent world – a world where human beings can put their efforts into building up themselves and their families rather than into tearing down their adversaries.
To build global prosperity, we must continue to support foreign assistance, including environmental assistance and the development of water resources. We must also help nations develop the technological infrastructure required to participate in the modern economy.
We also must embrace new forms of foreign aid, including microcredit – a tool pioneered by the Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus, who was recently awarded a Congressional Gold Medal under legislation that I wrote in Congress. Dr. Yunus discovered that, by lending just a few dollars to impoverished families around the world, he could enable these families to build the foundation of a better life. So far, Dr. Yunus’s organization has helped 9.4 million families around the world, providing ample proof that microcredit is an effective way of eliminating the scourge of poverty. The United States government should learn from these millions of examples.
I firmly believe that we have a moral obligation to guarantee that our veterans receive the health care, disability compensation, readjustment counseling, and job training and placement services that they have earned through their service to our nation. We also have a further obligation to help veterans cope with the mental strains of their service – an obligation that, right now, we are failing to meet. In fact, on an average day, more than 20 veterans die by suicide.
After being contacted by a constituent whose son committed suicide following two tours of duty in Iraq and bureaucratic neglect by the Army, I wrote legislation to provide a total of $80 million in additional funding for suicide prevention to the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs. In the Senate, I will fight to ensure that these funds are a permanent fixture of America’s budget.