Intelligence and Surveillance
In my capacity as a member of the Intelligence Committee, I have oversight duties for the intelligence community and a role in protecting our national security. I will continue to support the efforts of our intelligence community at home and abroad, especially as we balance protecting our nation’s civil liberties with protection from continued terrorist threats.
There is no doubt that we are in an intelligence war. Our international rivals, as well as hackers and other asymmetrical threats, are targeting American security systems and citizens in an attempt to find and exploit any weakness. Terrorist groups like ISIS are taking advantage of new technologies and ways to communicate to plan their attacks and inflict as much damage as possible. Information has become weaponized, and it has made the world a more dangerous place.
Fortunately, the United States has the best technical minds in the world as well as the resources required to fight these threats. It will require constant vigilance to stay ahead of those who would do us harm, but it is necessary that we do so. I will continue to ensure that our intelligence agencies have the support they need to protect us.
The Need for International Norms
As the ranking member of the NSA and Cybersecurity Subcommittee, I spend a large amount of time concerned with these issues. I have come to believe that one way we could make our country safer is by pushing for international standards that would govern cyberwarfare and lay a groundwork that would hold nations accountable for their actions.
Nonproliferation agreements were negotiated to curtail the exponential growth of nuclear weaponry during the second half of the 20th Century. Now is the time again for the international community to seriously respond with a binding set of international rules for cyberwarfare: an “E-Neva Convention.” These rules will provide guidance to all nations, whether party to the agreements or not, as to what the international community considers acts of war and the appropriate responses.
The flip side of the coin to intelligence gathering is protecting the privacy of American citizens. In several instances, the government has overreached in its efforts to collect information or data and infringed on the liberties that are core to our Constitutional freedoms. We saw with the conflict between the FBI and Apple over access to the San Bernardino shooter’s phone that this is not always a clear cut issue, but we cannot let the difficulty of the task prevent us from trying to achieve the dual goals of security and privacy.
To that end, I have supported improvements to the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB) Oversight Improvement Act to require the intelligence agencies to provide regular, detailed reporting to the civil liberties oversight group. I also helped craft and support the USA Freedom Act, which became law in 2015 and dialed back some of the more aggressive data collection and surveillance programs authorized in the emotional wake of 9/11. In 2016, I was proud to support the Email Privacy Act, which will require a warrant for law enforcement to search through emails on storage servers.
Embracing Our Allies, Isolating Our Enemies
This is a time of global unrest. We have seen the end of the war in Iraq and the ending of the war in Afghanistan; the anti-government uprisings and revolutions of the so-called Arab Spring; the ongoing civil war in Syria; the ever-present threat of a nuclear crisis in North Korea; the ambitions of Iran to become a nuclear state; and continued sporadic aggression from Russia.
America is the world’s only remaining superpower, yet our unrivaled military might is tempered by a new awareness of its strategic limitations. There are hard lessons from Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, where our military involvement did not produce the long-term outcomes that we desired. Our path should be one of collaboration backed by the full might of the US military.
Nothing is more important to me than keeping Americans safe. This means not only having a robust foreign policy, but also working to stop terrorism in all its shapes and forms. After the terror attacks in Paris, Brussels, San Bernardino, Jakarta and Ankara, we are more aware than ever of our vulnerabilities and the need to take action. Many of these attacks are tied to the Islamic State, ISIS, whose defeat must be viewed as our top national security priority.
In order to defeat ISIS, we must first end of the Syrian civil war. To do so will require the active participation of all of the nations that have a stake in a peaceful Middle East. States with influence over Syrian president Bashar al Assad need to convince him that he does not have a future as Syria’s leader, and the international community needs to better coordinate its efforts to make sure that it is not working at cross purposes and is concentrating all efforts on swiftly ending the civil war so all focus can be turned to ISIS.
I wrote a letter with 54 of my Congressional colleagues calling on President Obama to push for this kind of international collaboration to end the civil war and defeat ISIS, and I introduced a bill in the House expressing the same. I believe this is the best way to achieve our goals, make our country safer, and prevent another disastrous and costly war for the United States.
Our Partnership With Israel
Israel is a friend and an ally to the United States, and its legitimate security needs are critically important. As chaos in the region has increased, so has peril for Israel, seemingly at every border. I have visited the region many times, and I remain hopeful that lasting peace can be achieved among Israel and its neighbors through continued engagement and dialogue. While these negotiations have at times been halting, I remain convinced that peace is attainable.
In 2015, I supported the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), also known as the Iran nuclear deal. By restricting the types of materials and facilities to which the Iranians have access in exchange for lightening of sanctions, this agreement will make it much less likely that Iran will be able develop a nuclear weapon. After careful consideration of all the options, I believe that this plan prevents the best chance to protect the United States and our closest allies, including Israel, from the terror of a nuclear-armed Iran. So far, Iran has been in full compliance of the nuclear agreement.
Iran is still a dangerous regime. We will continue to enforce our sanctions and hold them accountable for any and all violations of international agreements. Iran is still very far away from being able to join the international community, but I am optimistic that a path of diplomacy, backed by the threat of sanctions and unified global response, will prevent Iranian aggression.
This is an example of the immense power of diplomatic collaboration. Success, as preliminarily demonstrated by Iran’s willingness to negotiate in the face of crippling international sanctions, will often come from working in concert with our allies toward a shared goal. Our long-standing alliances with Europe and Asia are the backbone of global prosperity.
Staying True to Our Values
If American exceptionalism means anything, it means that we stand for unique aspirational values. We must be guided by these values in all that we do or we lose an intangible source of strength and we dim the light that we offer the world. When the world sees us engaged in torture or detaining prisoners without charge, we lose the moral high ground. When we coddle dictators or support those who oppress their own people, the world loses hope.
I support targeting effective international aid as an essential way for the United States to promote peace and security around the world. The small amount that we invest in aid brings food to hungry children and hope where there is none. It’s not only the right thing to do; it’s in our security interest to help.