Press Releases

WASHINGTON – Today U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, sent a letter urging General Services Administration (GSA) Administrator Emily Murphy to immediately recognize former Vice President Joe Biden as President-elect and Senator Kamala Harris as Vice President-elect. In his letter, the Vice Chairman warned that continued delay of a smooth transfer of power will put national security at risk. 

In his letter, Vice Chairman Warner noted, “As the 9/11 Commission report highlighted, avoiding disruption in national security policymaking between administrations is critical to prepare for an uncertain threat environment. President-elect Biden and his transition team should already be receiving classified briefings that will prepare them to protect our country immediately upon taking office. Their ability to respond appropriately to any threats early in his term depends on the knowledge and perspective that these briefings provide.”

“Additionally, President-elect Biden’s transition team must immediately have access to the career professionals in all federal agencies to understand the current challenges they face. This access is especially important in the Intelligence Community, where public information about the current activities of the agencies is not available,” Warner added.

“Finally, the delay in ascertaining President-elect Biden as the apparent winner of the presidential election impedes conducting background investigations to vet personnel for high-level positions in the new administration. This may unnecessarily slow confirmation of officials like the Director of National Intelligence and the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, vital positions in the effort to protect our country from foreign threats,” continued Warner. “There is no plausible reason for you to continue to delay in making this ascertainment. Further delay will damage our national security, and I urge you to proceed with this common sense step immediately.”

Text of the letter is available here and below.

 

Dear Administrator Murphy,

As Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, I am acutely aware of the threats facing our nation and the critical importance of an effective and smooth transfer of power in addressing them. Therefore, I urge you again to immediately ascertain President-elect Joe Biden as the apparent winner of the presidential election so that he can most effectively protect our nation once he takes office on January 20th. 

As I have indicated to you before, your continued delay in making this ascertainment will do real harm to our national security. As the 9/11 Commission report highlighted, avoiding disruption in national security policymaking between administrations is critical to prepare for an uncertain threat environment. President-elect Biden and his transition team should already be receiving classified briefings that will prepare them to protect our country immediately upon taking office. Their ability to respond appropriately to any threats early in his term depends on the knowledge and perspective that these briefings provide. 

Additionally, President-elect Biden’s transition team must immediately have access to the career professionals in all federal agencies to understand the current challenges they face. This access is especially important in the Intelligence Community, where public information about the current activities of the agencies is not available.

Finally, the delay in ascertaining President-elect Biden as the apparent winner of the presidential election impedes conducting background investigations to vet personnel for high-level positions in the new administration. This may unnecessarily slow confirmation of officials like the Director of National Intelligence and the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, vital positions in the effort to protect our country from foreign threats.

There is no plausible reason for you to continue to delay in making this ascertainment. Further delay will damage our national security, and I urge you to proceed with this common sense step immediately.

Sincerely,

Mark R. Warner

U.S. Senator

 

 

###

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, released the following statement after it was announced that President-elect Joe Biden plans to nominate Avril Haines as the Director of National Intelligence:

“Avril is smart and capable, with a background that will serve her well as Director of National Intelligence. While I expect that she will face rigorous questioning from Senators on both sides of the aisle, the sooner we can get a confirmed DNI in place to start fixing the damage the last four years have done to our intelligence agencies, the better.”

###

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and member of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, issued a statement today on the inclusion of his Improving Laundering Laws and Increasing Comprehensive Information Tracking of Criminal Activity in Shell Holdings (ILLICIT CASH) Act in this year’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The bipartisan ILLICIT CASH Act seeks to improve corporate transparency, strengthen national security, and help law enforcement combat illicit financial activity being carried out by terrorists, drug and human traffickers, and other criminals.

“It is past time to put an end to the secrecy that allows drug cartels, human traffickers, arms dealers, terrorists and kleptocrats to exploit the United States’ banking system in order to carry out anti-American activities. That’s why I’m pleased to know that this year’s defense funding bill will include the ILLICIT CASH Act – legislation I introduced to combat money laundering and terrorist financing,” said Sen. Warner. “As the Vice Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, I know that the current holes in our financial system pose a serious threat to national security. The ILLICIT CASH Act will seek to patch those holes by increasing corporate transparency requirements and handing our federal agencies the 21st century tools they need to combat these 21st century threats.”

Sen. Warner introduced the ILLICIT CASH Act in September of 2019 and has been championing it ever since. The legislation will, for the first time, require that shell companies – often used as fronts for criminal activity – disclose their true owners to the U.S. Department of Treasury. It will also update decades-old anti-money laundering (AML) and combating the financing of terrorism (CFT) policies by giving Treasury and law enforcement the tools they need to fight criminal networks. This includes improving overall communication between law enforcement, financial institutions, and regulators, and facilitating the adoption of critical 21st century technologies.

Joining Sen. Warner in introducing this legislation were Senate Banking Committee members Tom Cotton (R-AR), Doug Jones (D-AL), Mike Rounds (R-SD), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), John Kennedy (R-LA), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), and Jerry Moran (R-KS).

 

###

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner joined Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI), Ranking Member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, in calling on General Services Administration (GSA) Administrator Emily Murphy to end her unprecedented delay, immediately ascertain Vice President Joe Biden as President-elect and Senator Kamala Harris as Vice President-elect, and make available the transition resources that are provided by law. This delay creates unacceptable risks to national security and Coronavirus pandemic response efforts as the United States passed more than 250,000 deaths.  

“The United States is in the midst of a pandemic that has now claimed over 250,000 lives, with the number of new cases rising daily. Our country also faces a number of ongoing threats, including physical and cyber attacks from foreign actors, violence from domestic extremists, and natural disasters such as wildfires and hurricanes,” wrote the Senators.

“The GSA Administrator’s ascertainment of a President-elect is also critical for agencies’ willingness to share information with the transition team, including classified information, as well as for the expeditious processing of security clearances for candidates for high-level national security positions. Your delay in acknowledging Vice President Biden’s status as President-elect could undermine efforts by the incoming Administration to meet the needs of the American people in a time of national emergency,” continued the Senators.

Under the Presidential Transition Act, GSA is charged with providing resources and support to the President-elect and Vice President-elect so they can be ready to govern from Day One. Administrator Murphy must complete the ascertainment process to allow the President-elect’s transition team to receive needed information from agency officials at public health and national security agencies, ensure incoming national security officials can receive background checks and access to classified information and provide federal funding and resources to support the transition process.

A smooth and efficient transition is one of the hallmarks of American democracy. With the exception of the Presidential election in 2000 and the resulting recount, ascertainment by GSA normally happens within a day after a winner is declared, including in 2008 and 2016. The bipartisan 9/11 Commission found that the shortened transition following the 2000 recount created serious vulnerabilities, including delays related to key national security appointments.

Joining Sens. Warner and Peters in sending the letter were U.S. Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Tom Carper (D-DE), Jack Reed (D-RI), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Chris Coons (D-DE), Ed Markey (D-MA), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Tina Smith (D-MN), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Tom Udall (D-NM), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Bob Casey (D-PA), Patty Murray (D-WA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Jon Tester (D-MT), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Doug Jones (D-AL).

Text of the letter is copied below and available here.

November 19, 2020

The Honorable Emily W. Murphy

Administrator

U.S. General Services Administration

1800 F St., NW

Washington, DC 20405

Dear Administrator Murphy,

We are writing to express deep concern regarding reports that the General Services Administration (GSA) has delayed providing President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris with the resources they need to ensure a timely and efficient presidential transition. We urge you to immediately ascertain Vice President Biden as President-elect and Senator Harris as Vice President-elect and allow the transition team to receive the resources required under the law. We also request an urgent briefing on steps GSA is taking to ensure an orderly transition.

The United States is in the midst of a pandemic that has now claimed over 250,000 lives, with the number of new cases rising daily. Our country also faces a number of ongoing threats, including physical and cyber attacks from foreign actors, violence from domestic extremists, and natural disasters such as wildfires and hurricanes.[1] The independent, bipartisan 9/11 Commission cited the shortened transition timeline for then President-elect George W. Bush as a factor in delaying key national security personnel appointments, potentially hampering the new Administration.[2] A timely transition is critical to ensure coordination between the current and incoming Administrations, provide the incoming Administration with the resources they need to immediately address these challenges, and safeguard the public health and our national security.

Under the Presidential Transition Act of 1963, as amended, GSA is charged with providing resources and support to the President-elect and Vice President-elect. Specifically, GSA must provide office space, communication services, funding for transition staff compensation, and other support. In response to a request from the Administration, Congress has appropriated $9.9 million to GSA for transition related activities.[3] The GSA Administrator’s ascertainment of a President-elect is also critical for agencies’ willingness to share information with the transition team, including classified information, as well as for the expeditious processing of security clearances for candidates for high-level national security positions. Your delay in acknowledging Vice President Biden’s status as President-elect could undermine efforts by the incoming Administration to meet the needs of the American people in a time of national emergency.

This delay is also unprecedented. In both 2008 and 2016, President-elect Barack Obama and President-elect Donald Trump, respectively, were recognized by the GSA Administrator as President-elect within a day of the general election.[4] In 2000, this decision was delayed due to an ongoing court case regarding less than 1,000 votes in a single state—a far closer election than this one. The results of this election are clear. Vice President Biden will be the next President of the United States, and Senator Harris will be the next Vice President. It is past time to recognize the will of the American people so that the work of government can continue.

The orderly transition of power from one President to another is a bedrock principle of our democracy and one of GSA’s most important duties. We urge you to fulfill your responsibilities, ascertain Vice President Biden as President-elect and Senator Harris as Vice President-elect, and provide their transition team with the resources the law requires. We also request that, no later than November 23, 2020, GSA provide a briefing to staff of the Committees on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, Appropriations, and Environment and Public Works regarding the presidential transition process and the support that GSA has provided to date.

Thank you for your attention to this critical matter.

###

 



[1] U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Threat Assessment (October 2020).

[2] National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, The 9/11 Commission Report (July 2004), p. 198.

[3] U.S. Office of Management and Budget, Budget of the U.S. Government, Fiscal Year 2021—Appendix (2020), pp. 1162-1163; Continuing Appropriations Act, 2021 and Other Extensions Act, Pub. L. No. 116–159, Sec. 134. 

[4] A little-known Trump appointee is in charge of handing transition resources to Biden - and she isn’t budging, Washington Post (Nov. 8, 2020) (https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-gsa-letter-biden-transition/2020/11/08/07093acc-21e9-11eb-8672-c281c7a2c96e_story.html); Trump Transition Team Opens DC Office as Preparations for Inauguration Begin, NBC Washington (Nov. 9, 2016) (https://www.nbcwashington.com/news/local/trump-transition-team-opens-dc-office-as-preparations-for-inauguration-begin/56785/).

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner, Tim Kaine, and Gary Peters, introduced legislation that would block the implementation of an October 21 Executive Order by President Trump that would make it easier for the Administration to fire non-partisan civil servants with policy expertise.

“We cannot allow the President to deny federal employees crucial workplace protections,” said Senators Warner and Kaine. “Our federal workforce has been under unprecedented attacks by this administration, and this harmful decision only benefits the President’s loyalists instead of serving the interests of the American people.”

On October 21, President Trump signed an executive order that would allow agency heads to convert certain policy-centric positions to a new classification, Schedule F, where there is greater flexibility to fire those employees. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) Acting Director Michael Rigas issued preliminary guidance on October 23 that suggests a broad interpretation of the types of positions that would be eligible for conversion. This has created concern that the Administration could fire civil servants and create uncertainty in federal agencies that are critical to protecting the nation’s national security and addressing the ongoing pandemic. OPM has still not answered basic questions regarding the development, implementation, and potential consequences of this hastily issued executive order.

The legislation is also cosponsored by Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Chris Coons (D-DE), Jack Reed (D-RI), Ed Markey (D-MA), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Patty Murray (D-WA), Tina Smith (D-MN), Tom Carper (D-DE), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Bob Casey (D-PA), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Doug Jones (D-AL), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Kyrsten Simena (D-AZ), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Tom Udall (D-NM), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Jon Tester (D-MT), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), and Chris Murphy (D-CT).

Senators Warner and Kaine have been fierce advocates for Virginia’s federal employees. In February, the Senators sent a letter to President Trump urging him to reverse his decision that would negatively impact the collective bargaining rights of Department of Defense (DOD) employees. In March, the Senators also became cosponsors of the Protecting Collective Bargaining and Official Time for Federal Workers Act, a bill that would rescind four executive actions that restrict the effectiveness of unions for federal workers. During the longest government shutdown in U.S. history, the Senators took a series of actions to protect affected workers, including guaranteeing back pay for federal employees, urging back pay for contractors, introducing budget amendments to protect federal workers, and urging OPM to prevent the termination of dental and vision insurance for federal employees. 

###

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, issued a statement today following the President’s firing of Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) Director Christopher C. Krebs:

“Chris Krebs is an extraordinary public servant and exactly the person Americans want protecting the security of our elections.

“It speaks volumes that the president chose to fire him simply for telling the truth.”

Sen. Warner, co-chair of the Senate Cybersecurity Caucus, has previously cautioned about the dangers of destabilizing the government by ousting key officials amid a transition of Presidential power. Just last week, he reacted to reports that Director Krebs expected to be fired by the President, noting that there is “no possible justification to remove him from office.”

###

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, today issued a statement:

 “I’m deeply troubled by President Trump’s firing of Defense Secretary Mark Esper just 72 days before a new president will be inaugurated and during a growing global pandemic. There is no doubt that our adversaries are already seeking vulnerabilities they can exploit in order to undermine American global leadership and national security during this transition period. The transfer of power should be peaceful and fulsome in accordance with the principles that have animated our republic since its founding and the last thing that our country needs is additional upheaval in the institutions designed to protect our national security. President Trump must not invite further volatility by removing any Senate-confirmed intelligence or national security officials during his time left in office.” 

 

###

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) joined Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Ranking Member of the Senate Rules Committee with oversight over federal elections, and 11 members of the Rules and Judiciary Committees in sending a letter to Corey R. Amundson, Chief of the Department of Justice’s Public Integrity Section, requesting an immediate explanation of the Department’s recent decision to weaken its longstanding policy of non-interference with elections, which ensures that election fraud investigations do not affect an upcoming election. The Department has long recognized that public investigations of alleged election fraud can “interject[] the investigation itself as an issue” in an ongoing election, creating “the obvious risk of chilling legitimate voting and campaign activities.” 

This policy change coincides with repeated false claims by the President and Attorney General Barr that voting by mail will lead to rampant fraud, while the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is warning that Russia is amplifying these claims to undermine trust in the electoral process.

Klobuchar was joined on the letter by the Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), and Senators: Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chris Coons (D-DE), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Tom Udall (D-NM), Angus King (I-ME), Mark Warner (D-VA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and Cory Booker (D-NJ).

“It is deeply troubling that the Department has chosen to weaken its non-interference policy weeks before Election Day and while millions of Americans have already voted, many of them by mail.” the senators said. 

“This policy change coincides with repeated false claims by the President and Attorney General Barr that voting by mail will lead to rampant fraud. The Department of Homeland Security has warned that Russia is amplifying these claims in an effort to undermine public trust in the electoral process.”

Full text of the letter can be found HERE and below.

October 20, 2020

Dear Mr. Amundson:

We request an immediate explanation of the Department’s recent decision to weaken its longstanding policy of non-interference with elections, which ensures that election fraud investigations do not affect an upcoming election.  

The Department has long recognized that public investigations of alleged election fraud can “interject[] the investigation itself as an issue” in an ongoing election, creating “the obvious risk of chilling legitimate voting and campaign activities.” Department policy thus prohibits overt investigative steps in such cases “until the election in question has been concluded, its results certified, and all recounts and election contests concluded.” [Federal Prosecution of Election Offenses, p. 84]

The Department has reportedly announced an exception to this policy that would allow election fraud allegations to be publicly announced before the 2020 election if “the integrity of any component of the federal government is implicated by election offenses.”  The exception appears to encompass allegations of mail voting fraud, which the Department could now publicly announce while voting is underway.

This policy change coincides with repeated false claims by the President and Attorney General Barr that voting by mail will lead to rampant fraud.  The Department of Homeland Security has warned that Russia is amplifying these claims in an effort to undermine public trust in the electoral process.  

It is deeply troubling that the Department has chosen to weaken its non-interference policy weeks before Election Day and while millions of Americans have already voted, many of them by mail. We therefore ask that you provide the following information no later than October 23:

  1. What is the complete text of the new exception to the Department’s non-interference with elections policy?
  2. Why did the Department create this exception at this time?
  3. Who participated in the creation of the exception, including the decision to create it and the drafting process?
  4. How will the Department ensure that actions taken pursuant to the exception do not “chill[] legitimate voting and campaign activities” or jeopardize “the Department’s reputation for fairness, neutrality, and non-partisanship”? 
  5. How will the Department ensure that actions taken pursuant to the exception will not interfere with or disturb the delivery and counting of mail-in ballots? 

Thank you for your prompt attention to this request.

Sincerely,

 

###

Washington, D.C. — Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Acting Chairman Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Vice Chairman Mark Warner (D-VA) released the following joint statement following the announcement made by Director of National Intelligence (DNI) John Ratcliffe and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director Christopher Wray regarding threats from adversaries to U.S. election systems and infrastructure:

“Yesterday, DNI Ratcliffe and FBI Director Wray took an extraordinary step to ensure Americans have clear insight into the efforts of our adversaries to undermine our democratic institutions, including U.S. election systems and infrastructure. It is clear that Iran is now actively seeking to sow dissent and divide us, much like Russia did in 2016 and continues to do today.

“To the American people and the media, we reiterate the need to be skeptical of sensationalist, last-minute claims about election infrastructure. State, local, and federal officials, and partners in social media and tech, should be proud of joint efforts to shut down Iranian and Russian efforts.

“To our adversaries, we reiterate DNI Ratcliffe’s warning against interfering in America’s electoral process. Republicans and Democrats are united when we say that continued attempts to sow dissent, cast doubt on election results, or disrupt our election systems and infrastructure will necessitate a severe response.”

Related:

 

###

 

Washington, D.C. — Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Acting Chairman Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Vice Chairman Mark Warner (D-VA) released the following joint statement regarding threats from adversaries to U.S. election systems and infrastructure:

“Our adversaries abroad seek to sow chaos and undermine voters’ belief in our democratic institutions, including the election systems and infrastructure that we rely on to record and properly report expressions of the voters’ will. They may seek to target those systems, or simply leave the impression that they have altered or manipulated those systems, in order to undermine their credibility and our confidence in them.

“As we enter the last weeks before the election, we urge every American – including members of the media – to be cautious about believing or spreading unverified, sensational claims related to votes and voting. State and local election officials are in regular contact with federal law enforcement and cyber security professionals, and they are all working around the clock to ensure that Election 2020 is safe, secure, and free from outside interference.”

###

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner joined Sen. David Perdue (R-GA), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a bipartisan group of senators in expressing strong support of India’s decision to formally invite Australia to participate in the annual Exercise Malabar.

The letter, addressed to Ambassador of India to the United States Taranjit Singh Sandhu, was signed by U.S. Senators Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Chris Coons (D-DE), John Cornyn (R-TX), Kevin Cramer (R-ND) , Ted Cruz (R-TX), Josh Hawley (R-MO), James Lankford (R-OK), Kelly Loeffler (R-GA), Martha McSally (R-AZ), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), and Thom Tillis (R-NC).

“From an operational perspective, the addition of such a uniquely capable and stalwart partner, like Australia, to this naval exercise is invaluable, providing increased interoperability, strengthening threat assessment abilities and enhancing the maritime roles and missions of the four naval powers,” wrote the senators. “However, of equal importance is the symbolic nature of Australia’s inclusion in Malabar, marking the first time that the United States, India, Japan and Australia will engage collectively at the military level since the formation of the Quad and the Quad-plus-Singapore naval exercises held in September 2007.

“China has opportunistically looked to expand its military footprint across the Indo-Pacific. From the South China Sea to the Himalayas, Beijing continues to use methods of intimidation and territorial aggression to test the resolve of regional actors,” continued the senators. “In response to these malign actions, the U.S. has signaled its increased commitment to the region with the newly proposed Pacific Deterrence Initiative, which will complement the Asia Reassurance Initiative Act (ARIA) to provide a more robust military presence. However, without coordinated efforts among committed and capable partners, solitary actions will not sufficiently address these ever-evolving security challenges.”

“Almost three decades ago, the Malabar Exercise acted as a launching pad for increased U.S.-Indian relations. We hope that Japan’s inclusion in the exercise, and now Australia’s, will have a similar effect, strengthening cooperation among the Quad as we collectively defend our shared vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific,” concluded the senators.

The letter also expresses support for increased coordination among Quad members on non-security issues like humanitarian assistance, vaccine development, and infrastructure investment in the Indo-Pacific region.

Read the full letter here

###

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) released a statement today after Facebook announced it will ban QAnon accounts, pages and groups from its platforms:

“I’m pleased to see Facebook take action against this harmful and increasingly dangerous conspiracy theory and movement. Just this morning I encouraged the company to take the threat of QAnon more seriously, given increasing evidence that its growth has in large part been propelled by Facebook. Ultimately the real test will be whether Facebook actually takes measures to enforce these new policies – we’ve seen in a myriad of other contexts, including with respect to right-wing militias like the Boogaloos, that Facebook has repeatedly failed to consistently enforce its existing policies.”

Over the summer, under pressure from Sen. Warner and his colleagues, Facebook announced it would ban the violent, right-wing extremist ‘Boogaloo’ network from its platform.

And today, Sen. Warner urged Facebook, along with Twitter and Google, to implement robust accountability and transparency standards ahead of the November election, including requirements outlined in the Honest Ads Act – bipartisan legislation championed by Sen. Warner to help prevent foreign interference in elections and improve the transparency of online political advertisements.

###

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), former telecommunications entrepreneur and Vice Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, today urged Facebook, Twitter, and Google to implement robust accountability and transparency standards ahead of the November election, including requirements outlined in the Honest Ads Act – bipartisan legislation championed by Sen. Warner to help prevent foreign interference in elections and improve the transparency of online political advertisements. 

In individual letters to FacebookGoogle, and Twitter, Sen. Warner detailed the various ways in which each company continues to contribute to the spread of disinformation, viral misinformation, and voter suppression efforts. He also warned about the imminent risk of bad actors once again weaponizing American-bred social media tools to undermine democracy ahead of the November election, and urged each company to take proactive measures to safeguard against these efforts.

In his letter to Facebook, Sen. Warner criticized the platform’s efforts to label manipulated or synthetic content, describing these as “wholly inadequate.” He also raised alarm with instances of Facebook’s amplification of harmful content.

“The pervasiveness of political misinformation on Facebook – and the ways in which your company chooses to amplify it – was on display just this week, when a baseless conspiracy about Vice President Biden was highlighted on Facebook’s own News Tab, a result of Facebook choosing to amplify The Daily Caller as a verified news publisher and fact-checker despite its long track record of promoting false information,” wrote Sen. Warner in a letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. “More broadly, Facebook has repeatedly failed to ensure that its existing policies on political advertising are being enforced– an issue that my colleagues and I recently raised in a separate context relating to Facebook’s failure to enforce its policies against violent far-right organizations.  Facebook has long been accused of facilitating divisive advertisements from dark money groups.  A recent report by Avaaz revealed that despite Facebook’s claims to prohibit false and misleading information in ads by outside political groups, it allowed hundreds of such ads in key swing states earlier this month to be run by super PACs.  And despite your personal pledge to stamp out voter suppression efforts on Facebook, a recent report by ProPublica revealed that voting misinformation continues to flourish on Facebook.”

Similarly, in a letter to Google, Sen. Warner raised concern with the company’s efforts to combat harmful misinformation – particularly disinformation about voting, spread by right-leaning YouTube channels. He also criticized the comprehensiveness of Google’s ad archive, which presently excludes issue ads.

“Concerns with the comprehensiveness of Google’s archive extend beyond simply Google’s under-inclusive policies. Prominent researchers have identified multiple glaring examples where qualifying political advertisers have been omitted from the ad archive… Moreover, a marketer recently demonstrated how easy it is to circumvent Google’s verification systems for political ads – running a series of search ads, targeted to run alongside election-related search queries, that attacked Presidential candidates without being included in Google’s ads database or being accompanied by a disclaimer,” wrote Sen. Warner in a letter to Google CEO Sundar Pichai. “Further, researchers found a particularly egregious example of election disinformation – spread via Google search ads – that ostensibly targeted to users looking for information about voter fraud.  The ad would not appear in Google’s ad archive, given its exclusion of issue ads; moreover, the ad clearly violated ad policies relating to “claims that are demonstrably false and could significantly undermine participation or trust in an electoral or democratic process.” The same researchers have found similar ads promoting false information about the election  – ostensibly indicating a systemic failure by Google in enforcing its advertising policies.” 

In his letter to Twitter, which has banned paid political content and placed restrictions on cause-based advertising, Sen. Warner noted that doctored political content continues to spread organically without adequate labeling that slows its spread or contextualizes it for users. 

“I ask that Twitter examine and strengthen its synthetic and manipulated media policy as it applies to political misinformation – particularly in the context of organic content,” wrote Sen. Warner in a letter to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey. “I appreciate the leadership Twitter has demonstrated to take steps against the promotion of false, deceptive, and manipulated political content; however, more must be done to secure our political discourse from disinformation on digital platforms like yours. Under your company’s existing policy, manipulated media has still reached millions of users with only limited response from your platform. 

In all three letters, Sen. Warner urged the companies to reinforce their efforts against abuse of paid and organic content policies, and to more aggressively identify, label, and remove manipulated or synthetic media to prevent efforts to amplify disinformation by Russia and other bad actors, both foreign and domestic. Sen. Warner also posed a series of different questions for each company on a number of issues, including the availability of political ad targeting information, the enforcement of companies' own policies, the adoption of a bounty to remunerate researchers who identify policy violations, and the measures being taken to slow the coordinated dissemination of deceptive, synthetic, or manipulated media.

The Honest Ads Act, as introduced by Sens. Warner, Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC), would safeguard the integrity of American democracy by requiring large online platforms to maintain public records of advertisers who purchase political ads. It would:

  • Amend the definition of ‘electioneering communication’ in the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, to include paid internet and digital advertisements.
  • Require digital platforms with at least 50,000,000 monthly visitors to maintain a public file of all electioneering communications purchased by a person or group who spends more than $500.00 total on ads published on their platform. This file would contain a digital copy of the advertisement, a description of the audience the advertisement targets, the number of views generated, the dates and times of publication, the rates charged, and the contact information of the purchaser.
  • Require online platforms to make all reasonable efforts to ensure that foreign individuals and entities are not purchasing political advertisements in order to influence the American electorate.

Sen. Warner has written and introduced a series of bipartisan bills designed to protect consumers and reduce the power of giant social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Google. Among these are the Designing Accounting Safeguards to Help Broaden Oversight And Regulations on Data (DASHBOARD) Act – bipartisan legislation to require data harvesting companies to tell consumers and financial regulators exactly what data they are collecting from consumers and how it is being leveraged by the platform for profit; the Deceptive Experiences To Online Users Reduction (DETOUR) Act – bipartisan legislation to prohibit large online platforms from using deceptive user interfaces to trick consumers into handing over their personal data; and the Augmenting Compatibility and Competition by Enabling Service Switching (ACCESS) Act – bipartisan legislation to encourage market-based competition to dominant social media platforms by requiring the largest companies to make user data portable – and their services interoperable – with other platforms, and to allow users to designate a trusted third-party service to manage their privacy and account settings, if they so choose.

 ###

WASHINGTON – Today, Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Chairman Marco Rubio (R-FL) led a bipartisan group of Senators in urging the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to encourage the adoption of OpenRAN and other open and interoperable standards solutions by affected carriers as it works to implement the Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Actlegislation championed by Sen. Warner and passed earlier this year. 

In a letter, the Senators urged FCC Chairman Ajit Pai to include OpenRAN and OpenRAN solutions on the list of suggested replacements for physical and virtual communications equipment, application and management software, and services. This inclusion would allow affected carriers to adopt these alternative solutions as they dispose of risky communications equipment, as outlined in the Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Act. In addition to Sens. Warner and Rubio, this letter was signed by Sens. Margaret Wood Hassan (D-NH), John Cornyn (R-TX), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Richard Burr (R-NC), Michael F. Bennet (D-CO), Tom Cotton (R-AR) and Angus S. King (I-ME).

“The inclusion of OpenRAN solutions on the list of suggested replacements could produce benefits beyond the immediate goal of securing American communications networks. Such equipment is interoperable, uses open interfaces, is not reliant on a single equipment vendor, and is easily upgradeable to new applications and uses, including 5G OpenRAN, without the need to continually replace proprietary equipment or conduct additional tower climbs,” the Senators wrote. “Moreover, this equipment will help spur innovation and create more competition and diversity in the supply chain. It is prudent that we take full advantage of this moment to prevent similar concerns from arising in the future.”

The Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Act was modeled on legislation Sen. Warner first cosponsored to protect American communications networks from threats presented by foreign suppliers like Huawei and ZTE. Specifically, it offers relief to reimburse smaller telecommunications providers – largely in rural areas – by reimbursing them for the costs of removing and replacing untrusted foreign equipment which presents risks to U.S. national security.

In their letter, the Senators also requested that the FCC aid in securing communications networks as expeditiously as possible by clarifying that carriers can begin replacing equipment right away, rather than needing to wait for the Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Act be fully implemented and funded. 

A copy of the letter can be downloaded here and text is available below. 

 

Dear Chairman Pai:

As the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) continues to implement the Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Act (the “Act”), we write to urge you to include OpenRAN and other solutions that adhere to open and interoperable standards (“OpenRAN solutions”) on “the list of suggested replacements of both physical and virtual communications equipment, application and management software, and services” that the Act requires the FCC to develop. As you know, the Act directs that the list shall be technology neutral. An explicit assurance to impacted carriers that they may select OpenRAN solutions to replace covered equipment would support other potential benefits, including easing subsequent updates to “future proof” networks. This guarantee may also stretch federal dollars further, as OpenRAN offers the possibility of cost savings. 

Further, to aid in securing communications networks as expeditiously as possible, the FCC should make clear that equipment and services on the list of suggested replacements, including OpenRAN solutions, will be eligible for reimbursement as prescribed in the Act. The FCC should also clarify to carriers that they need not wait for the Act to be fully implemented and funded to begin the replacement process to be eligible for reimbursement if using suggested replacement equipment and services.  

The inclusion of OpenRAN solutions on the list of suggested replacements could produce benefits beyond the immediate goal of securing American communications networks. Such equipment is interoperable, uses open interfaces, is not reliant on a single equipment vendor, and is easily upgradeable to new applications and uses, including 5G OpenRAN, without the need to continually replace proprietary equipment or conduct additional tower climbs. Moreover, this equipment will help spur innovation and create more competition and diversity in the supply chain. It is prudent that we take full advantage of this moment to prevent similar concerns from arising in the future.

Accordingly, we request the FCC to explicitly allow reimbursement of affected carriers for purchases of OpenRAN solutions to replace covered equipment in their networks. We applaud the FCC’s recent Forum on 5G Open Radio Access Networks and laud your work to highlight the importance of OpenRAN solutions. Thank you for your attention to this important matter, and we look forward to our continued work.

Sincerely, 

###

 

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, released the below statement:

“Our nation has a 200-year history of successful elections, followed by a peaceful transfer of power. Yesterday, the Senate Intelligence Committee received a briefing on election security from our nation’s top officials. We all know that the election process will look different this year, in light of COVID-19, and we may not know the results on election night. The Intelligence Community (IC) warned that, as a result, the period immediately before and after the election could be uniquely volatile. But we should continue to have faith in the state and local officials who are responsible for the conduct of our elections and the IC and Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) officials who help to protect them, and make sure that all the votes are counted. 

“The President of the United States should not be aiding and abetting foreign adversaries who are working  to sow doubts about the legitimacy of the American election system.”

In February 2020, the Senate Intelligence Committee released the third volume in the Committee’s bipartisan investigation into Russian election interference, “U.S. Government Response to Russian Activities,” which was approved on a bipartisan basis by the Republican-led Committee. That report included a series of recommendations for improving the security of our elections in the future, including:

(U) Sitting officials and candidates should use the absolute greatest amount of restraint and caution if they are considering publicly calling the validity of an upcoming election into question. Such a grave allegation can have significant national security and electoral consequences, including limiting the response options of the appropriate authorities, and exacerbating the already damaging messaging efforts of foreign intelligence services. (Page 45)

###

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, released the below statement:

“Our nation has a 200-year history of successful elections, followed by a peaceful transfer of power. Yesterday, the Senate Intelligence Committee received a briefing on election security from our nation’s top officials. We all know that the election process will look different this year, in light of COVID-19, and we may not know the results on election night. The Intelligence Community (IC) warned that, as a result, the period immediately before and after the election could be uniquely volatile. But we should continue to have faith in the state and local officials who are responsible for the conduct of our elections and the IC and Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) officials who help to protect them, and make sure that all the votes are counted.  

“The President of the United States should not be aiding and abetting foreign adversaries who are working to sow doubts about the legitimacy of the American election system.”

In February 2020, the Senate Intelligence Committee released the third volume in the Committee’s bipartisan investigation into Russian election interference, “U.S. Government Response to Russian Activities,” which was approved on a bipartisan basis by the Republican-led Committee. That report included a series of recommendations for improving the security of our elections in the future, including:

(U) Sitting officials and candidates should use the absolute greatest amount of restraint and caution if they are considering publicly calling the validity of an upcoming election into question. Such a grave allegation can have significant national security and electoral consequences, including limiting the response options of the appropriate authorities, and exacerbating the already damaging messaging efforts of foreign intelligence services. (Page 45)  

###

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine have requested information from the Departments of State and Homeland Security about their efforts to protect unwitting older Americans tricked into trafficking drugs internationally. In two letters—one to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the other to Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf, senior Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) official Tony Pham, and Acting Commissioner of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Mark Morgan—the senators inquired about 77-year-old Centreville, Virginia resident Victor Stemberger.

According to reports, in March 2018, Mr. Stemberger received an email inviting him to a business opportunity that entailed making international deliveries. In July 2019, Mr. Stemberger followed his contacts’ instructions to receive gifts in Brazil; he was arrested the next day in Spain after he was found with cocaine sewn into his luggage, and a Spanish court subsequently sentenced him to seven years in prison for drug smuggling. Mr. Stemberger and his family insist he knew nothing about the drugs, and a retired DEA agent working on the case says 161 pages of emails demonstrate that “he’s completely unwitting.”

 In their letter to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials, Warner and Kaine asked about efforts to protect unknowing senior citizens during Operation COCOON, DHS’s program to target narco-traffickers who manipulate older Americans into carrying drugs.

“We would like to understand what, if anything, your agencies did during Operation COCOON to prevent these targeted individuals’ arrest and prosecution in a foreign country once they were in transit as couriers and your efforts to have them returned to the United States,” the senators wrote to Wolf, Pham, and Morgan. “We are concerned that in an attempt to interdict illicit contraband being moved by unsuspecting senior citizens, Operation COCOON may have led DHS to provide information about these unwitting Americans to foreign law enforcement partners who then arrested, prosecuted, and jailed them abroad.” 

In their letter to Secretary Pompeo, Warner and Kaine requested assistance in bringing Mr. Stemberger home and asked about the State Department’s knowledge of Operation COCOON and whether it has been working with DHS to prevent the foreign prosecution of older Americans exploited by drug traffickers.

“Sadly, Mr. Stemberger is not the only older adult a transnational criminal organization has tricked into becoming an unwitting drug mule,” the senators wrote to Pompeo. “Given these unique circumstances, we are requesting your personal involvement to encourage the Government of Spain to immediately release Mr. Stemberger on humanitarian grounds so he can return to his family in the United States. We are especially worried for Mr. Stemberger’s health after learning that two prisoners held in the same section have recently contracted COVID-19 and ask that the State Department push for safer facilities to hold Mr. Stemberger while efforts to secure his release are ongoing.”

The full text of the senators’ letters can be found here and below:

Acting Secretary Wolf, Mr. Pham, and Acting Commissioner Morgan, 

We write to express concern about the case of Victor Stemberger and request information on your work to investigate and combat scams targeting older Americans to become unwitting drug mules. On July 30, a Spanish court found Mr. Stemberger, our constituent, guilty of drug smuggling and sentenced him to seven years in prison, rejecting his defense that he was duped into acting as a drug mule for a West Africa criminal network. Mr. Stemberger, 77, is a Vietnam veteran who served 24 years in the U.S. Army. To our knowledge, he has never been in trouble with the law. The circumstances of his arrest — as well as his advanced age — give us pause and concern. 

According to news reports, the case began in March 2018 with an email from someone purporting to be a financial consultant with Nigeria’s foreign ministry and inviting Mr. Stemberger into a business opportunity that carried the prospect of a lucrative payout. The job allegedly entailed traveling abroad to deliver gifts and documents to officials, with a goal of recovering funds that were misallocated. In July 2019, he traveled to Brazil on a trip that was to take him to Spain and on to Asia. Sources claim his contacts told him officials would be visiting his Sao Paolo hotel room to help transfer the gifts into luggage but that Mr. Stemberger continued to believe the work was legitimate. The following day, Mr. Stemberger was arrested in Madrid after he was found with cocaine sewn into bubble jackets in a bag. 

Mr. Stemberger and his family say he knew nothing about the drugs, and a retired DEA agent Robert Zachariasiewicz, whose investigative firm has worked with the family on the case, said the 161 pages of emails he’s reviewed make clear that “he’s completely unwitting.”[1] His family also explains that Mr. Stemberger suffered a brain aneurysm in 2005 that greatly diminished his logic and decision-making abilities, which a medical expert testified to at his trial. And, in a memorandum regarding Mr. Stemberger’s case dated October 28, 2019, the U.S. Department of Justice concluded that he was “fraudulently deceived by members of a narcotics trafficking network into unwittingly transporting concealed controlled substances.”

For years, federal officials have warned about scams that target and lure older Americans or those with diminished mental capacity to become unwitting drug mules. In fact, in February 2016, A. Scott Brown, former Acting Assistant Director of Investigative Programs for Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), testified before the Senate Special Committee on Aging about “international drug smuggling scams targeting seniors.” Mr. Brown noted that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was tracking 144 cases of older adults being duped into acting as unwitting drug mules. He cited statistics of Operation COCOON (DHS’s program to target narco-traffickers who manipulate older Americans into carrying drugs): “To date, HSI and CBP have worked with our foreign counterparts to interdict a total of 272 kilograms of methamphetamine, 209 kilograms of cocaine, 4 kilograms of ecstasy, and 11 kilograms of heroin. They have arrested 15 facilitators affiliated with TCOs — one in Hong Kong, two in China, three in Argentina and nine in Spain.”[2] 

We would like to understand what, if anything, your agencies did during Operation COCOON to prevent these targeted individuals’ arrest and prosecution in a foreign country once they were in transit as couriers and your efforts to have them returned to the United States. We are concerned that in an attempt to interdict illicit contraband being moved by unsuspecting senior citizens, Operation COCOON may have led DHS to provide information about these unwitting Americans to foreign law enforcement partners who then arrested, prosecuted, and jailed them abroad. As such, we would like to request more information on Operation COCOON and any other similar ongoing operation to combat criminal organizations from preying on older adult Americans.

We would appreciate your responses to the following questions about Operation COCOON and other requested documentation no later than September 28, 2020:

  1. Please provide all records and information related to Mr. Stemberger.
  2. Please provide the Concept of Operation for Operation COCOON and any related guidance, reports, metrics, and documentation. Please include any documentation pertaining to the collaborative arrangement between DHS and foreign law enforcement.
  3. Please provide the Concept of Operation for any ongoing operations pertaining to the targeting of older adult Americans to become unwitting drug mules and any related guidance, reports, metrics, and documentation.
  4. Please explain how you tracked success of the Operation COCOON and any similar ongoing operation.
  5. As DHS was aware that older adult Americans were tricked into being unwitting drug mules, did DHS alert these individuals or their family members or otherwise intervene to stop them from leaving the United States?
  6. Did Operation COCOON identify these “unsuspecting elderly citizens” to foreign law enforcement?
  7. Subsequent to identification by U.S. officials, were these Americans then arrested by the foreign law enforcement to whom they had been identified?
  8. Did DHS or any other agency or component of the U.S. federal government communicate to foreign law enforcement the judgment of the U.S. Government that these American citizens were unaware of drugs placed in their luggage?
  9. Did the information-sharing or collaborative arrangement between DHS and foreign law enforcement include a commitment by the foreign government to not prosecute unwitting older adult Americans and, instead, only prosecute members of the transnational criminal organization facilitating the fraud on the Americans?
  10. How many unwitting older American citizens have served time in foreign incarceration as a result of Operation COCOON? How many are still detained in foreign jails (in addition to Mr. Stemberger)? How many Americans died while in foreign custody as a result of Operation COCOON?
  11. If there were 144 cases in 2016, how many cases is DHS aware of cumulatively throughout the period of Operation COCOON?
  12. If there were nine cases involving Spain in 2016, how many is DHS aware of involving Spain cumulatively throughout the period of Operation COCOON?
  13. Did DHS or any entity involved in Operation COCOON notify Spanish officials of their suspicions relating to, or knowledge of, Victor Stemberger being an unwitting drug mule prior to his July 5, 2019 arrest? If so, did the notifying entity make clear to the Spanish officials that it was the position of the U.S. Government that Mr. Stemberger was unaware drugs were planted on him?
  14. What steps, if any, has DHS taken to secure Mr. Stemberger’s release from Spanish prison? Is DHS coordinating with the State Department on the release of Mr. Stemberger or any other senior American imprisoned via Operation COCOON?

Cc:

Derek N. Benner

Executive Associate Director for Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Deputy Director 

 

 

 

The Honorable Michael Pompeo

Secretary of State

U.S. Department of State

2201 C Street NW

Washington, D.C. 20520

Dear Mr. Secretary:

We write to request your assistance to seek the return of Victor Stemberger to the United States on humanitarian grounds and request information about the Department’s knowledge of a DHS program called Operation COCOON. On July 30, a Spanish court found Mr. Stemberger, our constituent, guilty of drug smuggling and sentenced him to seven years in prison, rejecting his defense that he was duped into acting as a drug mule for a West Africa criminal network. Mr. Stemberger, 77, is a Vietnam veteran who served 24 years in the U.S. Army. To our knowledge, he has never been in trouble with the law. The circumstances of his arrest — as well as his advanced age — give us pause and concern. 

According to news reports, the case began in March 2018 with an email from someone purporting to be a financial consultant with Nigeria’s foreign ministry and inviting Mr. Stemberger into a business opportunity that carried the prospect of a lucrative payout. The job allegedly entailed traveling abroad to deliver gifts and documents to officials, with a goal of recovering funds that were misallocated. In July 2019, he traveled to Brazil on a trip that was to take him to Spain and on to Asia. Sources claim his contacts told him officials would be visiting his Sao Paolo hotel room to help transfer the gifts into luggage but that Mr. Stemberger continued to believe the work was legitimate. The following day Mr. Stemberger was arrested in Madrid after he was found with cocaine sewn into bubble jackets in a bag.

Mr. Stemberger and his family say he knew nothing about the drugs, and a retired DEA agent Robert Zachariasiewicz, whose investigative firm has worked with the family on the case, said the 161 pages of emails he’s reviewed make clear that “he’s completely unwitting.”[1] His family also explains that Mr. Stemberger suffered a brain aneurysm in 2005 that greatly diminished his logic and decision-making abilities, which a medical expert testified to at his trial. And, in a memorandum regarding Mr. Stemberger’s case dated October 28, 2019, the U.S. Department of Justice concluded that he was “fraudulently deceived by members of a narcotics trafficking network into unwittingly transporting concealed controlled substances.” 

Given these unique circumstances, we are requesting your personal involvement to encourage the Government of Spain to immediately release Mr. Stemberger on humanitarian grounds so he can return to his family in the United States. We are especially worried for Mr. Stemberger’s health after learning that two prisoners held in the same section have recently contracted COVID-19 and ask that the State Department push for safer facilities to hold Mr. Stemberger while efforts to secure his release are ongoing. 

We are confident that you and your team are closely engaged on this case, and we would appreciate the following updates:

  • Have officials of the Department of State met with Mr. Stemberger and his Spanish defense counsel?

 

  • Is there anything that the Embassy in Madrid can do to improve the conditions in which Mr. Stemberger is being held?

 

  • Have State Department officials communicated at a senior level to appropriate officials of the Government of Spain that it is the position of the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Department of Justice that Mr. Stemberger was unaware of the drugs in his luggage and that sophisticated transnational criminal organization tricked him into becoming an unwitting drug mule?

 

  • Has Ambassador Buchan or officials working at the Embassy in Madrid met with Mr. Stemberger’s defense counsel and offered support in his pending appeal of his conviction to ensure that the Spanish courts have documentary evidence of the U.S. Government’s determination that Mr. Stemberger was unwitting of any illicit activities?

Sadly, Mr. Stemberger is not the only older adult a transnational criminal organization has tricked into becoming an unwitting drug mule. We understand that there are numerous additional cases of older Americans falling victim to similar schemes. As such, we have written separately to the Department of Homeland Security to ask for information about their activities under a program called Operation COCOON — a joint effort by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) — to target international drug traffickers who manipulate older Americans into carrying drugs. We are troubled that in an attempt to interdict illicit contraband being moved by unsuspecting senior citizens, Operation COCOON may have led DHS to provide information about these unwitting Americans to foreign law enforcement partners who then arrested, prosecuted, and jailed them abroad. To that end:

  • Have State Department officials inquired with their colleagues in the Spanish Government about how they selected Mr. Stemberger for screening and whether they received advanced notification of him by any U.S. officials? 

Is the Department aware of Operation COCOON? Has DHS coordinated with the Department on the protection of these older unwitting Americans to ensure that, once they entered a foreign country, they were not arrested, prosecuted, and jailed but instead sent safely home to the United States?   

Sincerely,

 

###

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, joined Senate Foreign Relations Committee ranking member Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Senate Democrats today in introducing the America Labor, Economic competitiveness, Alliances, Democracy and Security (America LEADS) Act, Senate Democrats’ proposal for a new U.S.-China policy. 

The most comprehensive China legislation to date, the America LEADS Act seeks to recognize that only when we have a vibrant economy here at home can we truly compete with China abroad.  The legislation provides significant new investments to rebuild the U.S. economy and provide our workers, entrepreneurs, researchers, and manufacturers with the skills and support needed to out-compete China and succeed in the twenty-first century. The proposal includes over $350 billion in new funding to synchronize and mobilize all aspects of U.S. national power. This approach is grounded in getting the broader Indo-Pacific strategy “right,” centered on our alliances and partnerships, animated by America’s longstanding values, and driven by the need for a course correction, after almost four years of destruction under President Trump.

Sponsored by 11 leading Democrats, the legislation is guided by four pillars: (1) invest in American competitiveness; (2) support American alliances and partners; (3) restore and advance a values-centered foreign policy; and (4) ensure China pays a price for its predatory actions. 

“This bill takes a comprehensive look at the way Beijing has sought to challenge American national security and economic interests in the 21st century by reaffirming the things that make us strong: our values, our alliances, our competitiveness, and our innovation. America LEADS invests in American workers, restores investments in research and development, and shores up our competitiveness in science and technology – all while keeping a commitment to human rights, multilateralism, and the rules-based international order. Importantly, America LEADS addresses China’s predatory international economic behavior, and includes measures to strengthen trade enforcement across a wide range of areas, including intellectual property, supply chains, currency manipulation, and counterfeit goods. This bill ensures China plays by the rules. I am proud to support this bill,” said Vice Chairman Warner.

“China challenges us across every dimension of power—political, diplomatic, military, economic, even cultural—offering an alternative and deeply disturbing model for global governance. Rather than tackling these challenges, President Trump’s policies have rolled out the red carpet for Beijing to reshape international institutions and establish global rules and norms that spread the influence of their authoritarian system,” said Ranking Member Menendez. “Given the shortcomings of Trump’s ‘all bluster and tactics, no strategy’ approach to China, I am proud to be joined by my colleagues in introducing this important legislation to provide an alternative path forward. The America LEADS Act will serve as a launching pad to help our nation emerge from this dark chapter of our history, truly confront the challenges China poses to our national and economic security, and once again lead from a place of strength and reverence for our highest values.”

“Bold, aggressive action is required to confront the clear and present threat China poses to our economic prosperity and national security. America cannot continue to underinvest in our workers, manufacturing communities, science, technological research, and trade enforcement or cede our leadership in the international community and expect to confront this threat,” said Leader Schumer. “The America LEADS Act counteracts the Chinese Communist Party’s predatory trade practices and aggressive military behavior, reinvigorates our alliances, and turns the tables by making essential investments in our workers, entrepreneurs, and manufacturers to ensure 'Made in America', not 'Made in China,' defines our future.”

Joining Warner, Menendez and Schumer in introducing the America LEADS Act were Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.),  Senate Finance Committee ranking member Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), ranking member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Senate Armed Services Committee ranking member Jack Reed (D-R.I.)Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), and Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.).

“Whether pursuing erratic, poorly thought out trade policies that hurt our farmers, cozying up to yet another dictator, ignoring the threat of COVID-19, or denying climate change, the Trump Administration has demonstrated an utter lack of strategic vision when it comes to China,” said Democratic Whip Durbin.  “In four short years, our farmers and manufacturers have lost markets for their goods.  China has rolled back democracy in Hong Kong and run internment camps for Uyghurs.  And China has made diplomatic and economic inroads around the world and on our doorstep.  This bill lays out a coherent approach to China — working together where possible, standing up for human rights and democracy, and looking out for the American worker.” 

“Making sure the playing field with our global trading partners is level and fair couldn't be more important to people in Washington state, and today we’ve laid out a strong path forward to ensure that our nation’s policy towards China reflects the best interests of American workers, families, and businesses--as well as the interests of our allies worldwide and within the Indo-Pacific region. The America LEADS Act would bolster our competitiveness and innovation, support local economies and jobs, strengthen trade enforcement against China, and take needed steps in support of human rights and freedoms. We need clear-eyed, thoughtful, and strong leadership in dealing with China and that’s exactly what these policies demonstrate,” said Ranking Member Murray. 

“Taking on China’s decades of cheating on trade takes more than bluster and empty promises – it requires a strategy to confront every aspect of the Chinese government’s malicious behavior. America LEADS would make sure the U.S. government has the plan and the tools to stand up to China’s economic aggression and ensure a level playing field for American workers, families and communities,” said Ranking Member Wyden. 

“The Trump Administration’s feckless and haphazard response to China has allowed China’s diplomatic, military, economic, and political power to grow in ways that are undermining American national interests and those of our allies,” said Ranking Member Brown. “We need a comprehensive, long-term strategy on China. But there are also steps we must take in the urgent short term- The America LEADS Act is a good first step by allowing us to respond directly to aggressive Chinese behavior with a full range of political, diplomatic, and economic tools.”  

“America needs a better strategy when it comes to China.  President Trump’s chaotic efforts have made that task even more challenging, but with this bill we’re starting the process of highlighting an effective strategy based on smart investments in U.S. workers and companies, building our competitive advantages over China, and increasing alliances to address China rather than thrashing alliances as Trump has,” said Ranking Member Reed. 

“China is our most complex bilateral relationship and our greatest geopolitical challenge. But instead of strategically competing with China, President Trump has stumbled between praising Chinese President Xi’s brutality and imposing haphazard penalties. To protect our interests, we need a comprehensive plan that invests in key American industries, cracks down on the theft of our cutting-edge technologies, and bolsters our security footprint abroad. This proposal does just that. I was proud to author a number of provisions in this sweeping package – including the Protecting American Intellectual Property Act and the Holding Foreign Companies Accountable Act – and I urge my Senate colleagues to take action on this proposal immediately,” said Senator Van Hollen. 

“When it comes to countering China, the U.S. must level the playing field by leading with our like-minded allies abroad and providing our businesses and innovators with the tools they need to compete,” said Senator Shaheen. “The Trump administration’s ‘America Alone’ approach is failing. This legislation recognizes the critical importance of our alliances with other democracies and recommits to our values of freedom and human rights. It also strengthens the United States and empowers the American worker by investing in American ingenuity. This legislation creates American jobs, supports domestic manufacturing, and will help prevent China from stealing our intellectual property. Mitch McConnell should bring this legislation to the floor as soon as possible to send a message to China and the world that the United States is ready to stand up to China’s predatory behavior.” 

The America LEADS Act also includes provisions that strengthen America’s diplomatic, economic, military and soft power posture in the Indo-Pacific and around the globe; promote democracy, human rights, and the rule of law; and safeguard our nation’s innovation and creativity from China’s predatory trade and economic practices.  Most importantly, the America LEADS Act takes significant steps to replenish the sources of our competitiveness at home, with big investments in American workers, education, scientific research and our nation’s industrial base.

A Summary of the America LEADS proposal can be found HERE and below.

  

"This legislation shows that Democrats know how to lead on the thorny issues presented by China's actions in the economic and security spheres," said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. "The Trump administration has failed miserably, and it is time for an approach based on cooperation with our allies and investing in our economy to promote job creation."

“Workers need Congress to prioritize the creation of domestic jobs, Sens. Schumer and Menendez took a strong step forward to reshoring, rebuilding, and securing our domestic supply chains with the America LEADS Act,” said United Steelworkers President Tom Conway.

“Global competition, especially from China, for leadership in the advanced-technology industries critical to powering American economic prosperity intensifies daily. The America LEADS Act represents a comprehensive geostrategic response, bolstering all elements of America’s national power, to meet this challenge,” said President of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation Rob Atkinson. “This vital legislation significantly boosts federal R&D funding; expands science, technology, and innovation programs; bolsters manufacturing-support programs like Manufacturing USA and MEP; restores the defense industrial base; significantly increases federal investment in STEM and workforce training programs; and calls for expanding alliances with like-minded nations in the Indo-Pacific region. America LEADS is the legislation America urgently needs right now if it’s to remain competitive into the future, and it merits full bipartisan support and timely passage.”

The America LEADS Act

·       Invests in American workers and restores United States’ competitiveness in science and technology, manufacturing, global infrastructure, digital technologies, and global clean energy development, by increasing federal funding for research and development, including investment to lead in the development and production of new and emerging technologies like 5G, quantum, and artificial intelligence that will define the twenty-first century, taking action to strengthen domestic supply chains, and providing support for domestic manufacturing industries like seminconductors. 

·       Confronts China’s education and influence campaigns by requiring new reporting requirements and invests in registered apprenticeships, training, and STEM education programs with a focus on building a diverse and inclusive innovation and manufacturing workforce for the 21st Century.

·       Renews and reorients the United States’ diplomatic strategy towards China centered on America’s commitment to its allies around the world and in the Indo-Pacific region, including Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, Australia, Thailand, and Taiwan, and calls for the United States to reassert its leadership within regional and international organizations, like the World Health Organization and the G7.

·       Reaffirms America’s strong security commitment in the Indo-Pacific and a forward-deployed posture in the region to ensure that all nations can exercise their rights in the region’s international waters and airspace, and directs the United States to provide additional assistance and training to countries under the Indo-Pacific Maritime Security Initiative. The bill also provides regional strategies to confront malign PRC influence in the Western Hemisphere, South and Central Asia, Africa, the Arctic region, and the Middle East and North Africa.

·       Invests in our values, authorizing a broad range of efforts to support human rights and civil society measures, especially as they relate to Tibet, the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), and Hong Kong, including allowing certain Hong Kong citizens and residents of Xinjiang to apply for admission to the United States.  The bill also directs the President to report foreign persons identified for engaging in and facilitating forced labor in China and to apply sanctions to Chinese officials complicit in human rights violations. 

·       Focuses on countering and confronting China’s predatory international economic behavior, and includes measures to strengthen trade enforcement across a wide range of areas, including intellectual property, supply chains, currency manipulation, and counterfeit goods.

 

###

WASHINGTON - Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Acting Chairman Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Vice Chairman Mark Warner (D-VA) released the following joint statement regarding future briefings to the Committee from the Office of Director of National Intelligence (ODNI):

“The Senate Intelligence Committee plays a critical role in conducting oversight of the Intelligence Community, and intelligence agencies have a legal obligation to keep Congress informed of their activities. Last month, Director Ratcliffe reaffirmed that the Senate Intelligence Committee will continue receiving briefings, including in-person, on all oversight topics – including election matters. As we have in the past, the Committee will continue to expect timely and complete information from our intelligence agencies.” 

###

 

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), former technology entrepreneur and Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, applauded the house passage of the Internet of Things (IoT) Cybersecurity Improvement Act – legislation to require minimum security requirements for Internet of Things (IoT) devices purchased by the U.S. government. Sen. Warner authored and introduced this legislation in the Senate back in August 2017. He reintroduced the bill in the 116th Congress with a House companion led by U.S. Reps. Robin Kelly and Will Hurd. That legislation passed through the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee in June 2019 and now awaits consideration in the Senate. 

“The House passage of this legislation is a major accomplishment in combatting the threats that insecure IoT devices pose to our individual and national security. Frankly, manufacturers today just don’t have the appropriate market incentives to properly secure the devices they make and sell – that’s why this legislation is so important,” said U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner. “I commend Congresswoman Kelly and Congressman Hurd for their efforts to push this legislation forward over the past two years. I look forward to continuing to work to get this bipartisan, bicameral bill across the finish line in the Senate.”

Specifically, the Internet of Things (IoT) Cybersecurity Improvement Act introduced by Sen. Warner would:

  • Require the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to issue recommendations addressing, at a minimum, secure development, identity management, patching, and configuration management for IoT devices.
  • Direct the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to issue guidelines for each agency that are consistent with the NIST recommendations, and charge OMB with reviewing these policies at least every five years.
  • Require any Internet-connected devices purchased by the federal government to comply with those recommendations.
  • Direct NIST to work with cybersecurity researchers, industry experts, and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to publish guidance on coordinated vulnerability disclosure to ensure that vulnerabilities related to agency devices are addressed.
  • Require contractors and vendors providing information systems to the U.S. government to adopt coordinated vulnerability disclosure policies, so that if a vulnerability is uncovered, that can be effectively shared with a vendor for remediation.


Sen. Warner, the Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and former technology executive, is the co-founder and co-chair of the bipartisan Senate Cybersecurity Caucus and a leader in Congress on security issues related to the Internet of Things.

###

WASHINGTON  U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) joined Sens. Jim Risch (R-Idaho) and Ben Cardin (D-Md.). along with Senators Todd Young (R-Ind.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), James Lankford (R-Okla.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), and Tim Kaine (D-Va.), today introduced a resolution calling on the Government of Cameroon and armed separatist groups from the English-speaking Northwest and Southwest regions to end all violence, respect the human rights of all Cameroonians, and pursue a genuinely inclusive dialogue toward resolving the ongoing civil conflict in Anglophone Cameroon.

Key provisions of the resolution include encouraging all parties of the Anglophone conflict in Cameroon to:

  • Conclude and uphold an immediate ceasefire.
  • Guarantee unfettered humanitarian access and assistance to the Northwest and Southwest regions.
  • Exercise restraint and ensure that political protests are peaceful.
  • Establish a credible process for an inclusive dialogue that includes all relevant stakeholders to achieve a sustainable political solution that respects the rights and freedoms of all of the people of Cameroon.

Full text of the resolution can be found here.

Background: Since 2016, Cameroon’s security forces have been credibly accused of grave human rights abuses, including suppressing the basic freedoms of expression and assembly, arbitrarily detaining those who challenge the president’s authority, torture, and extrajudicial killings. Human Rights Watch has documented extensive burning of villages by members of the security forces in the last two years in both the Northwest and Southwest regions, as well as rampant killings of civilians and sexual violence.

###

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, issued the following statement on the Office of the Director of National Intelligence’s decision to cancel all election security briefings for Congress:

“The Office of the Director of National Intelligence has an obligation to brief Congress on threats to our elections. Director Ratcliffe’s outrageous decision to stop providing briefings to Congress is an unprecedented attempt to politicize an issue – protecting our democracy from foreign intervention – that should be non-partisan. 

“Russia interfered in our elections in 2016, and they’re doing it again in 2020. One the lessons we should draw from what happened in 2016 is that Congress and the American public need to know more information about the election interference threat — not less.” 

###

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, released the below statement on the release of the fifth and final volume of the Committee’s bipartisan Russia investigation titled, “Volume 5: Counterintelligence Threats and Vulnerabilities”:

“After more than three and a half years of work, millions of documents, and hundreds of witness interviews, I’m proud that the Committee’s report speaks for itself.

“At nearly 1,000 pages, Volume 5 stands as the most comprehensive examination of ties between Russia and the 2016 Trump campaign to date – a breathtaking level of contacts between Trump officials and Russian government operatives that is a very real counterintelligence threat to our elections. I encourage all Americans to carefully review the documented evidence of the unprecedented and massive intervention campaign waged on behalf of then-candidate Donald Trump by Russians and their operatives and to reach their own independent conclusions. 

“This cannot happen again. As we head into the heat of the 2020 campaign season, I strongly urge campaigns, the executive branch, Congress and the American people to heed the lessons of this report in order to protect our democracy.”

###

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, joined Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho), Ranking Member and Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, in introducing a Senate Resolution regarding the massive explosion in the Port of Beirut, Lebanon on August 4, 2020. The bipartisan resolution extends heartfelt condolences to the people of Lebanon on behalf of the U.S. Senate and reiterates support for ongoing U.S. government efforts to provide emergency humanitarian relief in concert with other international partners to those impacted. The Senators were also joined on the resolution by Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Mitt Romney (R-UT), Chris Murphy (D-CT), and Rob Portman (R-OH).

“Our hearts are with the people of Lebanon as they continue to recover from this devastating explosion, which killed more than 200, left thousands injured, and displaced many more.  And this tragedy comes on top of the difficulties the Lebanese people were facing prior to the explosion, including a global pandemic, economic crisis, and political upheaval.  We in the United States stand with them and offer our support as they work to rebuild,” said Senator Warner.

"We stand with the Lebanese people as they continue to recover from the tragic August 4 explosion that took the lives of so many and has displaced hundreds of thousands, threatened health and food security, and destroyed critical infrastructure,” said Ranking Member Menendez. “During this period of national mourning and trauma in Lebanon, we are sadly reminded that those with political power in Beirut have put their own interests above those of the broader population for far too long. I am proud to be joined by my colleagues in this effort to reaffirm the Senate’s continued support for vital humanitarian relief and meaningful economic and political reforms that will serve the interests of health, wellbeing, stability of the Lebanese people."

“The explosion at the Port of Beirut last week was a devastating tragedy for a country already struggling with economic hardship, mismanagement, and corruption. My deepest condolences are with all those who have been impacted,” said Chairman Risch. “Our resolution supports U.S. government efforts to provide emergency humanitarian relief, and encourages the Lebanese government to prioritize policies and programs that advance the interests of the people of Lebanon. The Lebanese people deserve a more stable and prosperous future.”

“The devastating explosions in Lebanon could not have happened at a worse time for the Lebanese people. Their nation has been embroiled in political turmoil and is in the midst of an economic crisis. The blast exacerbated these existing problems. Now more than ever, it’s critical that the United States stand with the Lebanese people as they fight to recover and rebuild,” said Senator Shaheen. “This resolution reaffirms the U.S. Senate’s commitment to support humanitarian relief and urges necessary and urgent political and economic reform within the Lebanese government. So many innocent lives were lost in this horrific event and many more forever changed by the destruction in Beirut. The time is now for the U.S. to lead in supporting the Lebanese population’s calls for assistance, accountability and action.”

“Following the horrifying explosion in the Port of Beirut earlier this month, I’m proud to join Chairman Risch and Ranking Member Menendez in introducing this bipartisan resolution in support of the Lebanese people,” said Senator Rubio. “The United States stands with the people of Lebanon during this difficult time through U.S. humanitarian assistance and as they seek accountability and meaningful reforms for their country.

 “Lebanon is a country on the brink of financial ruin with a fragile democracy, susceptible to increasing efforts by Iran and Iranian-backed groups trying to capitalize on the country’s instability to gain influence. Last week’s explosion in Beirut will have long-lasting repercussions for the Lebanese people who were already facing severe economic hardships. My heart aches for them,” said Senator Romney. “The Lebanese government must work with partners in a transparent and impartial manner to investigate the source of the explosion, and must address the political failings that allowed it to happen in the first place.”

“Before the explosion, Lebanon was already in dire crisis with a collapsed economy and growing humanitarian needs. It’s in the United States’ interest to do everything in our power to prevent the situation in Beirut from getting worse. That’s why I stand with my colleagues in the United States Congress to mobilize international support and provide emergency humanitarian assistance to the people of Lebanon during this incredibly difficult time,” said Senator Murphy.

“I’m proud to join Chairman Risch and Ranking Member Menendez in introducing this bipartisan resolution expressing support for the people of Lebanon in the face of the terrible tragedy earlier this month and the ongoing economic hardships. I applaud the Administration's efforts to provide humanitarian relief to the people of Beirut and the requirement that it be administered through the US Agency for International Development,” said Senator Portman. “It is crucial that the people most affected by this tragedy receive this aid and that it not be diverted to those who would profit from their suffering. I strongly encourage the government of Lebanon to conduct a complete and thorough investigation of the circumstances surrounding this incident and simultaneously work to build a democratic, free and inclusive government that acts in the best interests of the brave Lebanese people.”

 

The resolution can be found here.

WASHINGTON - Today U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and John Cornyn (R-TX), Co-Chairs of the Senate India Caucus, introduced a resolution to condemn the People’s Republic of China’s use of military aggression to change the status quo at the Line of Actual Control between India and China. This follows instances of Chinese military forces harassing Indian patrols as well as increased troop deployments and infrastructure construction in contested areas.

“The June 15 conflict between China and India, resulting in the deaths of approximately 20 Indian soldiers, should set off alarm bells regarding the PRC’s provocative actions in disputed territory,” said Sen. Warner. “This resolution condemns PRC’s actions to change the Line of Actual Control, especially in the midst of diplomatic negotiations between the two countries; and encourages the two nations to find a diplomatic resolution that restores the April 2020 status quo at the LAC. The U.S. has long enjoyed a partnership with India strengthened by shared democratic values. That partnership only becomes more important as we work to ensure a free and open Indo-Pacific.”

“As a cofounder of the Senate India Caucus, I know firsthand the importance of a strong relationship between the United States and India,” said Sen. Cornyn. “I commend India’s commitment to standing up to China and maintaining a free and open Indo-Pacific. It is more important than ever that we support our Indian partners as they defend against Chinese aggression.”

Background:

Deadly conflict broke out on June 15, 2020, on the China-India border following weeks of minor military confrontations along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) that separates the People's Republic of China (PRC or China) and the Indian regions of Ladakh and Sikkim. The lethal conflict occurred in the Galwan Valley—one of the sites of tension in recent weeks—as the two sides were in the process of negotiating a mutual "disengagement" of forces (see Figure 1). PRC and Indian sources offered conflicting accounts of events, but officials on both sides confirmed casualties, including at least 20 Indian military personnel. The last time the border conflict escalated to the point of casualties was in 1975.

The events leading up to the lethal clashes included fistfights between Chinese and Indian soldiers stationed near Pangong Lake in India's Ladakh state, territorial advances by Chinese forces in Hot Springs and the Galwan Valley (also in Ladakh), and clashes between Chinese and Indian soldiers on the border near India's Sikkim state. Authoritative information is limited, but various accounts claim PRC troops made territorial gains of 40-60 square kilometers.