Joe Biden on Homeland Security
Vice President; previously Democratic Senator (DE)
A: No, I actually wrote that speech. I wanted to communicate two things: first, to make it clear that there is not this sort of gigantic, coordinated network run by Al Qaeda that has cells all around the country and, second, that the republic is not in jeopardy and there's no reason for us to jettison the Constitution and erect a police state in order to protect people. The moment we change, they win. That's the only way they win. It was a terrible tragedy, but we found the guys; we'll make rational adjustments in plugging holes within our law that could have been plugged. But do not, do not, do not yield in any way to the intimidation.
Not long ago, I would have had to describe to an audience what Iron Dome was, how it would work, why funding it mattered. I don't have to explain to anybody anymore. Everybody gets it. Last year, Iron Dome made a difference. When Hamas rockets rained on Israel, Iron Dome shot them out of the sky, intercepting nearly 400 rockets in November alone. It was our unique partnership--Israel and the US--that pioneered this technology and funded it.
And it is in that same spirit that we're working with Israel to jointly develop new systems, called Arrow and David's Sling, interceptors that can defeat long-range threats from Iran, Syria and Hezbollah. And we are working to deploy a powerful new radar, networked with American early warning satellites, that could buy Israel valuable time in the event of an attack.
We support the political process that France is leading to restore a democratic government in Mali. We discussed the importance of working with our regional partners to counter terrorism across North Africa and beyond. We spent time discussing how terrorist organizations metastasized and why additional strategies will be necessary going into the future to deal with this new threat.
I emphasized the importance of working with the new government of Libya and building effective security institutions. On Syria, we both fully support the Syrian opposition coalition, the legitimate representative of the Syrian people.
RYAN: It took the president two weeks to acknowledge that this was a terrorist attack. Our ambassador in Paris has a Marine detachment guarding him. Shouldn't we have a Marine detachment guarding our ambassador in Benghazi?
BIDEN: With all due respect, that's a bunch of malarkey. The congressman here cut embassy security in his budget by $300 million below what we asked for.
Q: What were you first told about the attack? Why were people talking about protests?
BIDEN: Because that's exactly what we were told by the intelligence community. You know, usually when there's a crisis, we pull together as a nation. But even before we knew what happened to the ambassador, the governor was holding a press conference. That's not presidential leadership.
RYAN: Let's not forget that they came in with one-party control. When Barack Obama was elected, his party controlled everything. They had the ability to do everything of their choosing, and look at where we are right now. They passed a stimulus, the idea that we could borrow $831 billion, spend it on all these special interest groups and that it would work out just fine, that unemployment would never get to 8 percent. It went up above 8 percent for 43 months.
RYAN: You don't cut defense by a trillion dollars.
BIDEN: Who's cutting it by a trillion?
RYAN: We're going to cut 80,000 soldiers, 20,000 Marines, 120 cargo planes. We're going to push the Joint Strike Fighter out. We're cutting missile defense. If these cuts go through, our Navy will be the smallest it has been since before World War I. This invites weakness.
BIDEN: Look, we don't cut it. The military says, we need a smaller, leaner Army. We need more special forces. We don't need more M1 tanks. What we need is more UAVs [unmanned aerial vehicles, commonly called "drones"]. That was the decision of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, recommended to us and agreed to by the president.
[For example], in the mid-70s Biden participated in the congressional efforts to investigate the CIA and get it under outside control. A few years later, however, as the country was shifting to the right, he served notice at a Senate hearing that it was time to lay off. "The momentum is moving the other way," Biden told representatives of the ACLU. Yes, he agreed with their views, Biden said, but the issue of writing rules for the CIA did not have [much] popular appeal.
"Let me tell you something," Biden declared. "The folks don't care. The average American could care less right now about any of this. You keep talking about public concern. There ain't none."
Biden's lack of regard for security was evident when, chatting with journalists at the head table at the 2009 Gridiron Dinner, he revealed the location of a top-secret bunker beneath the vice president's residence. Biden later tried to claim that he was talking about a study used by his predecessor Dick Cheney at the upper level of the residence. But the Secret Service emailed agents to warn them that Biden had compromised the location of the vice president's secret underground bunker. "It was a shock to all of us that the vice president did that," says an agent. "If we had done that, we would have been prosecuted."
BIDEN: While Barack & I have been calling for more money & more troops in Afghanistan, McCain was saying two years ago, ďThe reason we donít read about Afghanistan anymore in the paper, itís succeeded.Ē We spend in three weeks on combat missions in Iraq, more than we spent in the entire time we have been in Afghanistan. That will change in an Obama administration.
BIDEN: Pakistan already has nuclear weapons. Iran getting a nuclear weapon would be destabilizing, but they are not close to getting a nuclear weapon thatís able to be deployed. John continues to tell us that the central war on terror is in Iraq. I promise you, if an attack comes in the homeland, itís going to come from al Qaeda in the hills of Pakistan. We need to support that democracy by helping them with their economic well-being.
PALIN: Both are extremely dangerous. And as for who coined that central war on terror being in Iraq, it was the Gen. Petraeus and al Qaeda, and itís probably the only thing that theyíre ever going to agree on. An armed, nuclear Iran is so extremely dangerous. Israel is in jeopardy when weíre dealing with Iran. Others who are dangerous dictators are ones that Barack Obama has said he would be willing to meet with without preconditions. And that goes beyond naivete and poor judgment.
A: The answer is yes. In 1988, [we in Congress] not only introduced a bill for mandatory universal service, but you get to pick one of three things: if you chose the army, itís six months; if you chose a domestic Peace Corps, itís two years; if you chose foreign Peace Corps, you only have to do it a year. Everyone man and woman when they get to be eighteen they can chose what they want, but there should be universal service unless there is an extreme physical disability.
A: I would pledge to keep us safe. This is complicated stuff. We talk about this in isolation. The Iranians may get 2.6 kilograms of highly-enriched uranium. But the Pakistanis have thousands of kilograms of highly-enriched uranium. If by attacking Iran to stop them from getting 2.6 kilograms of highly-enriched uranium, the government in Pakistan falls, who has missiles already deployed with nuclear weapons on them that can already reach Israel, already reach India, then thatís a bad bargain. Presidents make wise decisions informed not by a vacuum in which they operate, by the situation they find themselves in the world. I will do all in my power to stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, but I will never take my eye off the ball. What is the greatest threat to the US: 2.6 kilograms of highly enriched uranium in Tehran or an out-of-control Pakistan? Itís not close.
A: No, I would not. I met 17 three- and four-star generals who, after my making a speech pointing out I would not under any circumstances sanction torture, I thought they were about to read me the riot act. The generals said, Biden, will you make a commitment you will never use torture? It does not work. It is part of the reason why we got the faulty information on Iraq in the first place is because it was engaged in by one person who gave whatever answer they thought they were going to give in order to stop being tortured. It doesnít work. It should be no part of our policy ever--ever.
The administration had said they were willing to walk away from the decades-old ABM Treaty in order to unilaterally develop and deploy the missile defense system, and now they were putting real money behind it. They were willing to put tens of billions of dollars into the Maginot line in the sky that could quite likely set off another arms race, while cutting funding for a program to help Russia destroy its nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons before they got into the hands of terrorists.
When I asked him when he was heading to Washington, he said the intelligence community told him he shouldnít. I recalled a story about the leader of the French resistance, Charles de Gaulle, near the close of World War II. When France was liberated, there was a parade down the Champs-Elysees in Paris, led by de Gaulle. As they walked, shots rang out, and everyone hit the ground except de Gaulle. He continued to walk ramrod straight. With that one defiant action he lifted France off its knees.
ďMr. President, come back to Washington,Ē I said. [Pres. Bush famously did].
Under the Wolfowitz Doctrine, US military supremacy was to remain sufficiently dominant to deter all "potential competitors from even aspiring to a larger regional or global role."
Reaction was sharp. Sen. Joe Biden denounced the memo as the blueprints for "a Pax Americana." Sen. Edward Kennedy said the Pentagon plans "appear to be aimed primarily at finding new ways to justify Cold War levels of military spending." Disowned by the Bush I White House, the memo was seemingly forgotten. But in Sep. 2002, with Cheney, Wolfowitz, and Libby restored to power, the Wolfowitz memo reappeared in an official document released by the White House, titled The National Security Strategy.
A: Sen. Biden supports ending the Donít Ask, Donít Tell policy. It is antiquated and unworkable. According to recent polls, 3/4 of veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan said that they had no problem serving with openly gay people. 24 of the nations serving alongside US forces in Iraq permit open service which has had no negative impact on these forces or the morale of our brave soldiers. Finally, the US does not have enough troops to fulfill our current missions--it is ridiculous to turn away brave and patriotic Americans who volunteer to serve solely because of their sexual orientation--especially in light of the Defense Departmentís recent decision to extend tours of duty in Iraq. Sen. Biden believes that we should treat everyone serving in the military by the same standards regardless of orientation.
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.
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: A bill to provide increased rail transportation security.
SPONSOR'S INTRODUCTORY REMARKS: Sen. McCAIN: We must do what is possible to protect Americans at home. Our Nation's transit system, Amtrak, and the freight railroads, I am sad to say, remain vulnerable to terrorist attacks. Though we have increased dramatically our security capabilities since 9/11, we have more to do. In fact, the Department of Homeland Security has not yet completed a vulnerability assessment for the rail system, nor is there an integrated security plan that reflects the unique characteristics of passenger and freight rail operations.
This legislation would authorize resources to ensure rail transportation security receives a high priority in our efforts to secure our country from terrorism. The legislation directs DHS to complete a vulnerability assessment for the rail system and make recommendations for addressing security weaknesses within 180 days of enactment.
LEGISLATIVE OUTCOME:Referred to Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation; never came to a vote.
Sponsor's introductory remarks: Sen. Biden: Our counterterrorism authorities should not only thwart attacks; these authorities should also strengthen international coalitions, draw Muslim populations around the world closer to us, and deprive terrorists of a recruitment narrative. In our long term effort to stem the tide of international terrorism, our commitments to the rule of law and to individual rights and civil liberties are among our most formidable weapons. They are what unite foreign governments behind us in effective counterterrorism coalitions.
This bill maintains rendition as a robust and agile tool in our fight against international terrorism, but it brings that tool within the rule of law, and prohibits rendering individuals to countries that will torture or mistreat them or to secret, extra-territorial prisons.
This bill also closes a hole intentionally left open by the President's recent Executive Order on the treatment of detainees. The President's order is notably silent on some of the more controversial techniques the CIA has allegedly used in the past, such as waterboarding, extreme sleep deprivation, extreme sensory deprivation, and extremes of heat and cold.
Congressional Summary: Prohibitsa US agent from:
A bill to restore habeas corpus for those detained by the United States; to the Committee on the Judiciary.
Sen. SPECTER. "I introduce this legislation, denominated the Habeas Corpus Restoration Act. Last year, in the Military Commissions Act, the constitutional right of habeas corpus was attempted to be abrogated. I say "attempted to be abrogated" because, in my legal judgment, that provision in the Act is unconstitutional.
"It is hard to see how there can be legislation to eliminate the constitutional right to habeas corpus when the Constitution is explicit that habeas corpus may not be suspended except in time of invasion or rebellion, and we do not have either of those circumstances present, as was conceded by the advocates of the legislation last year to take away the right of habeas corpus.
"We have had Supreme Court decisions which have made it plain that habeas corpus is available to non-citizens and that habeas corpus applies to territory controlled by the US, specifically, including Guantanamo. More recently, however, we had a decision in the US District Court applying the habeas corpus jurisdiction stripping provision of the Military Commissions Act, but I believe we will see the appellate courts strike down this legislative provision.
"The New York Times had an extensive article on this subject, starting on the front page, last Sunday, and continuing on a full page on the back page about what is happening at Guantanamo. It is hard to see how in America, or in a jurisdiction controlled by the United States, these proceedings could substitute for even rudimentary due process of law."
A bill to provide educational assistance to the dependents of Federal law enforcement officials who are killed or disabled in the performance of their duties.
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