Ahead Of President Trump’s Bedminster Fundraiser, Schumer, Feinstein, Warner Push For Security Assessment Of Trump Properties, Including Mar-A-Lago And Bedminster
Jul 18 2019
WASHINGTON – Ahead of President Trump’s fundraiser at his Bedminster, New Jersey golf club, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), and Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Mark Warner (D-VA) today sent a letter to Secret Service Director James Murray amid growing concerns about the adequacy of visitor screening procedures at the president’s properties. The letter follows the March 30th, 2019 arrest of Yujing Zhang, the Chinese National apprehended at Mar-a-Lago while carrying malware, whose trial in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida is scheduled to begin this summer.
The senators note in their letter that on April 3rd, 2019, they requested that the FBI, in consultation with the Secret Service, determine the steps needed to detect and deter adversary governments or their agents from attempting to gain access to Mar-a-Lago to conduct electronic surveillance or acquire other materials.
Senators Schumer, Feinstein, and Warner also note that because the president’s properties are not currently considered “permanently protected facilities” like the White House, the Secret Service does not maintain visitor logs and has a substantially reduced physical security presence on days when the president is not present. They ask if additional security measures, including enhanced background checks of all visitors at all times, might reduce or help address potential national security risks at the president’s properties.
Text of Senators Schumer, Feinstein, and Warner’s letter to Director of the Secret Service James Murray is below and available here:
Mr. James M. Murray
U.S. Secret Service
950 H St. NW
Washington, DC 20223
Dear Director Murray:
We write regarding the recent security breach at Mar-a-Lago and reports that foreign intelligence services may be targeting the property for surveillance or influence operations.
On March 30th, Yujing Zhang, a Chinese national, was apprehended by the Secret Service with a thumb drive containing malicious software (malware) after she allegedly made false statements to bypass security at the President’s Mar-a-Lago club. It was revealed that Zhang, whose trial in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida is scheduled to begin in August, had in her hotel room a device for detecting hidden cameras along with over $8,000 in U.S. and Chinese currency. On July 9th, the federal judge hearing the case granted prosecutors’ request to use the Classified Information Procedures Act and file under seal classified information the disclosure of which “could cause serious damage to the national security of the United States.”
The apparent ease with which Zhang gained access to Mar-a-Lago has raised concerns regarding the adequacy of visitor screening procedures and other security measures at the club. We were troubled to learn that Mar-a-Lago employees—and not the Secret Service—determine who is granted access to the property, where secure areas are established for handling classified information during the President’s frequent visits. Additionally, because the property is not considered a permanently protected facility like the White House, the Secret Service does not maintain visitor logs and has a substantially reduced physical security presence on days when the President is not present.
On April 3rd, we requested that the FBI, in consultation with your office, determine the steps needed to detect and deter adversary governments or their agents from attempting to gain access to Mar-a-Lago or President Trump’s other properties in order to conduct electronic surveillance or acquire other materials. The possibility that the March 30th security breach at Mar-a-Lago could be connected to broader surveillance or influence operations targeting this property illustrates the need for Congress to understand the extent of the national security risks posed by the President’s frequent use of the club and his other properties.
We understand that while the Secret Service remains committed to its mission of ensuring the safety of our nation’s highest elected leaders, securing Mar-a-Lago has presented heightened security and budgetary challenges due to the semi-public nature of what remains the President’s private business. Accordingly, we request that you provide Congress with an assessment of whether additional security measures, including enhanced background checks of all visitors at all times, might reduce or help address potential national security risks at Mar-a-Lago, Bedminster, and the President’s other properties.
Thank you for your attention to this matter.
WASHINGTON — Senators Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) and Chris Van Hollen (D-Maryland), along with Senators Marco Rubio (R-Florida), Mark Warner (D-Virginia), Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut), and Mitt Romney (R-Utah) today introduced legislation to reinforce the Trump administration’s efforts to prevent the Chinese-owned telecom company Huawei from threatening America’s national security. The Defending America's 5G Future Act would codify President Trump’s recent Executive Order and would prohibit the removal of Huawei from the Commerce Department Entity List without an act of Congress. It also would empower Congress to disallow waivers that any administration might grant to U.S. companies engaged in commerce with Huawei. Representatives Mike Gallagher (R-Wisconsin), Jimmy Panetta (D-California), Liz Cheney (R-Wyoming), and Ruben Gallego (D-Arizona) have introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives.
“Huawei isn’t a normal business partner for American companies, it’s a front for the Chinese Communist Party. Our bill reinforces the president’s decision to place Huawei on a technology blacklist. American companies shouldn’t be in the business of selling our enemies the tools they’ll use to spy on Americans,” said Cotton.
“The best way to address the national security threat we face from China’s telecommunications companies is to draw a clear line in the sand and stop retreating every time Beijing pushes back. By prohibiting American companies from doing business with Huawei, we finally sent an unequivocal message that we take this threat seriously and President Trump shouldn’t be able to trade away those legitimate security concerns,” said Van Hollen. “This legislation will make sure he doesn’t by codifying the President’s original executive order on Huawei and prohibiting the Administration from relieving penalties on Huawei without the approval of Congress.”
“This bill codifies Huawei’s addition to the Commerce Department’s banned Entity List, and thus protects one of the Trump Administration’s most important moves in America’s long-term strategic competition with the totalitarian Chinese government and Communist Party,” said Rubio. “Huawei, a malign Chinese state-directed telecommunications company that seeks to dominate the future of 5G networks, is an instrument of national power used by the regime in Beijing to undermine U.S. companies and other international competitors, engage in espionage on foreign countries, and steal intellectual property and trade secrets.”
“President Trump’s executive order and the Department of Commerce’s Entity List designation reflect the reality that companies like Huawei represent a threat to the security of U.S. and allied communications networks. It shouldn’t be used as a bargaining chip in a larger trade negotiation. This bipartisan bill will make sure that Congress has a chance to weigh in if the President attempts to make concessions on our national security,” said Warner.
“Huawei poses an alarming and unacceptable threat to our nation’s critical telecommunications networks. Our bipartisan bill is a no-brainer. Preventing Huawei from doing business in the United States protects our national security. We must act swiftly to make sure this dangerous company does not cause us harm,” said Blumenthal.
“We must make a concerted effort to confront the threat China poses to U.S. national security, intellectual property, and technology,” said Romney. “Our bill will prohibit U.S.-based companies from doing business with Huawei until they no longer pose a national security threat.”
“Huawei is an appendage of the Chinese Communist Party and should be treated as such,” said Rep. Gallagher. “The President’s actions to protect America’s telecommunications supply chain and restrict the sale of American technology to Huawei were critical steps to protect the future of 5G. It is time we codify these decisions into law and ensure American innovation does not fuel Huawei’s CCP-directed campaign to dominate the global telecommunications market.”
“Huawei is a threat to our international communications and, thus, our national security. This bipartisan legislation prevents compromises of our communications and stops foreign adversaries from benefiting from our ingenuity. It is time for Congress to come together and reassert its authority to protect American business and consumers and the safety of our constituents,” said Rep. Panetta.
“Huawei is a serious threat to American prosperity and security, and the United States must remain vigilant against this Chinese state-directed company and its efforts to gain access to American data, defense supply chain, and other crucial information. The Defending America’s 5G Future Act codifies the President’s wise decision to blacklist Huawei, and sends a clear message that Huawei continues to be a vehicle the Chinese Communist Party is using to gain commercial and security advantages and threaten the United States,” said Rep. Cheney.
“The threat from Huawei to U.S. and allied information networks is real. We cannot allow safeguards and restrictions placed on them to backslide without Congress having a say in the matter. I’m proud to work across the aisle to ensure that American and allied communications are protected against this problematic company for the foreseeable future,” said Rep. Gallego.
Jun 25 2019
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Ranking Member of the Senate Rules Committee with oversight jurisdiction over federal elections, and Senator Mark Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, introduced legislation today to expand the scope of the prohibition on political activity by foreign nationals. The Preventing Adversaries Internationally from Disbursing Advertising Dollars (PAID AD) Act would amend the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) to prevent foreign nationals from purchasing broadcast, cable, satellite, or digital communications naming a candidate for office at any point in time, and prevents foreign governments and foreign lobbyists from buying issue ads.
“Our intelligence community has been clear—foreign powers continue to interfere in our elections and they’ll keep doing so unless we stop them,” Klobuchar said. “Strengthening our campaign finance laws to prohibit paid political advertisements by foreign nationals and foreign governments is necessary to ensure American elections are free and fair.”
“Russia’s massive and unprecedented interference in our last presidential election revealed a number of vulnerabilities in our election system,” Warner said. “And now that the Kremlin’s playbook is out in the open, we can expect more of the same in 2020, from Russia or elsewhere. We need to get serious about protecting our elections from foreign interference. This bill is just one commonsense measure we should adopt to strengthen our democracy against foreign intervention.”
A combination of statutes and Federal Election Commission (FEC) rules define the campaign and electoral activities in which participation by a foreign national is prohibited. Currently, the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) prohibits a foreign national from contributing directly to campaigns, making independent expenditures, or buying electioneering communications. However, the definition of electioneering communication is narrow and creates a loophole by which foreign nationals may lawfully exert influence in the American electoral system.
The PAID AD Act would make it illegal for foreign nationals to directly or indirectly make an expenditure, independent expenditure, or disbursement for an electioneering communication at any time. The legislation would also prevent foreign governments from purchasing issue ads during an election year. Under the proposed legislation, FECA’s specified time horizons for “electioneering communication” are also removed for foreign nationals.
Representatives Elissa Slotkin (D-MI) and Elise Stefanik (R-NY) introduced bipartisan companion legislation as an amendment to H.R. 1 in the House of Representatives.
WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, released a statement after attending a White House briefing on Iran:
“Iran’s provocation must be taken very seriously. No nation can be permitted to strike U.S. assets in international airspace without consequences. However, we also need to ensure that any response to Iran’s destabilizing behavior is part of a coherent strategy, and that we take care not to escalate an already-volatile situation in the Middle East.
“America’s position is strengthened when we have allies standing with us. As the U.S. weighs an appropriate response, the President must work with our allies and continue to consult broadly with Congress.”
WASHINGTON – Today the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee advanced bipartisan legislation written by U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Cory Gardner (R-CO), co-founders of the Senate Cybersecurity Caucus, to improve the cybersecurity of Internet-connected devices. The Internet of Things (IoT) Cybersecurity Improvement Act of 2019 would require that devices purchased by the U.S. government meet certain minimum security requirements. The bill now awaits consideration in the full Senate.
“While I’m excited about their life-changing potential, many IoT devices are being sold without appropriate safeguards and protections in place, with the device market prioritizing convenience and price over security,” said Sen. Warner, a former technology entrepreneur and executive and Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. “Today the Committee took an important step forward to proactively address the risks posed by improperly secured IoT devices, by using the purchasing power of the federal government to establish some minimum security standards for IoT devices.”
“I was pleased to see further action in the Senate on this important bill and I look forward to it being swiftly signed into law. The Internet of Things (IoT) landscape continues to expand, with most experts expecting tens of billions of devices to be operating on our networks within the next several years,” said Sen. Gardner. “As these devices continue to transform our society and add countless new entry points into our networks, we need to make sure they are secure, particularly when they are integrated into the federal government’s networks. Agencies like the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), which has a major campus in Boulder, are key players in helping establish guidelines for improved IoT security and our bill builds on those efforts.”
Last week, the House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Reform advanced companion legislation sponsored by Reps. Robin Kelly (D-IL) and Will Hurd (R-TX).
“This is an essential and bipartisan step toward improving our cybersecurity. We simply cannot allow IoT devices to become a backdoor for hackers and cybercriminals,” said Rep. Kelly. With the House and Senate taking action, Congress is signaling that it’s past time to address the issue of unsecure devices on federal networks.”
“Every single minute of every single day, hackers are trying to steal Americans’ information. From credit card numbers, to social security numbers, our personal information is targeted by bad actors around the globe. Internet of Things devices will improve and enhance nearly every aspect of our society, economy and everyday lives – and are growing rapidly. We must act now to ensure these devices are built with security in mind, not as an afterthought,” said Rep. Hurd. “I applaud Sens. Warner and Gardner for their hard work on moving this important, bipartisan cybersecurity bill forward in the Senate, and I’ll continue to work with Rep. Kelly and my colleagues in the House to bring this bill to the House floor.”
Specifically, the Internet of Things (IoT) Cybersecurity Improvement Act of 2019 as passed out of Committee today 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.
Warner Introduces NDAA Amendment to Annual Defense Bill to Mandate Reporting of Foreign Elections Interference
Jun 19 2019
WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, has introduced an amendment to the FY20 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would require presidential campaigns to report foreign interference in U.S. elections. The amendment introduction follows Sen. Warner’s attempt last week to pass the legislation by unanimous consent, which was blocked by Senate Republicans.
“Protecting our democracy is a national security issue,” said Sen. Warner. “President Trump’s own FBI Director and Director of National Intelligence have warned that the Russians – and others – will be back in 2020. Then last week, President Trump, sitting in the Oval Office, rolled out the welcome mat for Russia, China or any of our other adversaries to interfere in the 2020 election. So let’s be extra-clear: if a foreign country contacts you to interfere in a U.S. election, you don’t say ‘thank you’ – you call the FBI.”
Sen. Warner originally introduced the Foreign Influence Reporting in Elections (FIRE) Act last month. The proposed NDAA amendment, based on the FIRE Act, would require presidential campaigns to disclose attempts at foreign elections interference to the appropriate federal authorities at the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
This amendment requires presidential campaigns to report only contacts with foreign nationals offering explicit assistance that is already forbidden under existing law, or offers to collaborate or coordinate with a foreign government or agent thereof. Routine contacts with foreign nationals, including meetings on official government business, personal conversations, contact with journalists, or contact with non-citizens expressing political views, including conversations with DREAMers, would continue to be exempt from any reporting requirements.
The amendment has been co-sponsored by Sens. Michael Bennet (D-CO), Angus King (I-ME), Jack Reed (D-RI), and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH).
Warner Introduces Amendments to Improve Military Housing & Combat Tech Threats in Annual Defense Bill
Jun 18 2019
WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) has introduced several amendments to the annual defense authorization bill, including one that would build on his legislation, Ensuring Safe Housing for Our Military Act, most of which was included in the base text, by adding additional measures to improve privatized military housing.
Following reports of health hazards in privatized military housing in bases across the Commonwealth and the country, Sen. Warner has advocated on behalf of servicemembers and their families, and recently introduced an amendment to establish an advisory group to help the Department of Defense strengthen accountability and oversight in military housing. The amendment was offered in the FY20 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the legislative vehicle that provides support for our servicemembers and sets the national security priorities for the United States.
“Servicemembers and their families sacrifice so much for this country. That’s why we’ve got to make things right for military families who, too often, have been subjected to subpar and sometimes dangerous living conditions. This includes making sure that the health and well-being of our nation’s servicemembers and their families are part of our national security priorities,” said Sen. Warner.
The amendment would also require the Secretaries of the Navy, Air Force, and Army to issue standard mold assessments, remediation’s and procedures in their agreements with privatized housing companies. Sens. Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) joined Sen. Warner in introducing the amendment, which comes on the heels of Sen. Warner’s letter to Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan, urging the Department of Defense (DoD) to establish an advisory group to address the prevalent health and environmental hazards in privatized military housing.
To protect U.S. innovation and combat technology threats, Sen. Warner filed a bipartisan amendment with Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) to establish an Office of Critical Technologies within the Executive Office of the President. The office would be responsible for coordinating a whole-of-government approach to protect the U.S. from state-sponsored technology theft and risks to critical supply chains. The amendment is based on the bipartisan legislation introduced by Sens. Warner and Rubio that would combat technology threats from China. Sen. Warner also introduced a bipartisan amendment with Sen. Crapo to strengthen the intelligence support to protect our supply chain from growing adversary threats.
“In the 20th century, the U.S. pioneered many groundbreaking technological advancements, and today, countries like China are using every tool in their arsenal to try to diminish U.S. leadership, set the standards for technologies like 5G, and dominate key technologies. In order to confront this challenge, the United States must push forward a coherent strategy to protect our technological edge and preserve American leadership,” continued Sen. Warner.
In a move to further defend national security and respond to emerging cyber-threats, Sen. Warner also introduced a series of amendments that would revamp the security clearance process, assess cyber threat detection and encourage the DoD to work with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to identify new spectrum for reallocation for 5G services.
“To ensure the U.S. can hire trusted professionals to tackle the emerging threats in cyber and technology, we must modernize our outdated security clearance system. While we’ve already seen an encouraging drop in individuals waiting on a background check, there is still more work to be done,” concluded Sen. Warner.
The security clearance reform language is based on legislation introduced by Vice Chair Warner, and unanimously approved in the Intelligence Authorization Act (IAA) for Fiscal Years 2018-2020. Text for the cyber threat assessment amendment can be found here.
Sen. Warner also introduced amendments to improve the quality in information submitted in background investigation requests, ensure DoD has the funding flexibility to perform the personnel vetting mission, and ensure the new Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency adequately protects the millions of pieces of personally identifiable information it will hold as the government’s primary investigative service provider.
Jun 13 2019
WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and Marco Rubio (R-FL), member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, expressed deep concern that the Trump Administration may concede on important national security matters related to the development of fifth-generation wireless telecommunications technology (5G) in order to achieve a favorable outcome on trade negotiations. In a letter to the U.S. Department of State and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, the Senators underscored the threats posed by Chinese telecommunications equipment to network security, data privacy, and economic security across the globe, and emphasized the need to keep trade negotiations separate from any changes in policy concerning national security threats posed by Huawei.
“Allowing the use of Huawei equipment in U.S. telecommunications infrastructure is harmful to our national security,” the Senators wrote. “In no way should Huawei be used as a bargaining chip in trade negotiations. Instead, the U.S. should redouble our efforts to present our allies with compelling data on why the long-term network security and maintenance costs on Chinese telecommunications equipment offset any short-term cost savings.”
Sens. Warner and Rubio reiterated their support for existing U.S. efforts to convey the long-term security risks posed by Chinese telecommunications firms to allies and partners abroad. However, the Senators expressed concern that this message is being undermined by President Trump, whose Administration reversed a seven-year ban on ZTE last year in defiance of a Commerce Department recommendation, and who in late May indicated that Huawei could be included in a future trade deal. In the letter, the Senators also emphasized that any modifications of Huawei’s Temporary General License must be pursued in a risk-based way, separate from trade negotiations, and without undermining national security.
As a former telecommunications executive who introduced bipartisan legislation on 5G, Sen. Warner continues to be a leading voice on the national security risks posed by Chinese-controlled telecom companies. In December, Sens. Warner and Rubio urged Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to reconsider Huawei’s inclusion in Canada’s fifth-generation network. In January, Sens. Warner and Rubio teamed up to introduce legislation to combat tech-specific, national security threats posed by foreign actors like China, and establish a whole-of-government strategy to protect the U.S. from technology theft. Additionally, Sen. Warner led legislation with Sen. Wicker to provide $700 million for rural telecommunications providers in order to offset the costs of removing equipment from vendors that pose a security threat, such as Huawei.
The full text of the letter appears below. A copy of the letter is available here.
Dear Secretary Pompeo and Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer:
We are writing to express our deep concern that the Administration may concede on important national security matters related to Huawei Technologies, Inc. and the adoption of fifth-generation wireless telecommunications technology (5G) in order to achieve a favorable outcome in the Administration’s trade negotiations.
As Members of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI), we have strongly supported efforts by our diplomats, military, and intelligence personnel to persuade allies and partners around the world that Huawei and other Chinese telecommunications firms present a long-term legitimate security threat to their network security, data privacy, and economic security. As you know, Chinese telecommunications equipment poses a threat that intelligence and military officials assess will only become more acute as energy infrastructure, transportation networks and other critical functions move to 5G networks and as millions more Internet of things (IoT) devices are connected.
Despite the best efforts of our government to convince other countries to keep Huawei components out of their 5G infrastructure, our message is being undermined by concerns that we are not sincere. For example, Europeans have publicly expressed fears that the Administration will soften its position on Huawei in the United States to gain leverage in trade talks, as the Administration did in June 2018 when the seven-year ban on ZTE was reversed and a new settlement agreement reached at the urging of President Xi over the recommendation of Commerce Department leadership. The President himself reinforced these fears in late May, stating:
“Huawei is something that’s very dangerous. You look at what they’ve done from a security standpoint, from a military standpoint. It’s very dangerous. So it’s possible that Huawei even would be included in some kind of a trade deal. If we made a deal, I could imagine Huawei being possibly included in some form of or some part of a trade deal.”
Allowing the use of Huawei equipment in U.S. telecommunications infrastructure is harmful to our national security. In no way should Huawei be used as a bargaining chip in trade negotiations. Instead, the U.S. should redouble our efforts to present our allies with compelling data on why the long-term network security and maintenance costs on Chinese telecommunications equipment offset any short-term cost savings. Any modifications to Huawei’s Temporary General License must be pursued in a risk-based way, separate from any trade negotiations, and consistent with national security considerations. Successfully identifying and mitigating these security risks requires sustained coordination and alignment with our international partners, particularly the Europeans who represent key parts of the 5G supply chain, and India, which is poised to be the single-largest telecommunications market. Conflating national security concerns with levers in trade negotiations undermines this effort, and endangers American security.
We appreciate your attention to this important matter of national security and request that you keep us apprised of your efforts.
Senate Republicans Block Warner Attempt to Immediately Pass Legislation Requiring Reporting of Foreign Elections Interference
Jun 13 2019
WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, took to the Senate floor today to request immediate passage of a modified version of his Foreign Influence Reporting in Elections (FIRE) Act that would require campaigns to report to the appropriate federal authorities any contacts from foreign nationals seeking to interfere in a presidential election. Immediately after Sen. Warner requested unanimous consent, Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) objected and thereby blocked the immediate passage of this essential legislation.
Sen. Warner’s request comes on the heels of alarming comments by President Trump, who said on Wednesday that he would not alert the FBI if a foreign government tried to offer damaging information on his 2020 election opponents.
“President Trump's own FBI director and his Director of National Intelligence have said that Russia, or others, will likely be back in 2020 because their tactics in 2016 were both cheap and effective. We're now 17 months before the 2020 elections and personally, we are not prepared,” Sen. Warner said on the floor. “One of my colleagues on the other side said they don't want to re-litigate 2016. There will be other times and places to further litigate whatever happened in 2016. In terms of today, I don't want to either. I just want to make sure that we are safe from foreign intervention in 2020.”
He continued, “The mantra at our airports that the TSA and Homeland Security always try to promote is, ‘if you see something, say something.’ This is not an undue burden on our traveling public, and because of that involvement, I think airports are safer. Shouldn't we have the same de minimis standard to protect the integrity of our election system? If you see something, say something. All my legislation is requiring is if there is indications that agents of foreign governments are trying to intervene in our elections, tell law enforcement, tell the FBI.”
Sen. Warner also stressed that his legislation would not interfere with any official government activities, and urged his colleagues to work together to pass bipartisan election security legislation and to put guardrails on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Google to prevent them from being used by bad actors for the widespread dissemination of misinformation.
Below are Sen. Warner’s floor remarks as originally prepared for delivery:
Mr. President, in a moment I will ask unanimous consent for the Senate to take up and pass by bill, the FIRE Act, S.1562, as amended. But before I do that, I want to address the President’s recent comments regarding foreign election interference.
We all take an oath when we get sworn into these jobs to defend the Constitution against all enemies foreign or domestic. Our own political ambitions, our partisan affiliations — that all should take a back seat to defending our democracy.
Unfortunately, this President doesn’t see it that way. His recent comments that he would once again welcome dirt on an opponent from a foreign government fly in the face of that oath.
Let me be clear. If a foreign adversary attempts to offer assistance to your campaign, you have a moral obligation to call the FBI.
And if the President, or his son-in-law, or other members of his campaign can't be trusted to do the right thing and report their foreign contacts, then we need to make it a legal requirement. That’s what this amendment is all about.
Mr. President, I am not here to re-litigate the 2016 election or second-guess the Special Counsel’s findings. This is a question of how we defend our democracy on a going-forward basis.
But I do want to recall the facts of what we learned through the Mueller investigation, as well as the Senate Intelligence Committee’s bipartisan investigation.
After two years of investigating, we now know that the Trump Campaign had a series of inappropriate and unreported contacts with the Russian government and its proxies, who were part of the Kremlin’s election interference efforts.
This should have come to light far sooner, but the Trump Campaign intentionally hid these contacts from the American people and law enforcement.
Another thing we learned through the investigation is that when then-candidate Trump made his infamous “Russia, if you’re listening” plea — on that very same day, Russian operatives began sending illegal phishing emails to members of his opponent’s campaign.
Mr. Trump’s comments this week are not trivial. These are the words of the President of the United States, spoken in the Oval Office. That still means something to the world.
And frankly, what it means here is that this President is once again giving Russia and other bad actors the greenlight to interfere in the 2020 elections.
This sends a message to the American people and foreign governments that this conduct is acceptable. Not only is this morally wrong, it also undermines the crucial counterintelligence work of our federal law enforcement agencies.
Recently, FBI Director Chris Wray testified that such attempts to offer assistance or “dirt” would be “something that the FBI would want to know about.”
He’s right. Because, the truth is, when a foreign adversary like Russia is peddling dirt on an American candidate, they are not doing it out of the goodness of their hearts. They’re trying to undermine our democracy, and the FBI is our first line of defense against that threat.
Mr. President, that is what this amendment is about — safeguarding our democracy from those who wish us harm. I ask my colleagues to take a step back, take off our Republican and Democratic hats for a minute, and support this amendment.
My bill, the FIRE Act — creates a first-of-its-kind requirement to make sure that foreign contacts during a presidential election are promptly reported to the FBI and FEC.
It would serve a vital intelligence need and make sure that all individuals involved in a presidential campaign understand both the existing law on foreign contributions and their affirmative obligation to report suspicious foreign contacts.
The FIRE Act is not about prohibiting innocent contacts or the exercise of First Amendment rights. It is about restoring Americans’ trust in the democratic process.
If a candidate is receiving or welcoming help from the Kremlin, I think the American people should have a right to know that before they head to the polls.
And in a world where campaigns are a target for foreign espionage, I think our law enforcement and counter-intelligence professionals should have the tools they need to protect the integrity of our presidential elections.
The Senate must take a stand against foreign attacks on the democratic process. This is not a Republican or Democratic issue; it is an issue of America’s national security.
And I hope the Senate can come together at this moment to send a clear message that we will defend our Democracy, even if this President won’t.
Warner, Cotton, Jones, Rounds, Unveil Draft Legislation to Improve Corporate Transparency and Combat Financing of Terrorism, Money Laundering
Jun 10 2019
WASHINGTON – Senate Banking Committee members U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Tom Cotton (R-AR), Doug Jones (D-AL), and Mike Rounds (R-SD) today unveiled draft bipartisan legislation 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.
The Improving Laundering Laws and Increasing Comprehensive Information Tracking of Criminal Activity in Shell Holdings (ILLICIT CASH) Act would, for the first time, require shell companies – often used as fronts for criminal activity – to disclose their true owners to the U.S. Department of Treasury. It would 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.
“We must be vigilant and ensure that our financial system is not being misused to fund individuals and groups who intend harm to the United States and our allies,” said Sen. Warner. “This legislation will empower the Treasury Department and other appropriate agencies to better protect our financial system from such abuse, and will ensure that we are using all the tools at our disposal to protect our national security.”
“The United States ought to make it as difficult as possible for criminals and terrorists to finance their evil deeds. Our draft bill makes it easier for law enforcement to track ill-gotten gains without burdening legitimate businesses,” Sen. Cotton said.
“As a former U.S. Attorney, I am all too familiar with criminals hiding behind shell corporations to enable their illegal behavior. At the same time, our anti-money laundering laws have not kept pace with the increasingly sophisticated means by which criminals and terrorist organizations use our financial system to move their money around the world. This bipartisan legislation addresses both challenges and gives law enforcement the tools they need to protect Americans and prosecute criminals,” said Sen. Jones.
"Fighting crime and depriving terrorists of the tools they use to engage in illicit activity within our financial system is vital to protecting Americans,” said Sen. Rounds. “Our legislation seeks to protect our financial system from bad actors by streamlining our government's anti-money laundering system and simultaneously protecting small businesses from undue compliance burdens. I'm proud to partner with my colleagues on this important legislation and look forward to advancing it in the Senate.”
According to research from the University of Texas and Brigham Young University, the U.S. remains one of the easiest places in the world to set up an anonymous shell company. A recent report by Global Financial Integrity demonstrates that, in all 50 U.S. states, more information is currently required to obtain a library card than to register a company. Human traffickers, terrorist groups, arms dealers, transnational criminal organizations, kleptocrats, drug cartels, and rogue regimes have all used U.S.-registered shell companies to hide their identities and facilitate illicit activities. Meanwhile, U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies find it increasingly difficult to investigate these illicit financial networks without access to information about the beneficial ownership of corporate entities involved.
At the same time, U.S. AML-CFT laws have not kept pace with the growing exploitation of the global financial system to facilitate criminal activity. According to a United Nations Report, money laundering activity and illicit cross-border financial flows have generated upwards of $300 billion annually in criminal proceeds. While tracking these growing sums is increasingly difficult, U.S. laws have also failed to adequately address the small dollar financing of global terrorist groups.
Given the critical importance of cracking down on criminal shell companies and the need to combat money laundering and terrorism, the ILLICIT CASH Act envisions a more transparent corporate ownership system and an updated, effective and efficient AML-CFT regime designed for the 21st century. Specifically, this legislation would:
- Establish federal reporting requirements mandating that all beneficial ownership information be maintained in a comprehensive federal database, accessible by federal and local law enforcement.
- Help recruit and retain top talent at the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) by putting employees on a pay scale comparable to that of federal financial regulators.
- Create a hub of financial expert investigators at FinCEN to investigate potential AML-CFT activity in collaboration with federal government agencies.
- Create a team of FinCEN technology experts to further the development of new and essential technologies that can assist financial institutions and the federal government in their efforts to combat money laundering.
- Facilitate communications between the Treasury and financial institutions by establishing a Treasury financial institution liaison to seek and receive comments regarding AML-CFT rules, regulations, and examinations.
- Require the Department of Justice (DOJ) to provide the Treasury Department with metrics on the usefulness of AML-CFT data from financial institutions for law enforcement purposes, as well as data on the past and current trends identified by DOJ in the AML-CFT landscape.
- Require law enforcement to coordinate with financial regulators to provide periodic feedback to financial institutions on their suspicious activity reports.
- Prioritize the protection of personally identifying information while establishing a clear path for financial institutions to share AML-CFT information for the purposes of identifying suspicious activity.
- Prevent foreign banks from obstructing money laundering or terrorist financing investigations by requiring these banks to produce records in a manner that establishes their authenticity and reliability for evidentiary purposes, and compelling them to comply with subpoenas. This legislation would also authorize contempt sanctions for banks that fail to comply.
- Ensure the inclusion of current and future payment systems in the AML-CFT regime by updating the definition of “coins and currency” to include digital currency.
Sens. Warner, Cotton, Jones, and Rounds are now seeking input from stakeholders regarding their draft legislation. Submissions can be made to Sen. Warner’s office at AML-BSAReform@warner.senate.gov by July 19, 2019.
Washington, D.C. – As Congressional Republicans and Democrats continue to call on Leader McConnell to bring election security legislation up for a vote on the Senate floor, Senator Mark Warner (D-VA), the Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, delivers this week’s Weekly Democratic Address. In the address, Warner highlights the importance of securing our elections and explains why it is critical that the Senate vote on bipartisan election security legislation. In closing, he emphasizes that the Senate must act on this issue in order to secure the 2020 elections, and cannot allow critical, bipartisan bills to protect our democracy to die in Leader McConnell’s legislative graveyard.
Senator Warner’s remarks as delivered follow:
“Hi, I’m Senator Mark Warner. I’m proud to represent Virginia in the United States Senate. I also serve as Vice Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is conducting the only bipartisan investigation into Russia’s interference in our 2016 presidential election.
“Our intelligence community, the bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee, and Special Counsel Robert Mueller have all concluded that Russia mounted an unprecedented attack on our democratic process. Russian intelligence conducted hacking operations against Democratic targets and then released the stolen documents to influence the election. Using an army of Internet trolls, Russia flooded social media with fake news and propaganda designed to sow discord and divide Americans through our news feeds.
“We also know that, as part of its interference campaign, the Kremlin also targeted election infrastructure in all 50 states. The Intelligence Community’s Assessment in January 2017 concluded that Russia secured and maintained access to multiple elements of U.S. state and local electoral boards. For example, in Illinois, Russian hackers were able to penetrate a voter registration database and access 90,000 voter registration records. Using spearphishing emails, Russia was able to access the network of at least one county in Florida. Now, there is no evidence that Russians were successful in changing vote totals in 2016 or in 2018 – but we can certainly expect them to try again in 2020.
“While the Department of Homeland Security has improved information-sharing with states and Congress has allocated some additional funding for election security, there is still more work to do to secure local election equipment ahead of the presidential election.
“In 2016, Russia exploited platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube to manipulate and divide Americans, to smear Hillary Clinton, and to aid Donald Trump. As we enter another presidential election cycle susceptible to foreign interference, Congress needs to put in place some commonsense guardrails on social media. We should start with the bipartisan Honest Ads Act, which I introduced, which would prevent foreign actors from purchasing online political ads, and bring much-needed transparency to the online ad ecosystem.
“There is already a bill to protect our elections systems that has strong bipartisan support. The Secure Elections Act from the last session of Congress would establish some common-sense measures to ensure the sanctity of the ballot-box.
“It would provide states with money to replace old, insecure voting machines that don’t leave a paper trail, and make sure that elections can be audited, so that Americans can have confidence in the results. It would also take several steps to improve sharing about threat information between the Department of Homeland Security, and states that administer the vote. And it would require election agencies to promptly report suspected cybersecurity incidents to proper state and federal authorities.
“The truth is the Secure Elections Act that was introduced last session were brought to the floor today for a vote, it would pass overwhelmingly. But the White House and Senate Republican leaders have been blocking a vote.
“Unfortunately, that’s just part of a pattern with a White House and a President that has shown no interest in tackling this problem. According to reports, the former Secretary of Homeland Security was instructed not to even raise the issue of election security with the President, and when she tried to convene a Cabinet-level meeting ahead of the 2018 midterms, the White House chief of staff nixed the idea.
“What happened in 2016 will happen again in 2020 if we are not prepared. In the face of White House inaction to secure the vote, Congress must work together to protect our democracy and reassure Americans that their votes will be counted in 2020. We cannot let election security become another tombstone in the Republican Senate’s legislative graveyard.”
Warner, Kaine Introduce Legislation Directing Trump Administration to Meet Standards Set by the Paris Climate Agreement
Jun 07 2019
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine joined Senator Jeanne Shaheen and 43 of their Senate colleagues to introduce the International Climate Accountability Act to direct the Trump Administration to meet the standards established by the historic Paris Climate Agreement and to mitigate the long-term damage caused by the Trump Administration’s anti-environment actions. The International Climate Accountability Act would prevent the President from using funds to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord and direct the Trump Administration to develop a strategic plan for the country to meet its commitment under the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement.
“Now more than ever, climate change poses a direct risk to the future of our Commonwealth, and nowhere is this risk more apparent than in Virginia’s flood-prone coastal communities,” said Warner. “Despite the Trump administration’s repeated attacks on settled science, the facts behind climate change are undeniable. The U.S. must maintain its place as a leader in the fight against climate change.”
“Climate change continues to be a threat not only to Virginia’s environment, but to our economy and security as well,” Kaine said. “The Administration’s disregard for science is dangerous, and Congress must step up to ensure the U.S. remains a leader in the global effort to combat climate change.”
The bill makes clear that the Paris Climate Agreement is critical to strengthening international cooperation to reduce global greenhouse emissions and hold high-emission nations accountable, and recognizes the important role the Agreement plays in protecting and advancing U.S. economic interests and foreign policy priorities around the globe.
The International Climate Accountability Act is also cosponsored by Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Tom Carper (D-DE), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Ed Markey (D-MA), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Tina Smith (D-MN), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Jack Reed (D-RI), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Chris Coons (D-DE), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Patty Murray (D-WA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Tom Udall (D-NM), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Angus King (I-ME), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Bob Casey (D-PA), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Gary Peters (D-MI), Jon Tester (D-MT), Doug Jones (D-AL), and Maria Cantwell (D-WA).
The legislation has been endorsed by the Center for American Progress, BlueGreen Alliance, Earthjustice, Environment America, Environmental Defense Fund, League of Conservation Voters, National Wildlife Federation, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, Union of Concerned Sciences and additional organizations listed here in a letter of support.
Text of the legislation can be found here.
May 31 2019
WASHINGTON - Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) released the following statement following President Trump’s announcement that, beginning on June 10, the U.S. will impose a 5 percent tariff on Mexican imports. According to the Trump Administration, if Mexico does not stop immigrants from crossing the Southwest border, tariffs could incrementally increase to 25 percent by October 1 and remain at that level until the migration stops.
“President Trump’s escalating trade war will force families to pay more on everyday items and put 133,000 trade-supported Virginia jobs at risk. What this Administration fails to understand is that, just as Trump's family separation policy failed, hiking tariffs on Mexico won’t deter families escaping violence and instability in their native countries from crossing our border,” said the Senators. “Last year, Virginians saw the impact of retaliatory tariffs imposed by Mexico after this Administration imposed damaging steel and aluminum tariffs. Mexico continues to be an important trade partner for the Commonwealth, and strong-arming our allies will only hurt Virginians without solving our immigration challenges.”
Mexico is Virginia’s sixth-largest overall agricultural export market, according to the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS). In 2018, Mexico purchased more than $111 million in Virginia exports – a 3 percent decrease from 2017, a decline attributable in part to reckless trade and tariff Trump Administration policies. To ease the burden on Virginia businesses, manufacturers and consumers, Sen. Warner introduced and Sen. Kaine cosponsored bipartisan legislation that would restore Congress’ constitutional trade responsibilities. Sen. Kaine has also introduced legislation to limit the Trump Administration’s ability to levy tariffs without Congress.
Sens. Warner and Kaine have been vocal about the economic effect of the Trump Administration’s haphazard approach on tariffs. In April, the Senators slammed President Trump after threatening – and later walking back – his threat to close the U.S.-Mexico border. To tackle the root causes of migration, the Senators introduced legislation to provide a coordinated response to the humanitarian crisis in the Northern Triangle countries that have forced families to seek refuge in the U.S. They have also urged the Trump Administration to reverse its plan to cut national security funding to El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.
WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, issued the statement below, following the press conference held by Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III, who announced his resignation and spoke about the findings of the Mueller Report:
“First, I want to thank Special Counsel Mueller for his patriotism and dedication to this two-year investigation. I am grateful the American people have heard from him directly regarding his findings. Still, this press conference leaves us with unanswered questions. The underlying evidence supporting the Special Counsel’s conclusions must be made available to Congress immediately.
“What is clear is that Russia deployed a sophisticated cyber campaign in order to interfere in our democratic process and tip the scales in favor of then-candidate Donald Trump. This is the same conclusion that the bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee reached. As the Special Counsel made clear today, it’s up to Congress to uphold the rule of law, and ensure this never happens again. Going forward, we must take steps to protect our democracy by passing legislation that enhances election security, increases social media transparency, and requires campaign officials to report any contact with foreign nationals attempting to coordinate with a campaign.”
Statement of Senate Intel Vice Chair Mark R. Warner on President Trump’s Order Allowing His Hand-Picked Attorney General to Selectively Declassify Information
May 24 2019
WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, released the following statement:
Va. & Md. Senators Introduce New Legislation Reforming WMATA Safety & Renewing Federal Funding Commitment to Metro
May 23 2019
WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) and U.S. Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen (both D-MD) introduced new legislation to renew the federal funding commitment to Metro, provide critical safety reforms, and strengthen oversight of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA).
Recognizing that the Metro system is integral to the functioning of the federal government, for the last decade Congress has allocated $150 million annually to Metro for capital expenses, with Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia each providing $50 million in matching funds. However, the funding – a critical part of Metro’s budget – will expire this year unless Congress acts to renew it. The Metro Safety, Accountability and Investment Act of 2019 will provide additional federal funding for Metro while also enacting key reforms to ensure that the safety and reliability of the Metro system continues to improve.
“The federal government runs on Metro. Thousands of federal workers, contractors, and military service members take Metro every day. This is an investment in the long-term safety and reliability of the Metro system,” said Sen. Warner, a member of the Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, which has oversight over our nation’s urban transit systems. “But recent safety problems have illustrated that Metro still has work to do, which is why this money comes with some strings attached to ensure robust oversight, accountability, and meaningful safety reforms at WMATA.”
“Maintaining a safe and reliable public transit system for the seat of the federal government is a clear national priority. We recognized 10 years ago - as we do now - that providing dedicated funding for WMATA will help keep Metro on track,” said Sen. Cardin, ranking member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee. “Maryland and Virginia's Senate delegations wholeheartedly agree on the need for critical safety reforms and strengthened oversight to ensure that WMATA becomes as safe and efficient as possible.”
“This bill provides critical funding to reduce WMATA’s backlog of work, along with strict measures to ensure riders are safe on Metro. Following the death of a Virginian on Metrorail in 2015, we made it clear that major changes were needed. Since then, we passed a tough new federal safety oversight body through Congress, encouraged business and labor to work toward mutual goals, and worked with experts to provide WMATA with a roadmap for reform. But this work will only succeed if WMATA has the resources to do the turnaround job right. With this bill, we ensure that the federal government contributes its share, while also making clear that with new money comes new requirements for safety and accountability. Metro’s challenges won’t be solved overnight, but this bill will go a long way toward unlocking progress to rebuild trust with riders,” said Sen. Kaine.
“Maryland commuters and our federal workforce rely on the Metro day in and day out. This legislation reauthorizes the Federal investment in WMATA and provides much-needed funds to modernize our system. In addition to increased funding, this bill includes crucial safety improvements and oversight reforms,” said Sen. Van Hollen, a member of the Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs. “I’m proud to join my colleagues in introducing this measure as we work to ensure safe and dependable transportation throughout the region.”
The Metro Safety, Accountability and Investment Act of 2019 will renew the federal funding commitment for WMATA capital investments by reauthorizing the funding levels from the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008 for an additional ten years, at an annual level of $150 million, matched by funding from Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia.
In addition, in exchange for key safety, oversight, and governance reforms at WMATA, the new legislation will include an additional $50 million per year in federal funding that is not subject to local match, bringing the annual federal commitment to Metro to $200 million. In order to access the additional $50 million, WMATA will be required to: grant additional powers to Metro’s Inspector General; establish task forces on track safety and bus safety; implement policy and procedures for a new capital planning process; improve the transit asset management planning process; reinforce restrictions on the activities of alternate WMATA Board members to provide more effective Board management and oversight; and prioritize the implementation of new cyber security protections and the integration of wireless services and emergency communications networks.
The bill also prohibits WMATA from using federal funds on a contract for rolling stock from any country that meets certain criteria related to illegal subsidies for state-owned enterprises. Sens. Warner, Kaine, Cardin and Van Hollen raised concerns earlier this year regarding the possibility that Metro may award a contract to build its newest 8000-series rail cars to a Chinese manufacturing company.
“The Federal City Council applauds Sens. Warner, Cardin, Kaine, and Van Hollen for their continued commitment to WMATA and to ensuring that critically needed federal funding for the system is reauthorized this year. This funding, along with the new dedicated funding that was committed by the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia in 2018 is critically needed to ensure a safe, reliable, and sustainable future for Metro,” said Tony Williams, former Mayor of the District of Columbia, current CEO and Executive Director of the Federal City Council and founding member of the MetroNow Coalition. “However, it has been the longstanding position of the Federal City Council and the MetroNow coalition that in addition to funding, Metro is also in need of a better framework to guide decision-making and increase accountability at WMATA—a critical part of the solution that has been missing, until now. With comprehensive enhancements to WMATA’s Office of the Inspector General and capital planning requirements, this legislation will help to safeguard the investment being made in this vital piece of our region’s transportation infrastructure and will inspire confidence in Metro going forward.”
“Metro is critical to those who live and work here and, equally important, it benefits those who travel here to do business, interact with the federal government, and enjoy all our region has to offer,” said Jack McDougle, President & CEO of the Greater Washington Board of Trade and founding member of the MetroNow Coalition. “Every day, we welcome visitors from around the country and the world, requiring us to maintain the safest, most reliable and world-class transit system possible. That’s why we and our partners in the MetroNow coalition urge Congress to pass this legislation.”
“The Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) fully supports the Metro Safety, Accountability and Investment Act of 2019, renewing the federal commitment for WMATA capital investments. This is long overdue and critical, as the agency’s infrastructure, which dates back to the 1970s, has been crumbling. Riders have paid the price, as service sputtered and fares skyrocketed. Workers have been unfairly blamed for service issues when the real issue has been the generations of state and local lawmakers that until recently have financially starved the system of a critical dedicated revenue source,” said ATU International President John A. Costa. “Tragically, there have been several deadly accidents that have taken the lives of passengers as well as workers. There is no safety culture at WMATA. We thank Senators Warner, Cardin, Kaine and Van Hollen for including in the bill the ATU’s proposed labor-management safety task forces – bus and rail – to develop best principles and practices through collaboration so that we can prevent future tragedies. We are also grateful that these task forces have appropriately been named after ATU members who were killed on the job – Jeanice McMillan, the operator who was killed along with 8 passengers in the 2009 Red Line train crash at Fort Totten and was called a hero by WMATA for saving countless lives, and Keith Dodson, who was struck and killed by a tractor trailer when he exited the bus he was driving after it became disabled along southbound I-395 in Arlington County in 2007.”
May 23 2019
WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and a former telecommunications executive and entrepreneur, along with Sens. Roger Wicker (R-MS), Tom Cotton (R-AR), Ed Markey (D-MA), and Dan Sullivan (R-AK), introduced legislation to establish U.S. policy for the commercial deployment and security of Fifth Generation (5G) networks. The United States 5G Leadership Act of 2019 will prioritize national security in the development of 5G by ensuring that American networks do not include equipment or services provided by Huawei, ZTE, or their affiliates. This legislation will also create a Supply Chain Security Trust Fund grant program to help rural and regional U.S. communications providers remove from their networks Chinese equipment determined to threaten national security.
“For a number of years, the federal government failed to effectively communicate the economic and national security risks of Huawei and ZTE communications equipment – and even adopted broadband grant policies that incentivized rural carriers to use this equipment because it was the cheapest around. While we’ve made enormous progress in educating the private sector of the dangers these vendors pose, we haven’t put in place policies to help resource-strapped rural carriers address and eliminate those risks. This bill ensures that on a going-forward basis we don’t make the same mistakes in allowing companies subject to extra-judicial directions of a foreign adversary to infiltrate our nation’s communications networks. And it provides significant resources to ensure that rural and regional providers can prioritize investments that eliminate this equipment from their existing networks where it poses a security threat,” said Sen. Warner. “Lastly, it builds on efforts my colleagues and I have already undertaken to engage with and educate the private sector about security risks and vulnerabilities posed to communications networks from certain foreign suppliers. We also believe this type of effort will be an important signal to international partners that we are putting resources behind this issue, and encouraging them to do the same.”
“5G networks need to be robust and secure, and not rely on equipment or services that pose a national security risk,” said Sen. Wicker. “This legislation would ensure continued American leadership in advanced wireless technology deployment. It offers relief to those providers that need to replace foreign equipment within their networks while augmenting the availability of secure 5G networks for all Americans.”
“Future U.S. security and economic prosperity will depend on 5G technology. With so much at stake, our communications infrastructure must be protected from threats posed by foreign governments and companies like Huawei,” said Sen. Cotton. “Our bill will support 5G’s deployment in the United States while defending that technology from exploitation.”
“5G wireless will revolutionize global telecommunications and connect people, information, and technology like never before. While 5G could yield enormous benefits, it also could pose significant risks if not implemented properly,” said Sen. Markey. “We have a responsibility to ensure that this next generation of telecommunications infrastructure will safely and securely connect Americans to each other and to the rest of the world.”
“We urgently need a comprehensive strategy when it comes to the very real threat that foreign actors, particularly China, pose to our communications networks,” said Sen. Sullivan. “It is clear that this problem is only going to grow with the development of next generation communications technologies without aggressive intervention. I’m pleased to partner with Chairman Wicker on this critical issue at the intersection of national security and commerce.”
Among other measures, The United States 5G Leadership Act would:
- Establish U.S. policy to promote the deployment of secure commercial 5G networks and the development of the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector in the U.S.
- Establish U.S. policy to identify additional spectrum for 5G, with an emphasis on promoting harmonization with global allocations;
- Establish U.S. policy that American 5G networks should not include equipment or services provided by Huawei, ZTE, or their affiliates.
- Require the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to finalize rulemaking that would prohibit the use of Universal Service Fund subsidies to buy equipment or services from providers who pose a national security risk.
- Establish the Supply Chain Security Trust Fund grant program to help smaller U.S. communications providers remove Huawei equipment from their networks — and would make available up to $700 million from future spectrum auctions for this purpose.
- Require a report on current Federal government measures to ensure the secure deployment and availability of 5G networks.
- Establish an interagency program – led by the Department of Homeland Security – to share information regarding security, risks, and vulnerabilities with U.S. communications providers and trusted suppliers.
- Prioritize funding to enhance U.S. representation at international 5G standards-setting bodies, such as the International Telecommunications Union.
“I thank Senators Wicker, Cotton, Warner, Sullivan, and Markey for introducing the United States 5G Leadership Act of 2019. This bipartisan bill will help ensure that all carriers have the information and resources necessary to address security risks while advancing US leadership in 5G. I appreciate the Senators’ leadership on this important issue and look forward to continued work with Congress to ensure access to secure wireless networks, particularly in rural America,” said Steven K. Berry, President & CEO, Competitive Carriers Association.
Sen. Warner has been a leading voice in the Senate about the national security risks posed by Chinese-controlled telecom companies. Last week, Sen. Warner spoke out in favor of the executive order banning U.S. telecommunications firms from installing foreign-made equipment that could threaten national security. He is also the lead sponsor of the Secure 5G and Beyond Act – a bill to safeguard next-gen mobile telecommunications systems and infrastructure. Additionally, earlier this year, Sen. Warner introduced bipartisan legislation to help combat tech-specific, national security threats posed by foreign actors like China. As Vice Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Warner has been leading a bipartisan effort to educate the private sector on the economic and security risks posed by Chinese companies like Huawei.
For the full text of this legislation, click here.
May 23 2019
WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) applauded the inclusion of provisions that would provide much-needed oversight of privatized military housing for servicemembers in this year’s Senate National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The annual defense legislation lays out the nation’s overall policy priorities that are critical to our national security, and was just approved by the Senate Armed Services Committee, sending the bill to the full Senate for consideration.
“For far too long, military families have been subjected to sub-par living conditions, sometimes rivaling what you might see in a bad horror movie. That’s why I’m glad that my colleagues on the Armed Services Committee stepped up to add much-needed oversight on the private companies whose sole job is to provide safe housing for military families,” said Sen. Warner. “Additionally, I’m pleased to report that this defense bill includes additional steps to modernize our security clearance process to enhance our ability to hire and retain the national security talent we need to keep our country secure. Right now, we have 480,000 individuals waiting on a background check. While this drop is encouraging, there is still more work to be done to truly transform the clearance process.”
Sen. Warner has met with military families in Norfolk, Fort Lee, and Fort Belvoir who’ve shared their stories of hazardous living conditions in their homes and their frustrations with the lack of oversight and response from the military services and their respective housing companies. To keep the pressure on addressing the deplorable housing conditions, Sen. Warner wrote to four private military housing companies requesting a plan of action from each company, and has urged the Department of Defense to develop long-term solutions for fixing the privatized housing program overall through reopening and renegotiating the agreements with the private companies.
As the Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Sen. Warner has continued to push for security clearance modernization and reform. In February, Sen. Warner reintroduced the Modernizing the Trusted Workforce for the 21st Century Act of 2019, which was included in the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Years 2018-2020 and unanimously reported out of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence last week. The Committee’s annual Intelligence Authorization Act also includes provisions championed by Sen. Warner that requires published guidelines so that the security clearance process cannot be abused for political purposes.
The defense bill also prioritizes innovation and technology development in the area of 5G and artificial intelligence (AI), to compete with our adversaries like Russia and China. As a former technology and telecommunications executive, Sen. Warner has pushed the Administration to develop a strategy to maintain our advantages in technological innovation, as well as to lead on 5G and AI.
In Response to Mueller Report, Senate Intel Vice Chair Warner Introduces Legislation to Require Campaigns to Report Foreign Contacts
May 21 2019
WASHINGTON – After Special Counsel Robert Mueller identified at least 140 contacts between Trump associates and foreign nationals linked to Russia, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, today introduced the Foreign Influence Reporting in Elections (FIRE) Act, legislation that would require political campaigns to report attempts at foreign elections influence to the appropriate federal authorities at the Federal Election Commission (FEC) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
May 17 2019
WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) recently joined 32 other Senators in reintroducing legislation to tackle the root causes of the Central American migrant crisis. The Central American Reform and Enforcement Act will provide a coordinated regional response to effectively manage the humanitarian crises in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras that are forcing many women, children, and families to seek refuge in the U.S.
“After two and a half years of haphazard immigration decisions by the Trump Administration, it’s clear that we need smart legislation that prioritizes our national security in an effective way,” said the Senators. “This bill will finally reverse the Administration’s shortsighted decision to cut vital foreign assistance to El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras and help alleviate the violence and instability that continues to displace thousands of children and families, forcing them to flee to the U.S.”
El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras are among the most dangerous countries in the world, particularly for women and children who face increasing and unrelenting violence at the hands of armed criminal gangs and drug traffickers who act with impunity. Since 2008, incidents of murder, violence, and corruption perpetrated by criminal networks have remained at alarming levels in these countries. The Trump Administration has further exacerbated this instability with policies that have cut funding to Central American governments and terminated protections for those who enter the U.S. after fleeing Honduras and El Salvador.
Specifically, the Central America Reform and Enforcement Act would:
- Provide conditional assistance to Northern Triangle governments to restore the rule of law, create a more secure environment for children and families, promote economic opportunities, strengthen democratic public institutions, and reduce corruption. Under this legislation, assistance funding would be dependent on the State Department certifying that the governments are implementing reforms and making progress on critical priorities.
- Crack down on smugglers, cartels, and traffickers exploiting children and families by creating new criminal penalties for human smuggling, schemes to defraud immigrants, and bulk cash smuggling. This bill would also expand on the work by the Department of Homeland Security and law enforcement agencies to disrupt and prosecute trafficking and smuggling rings.
- Allow refugees to apply for asylum to the U.S. while in Central America as an alternative to undertaking a dangerous journey to the U.S. to apply. Ongoing and rampant regional violence suggests that women and children will continue to flee to other countries in search of protection. This legislation would help Mexico and other Central American countries strengthen their own asylum systems, expand refugee processing for third-country resettlement, and create a new refugee processing program to provide women and children an alternative to making the dangerous journey north.
- Enhance monitoring of unaccompanied children after they are processed at the border. Currently, the U.S. government lacks the resources to track unaccompanied children after they are processed by Border Patrol and placed with a sponsor – usually a close family member. This legislation would strengthen the ability of the Department of Health and Human Services to oversee the safety and wellbeing of children released to an adult sponsor while they await their court hearing. It would require consistent, uniform, and timely background checks, post-placement wellness checks, and post-release services. It would also provide resources and guidance to local school districts enrolling unaccompanied children.
- Ensure fair, orderly and efficient processing of those who do reach our border seeking protection. This legislation would provide a fair and legal process for children and families seeking asylum, improve immigration court efficiencies by requiring a significant increase in the number of immigration judges to ensure the prompt resolution of immigration claims, and establish reintegration programs in Central America that reduce the likelihood of re-migration for those who do not have legal grounds to stay in the United States.
The Central American Reform and Enforcement Act was introduced by Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Tom Carper (D-DE), and Mazie Hirono (D-HI), and cosponsored by Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Ed Markey (D-MA), Catherine Cortez-Masto (D-NV), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Patty Murray (D-WA), Jack Reed (D-RI), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Bernie Sanders (D-VT), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Tina Smith (D-MN), Tom Udall (D-NM), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and Ron Wyden (D-OR).
As Senators from Virginia – where the #1 country of origin for immigrants is El Salvador – Sens. Warner and Kaine have been vocal about the need to restore foreign assistance to Northern Triangle countries. In April, they urged the Trump Administration to reverse its plan to cut national security funding to El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.
For full text of this legislation, click here.
Statement of Senate Intel Vice Chair Mark R. Warner on WH Executive Order to Ban Chinese Telecom Gear
May 15 2019
WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, released the following statement after President Trump signed an executive order to ban American telecommunications firms from installing foreign-made equipment that could pose a threat to national security:
“This is a needed step, and reflects the reality that Huawei and ZTE represent a threat to the security of U.S. and allied communications networks. Under current Chinese security laws, these and other companies based in China are required to provide assistance to the Chinese state. This executive order places a great deal of authority in the Department of Commerce, which must ensure that it is implemented in a fair and responsible fashion as to not harm or stifle legitimate business activities. It should also be noted that we have yet to see a compelling strategy from this Administration on 5G, including how the Administration intends to work cooperatively with our allies and like-minded nations to ensure that international standards set for 5G reflect Western values and standards for security and privacy. Nor do we have a stated plan for replacing this equipment from existing commercial networks – a potentially multi-billion dollar effort that, if done ineptly, could have a major impact on broadband access in rural areas. A coherent coordinated and global approach is critically needed as nations and telecom providers move to implement 5G.”
As a former telecommunications executive and entrepreneur, Sen. Warner has been a leading voice in the Senate regarding the national security risks posed by Chinese-controlled telecom companies. He is the lead sponsor of the Secure 5G and Beyond Act – legislation to require the President to ensure the security of next-gen mobile telecommunications systems and infrastructure in the United States. He also introduced a bipartisan bill in January to help combat tech-specific threats to national security posed by foreign actors like China. Additionally, Sen. Warner called on the Trump Administration last week to promote U.S. leadership and strengthen diplomatic efforts around the development of a secure 5G architecture that challenges Huawei’s monopoly over the next generation of telecoms networks.
WASHINGTON – As part of his ongoing fight for military families facing hazardous living conditions, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) today urged the Department of Defense (DoD) to establish a temporary housing advisory group to assist the military services in addressing widespread health hazards in private military housing. In a letter to Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick M. Shanahan, Sen. Warner emphasized the need for an independent group capable of providing neutral analysis and advice to the department in order to develop long-term solutions for servicemembers and military families.
“As the military services determine the best path forward, multiple perspectives and deep expertise in housing, state and local housing regulations, and environmental hazards are necessary to determine next steps and make stronger agreements. Clearly, these areas are not the core expertise of the Pentagon leadership, nor are they part of a military leader’s career trajectory. Housing is not a core mission of the Department of Defense,” wrote Sen. Warner. “Therefore, I urge you to establish a temporary advisory group for the Department of Defense – a high-level group of independent experts, well-versed in these issues who can assist the department in this process.”
Stressing the need to reopen and renegotiate 50-year agreements between the services and the military housing companies, Sen. Warner urged Acting Secretary Shanahan to convene a housing advisory group composed of 10-15 subject-matter experts tasked with analyzing the current Military Housing Privatization Initiative as well as the agreements between the private companies and military services. This group would provide recommendations related to housing, real estate, public health, and environmental hazards in order to ensure that military families do not continue to be subjected to health threats, including persistent mold blooms, water leaks, and rodent and insect infestations.
The letter also states that, once established, the advisory group should ensure that any agreements between the services and private companies codify the following:
- Ensure that independent and credentialed housing inspectors provide regular inspections and oversight at the housing units to ensure safe, secure and high-quality housing;
- Ensure that companies are adhering to state, local and regulatory laws related to environmental hazards. If these standards have not been determined by these authorities, DoD should establish standards in coordination with the EPA, and require that these companies adhere to standards for these hazards, including mold;
- Require these companies to utilize appropriately credentialed and/or skilled contractors for health, safety and environmental problems across the services;
- Ensure that tenants have direct access to a true housing advocate, who assists the servicemembers and their families;
- Ensure there exists an independent, third-party arbiter who can assist in resolving disputes between the tenants and the companies in a fair and transparent manner; and
- Determine penalties when these companies fail to provide safe and healthy housing, whether that be withholding rent payments, incentive fees, cancelling the contracts or alternative mechanisms.
This letter is the latest in a series of multifaceted efforts by Sen. Warner to ensure that military families in Virginia and throughout the nation can count on high-quality housing free of health, safety, and environmental hazards. On Monday, Sen. Warner wrote to four private military housing companies requesting a plan of action from each company on how they intend to tackle the deplorable health hazards documented by military families. Recently, Sen. Warner hosted roundtables in Norfolk, Fort Lee, and Fort Belvoir with affected families who were upset by conditions in their homes and frustrated about the lack of response from the military services and their respective housing companies. Additionally, earlier this year, Sen. Warner introduced the Ensuring Safe Housing for our Military Act – legislation that would create stronger oversight mechanisms over private military housing, allow the military to withhold rent until issues are resolved, prohibit contractors from charging certain fees, and require the military to withhold incentive fees to poorly performing contractors.
Full text of the letter is below and a copy can be found here.
May 14, 2019
The Honorable Patrick M. Shanahan
Acting Secretary of Defense
U.S. Department of Defense
1000 Defense Pentagon
Washington, DC 20301
Dear Acting Secretary Shanahan:
I write today to strongly encourage the Department of Defense to convene a temporary housing advisory group of outside experts to assist you in determining the best long-term solutions for addressing pervasive health hazards in private military housing across the military services. This group would analyze the current Military Housing Privatization Initiative, established in 1996, as well as the agreements between the military services and the private companies, and offer recommendations to strengthen accountability and improve the quality of housing.
I have been deeply concerned about health hazards, including mold, lead, and rodent infestations in private military housing in the Commonwealth of Virginia and across the country. The Navy, Marine Corps, Army and Air Force have almost 12,000 privatized homes throughout the Hampton Roads region at Little Creek, Fort Story, Naval Station Norfolk, Oceana, and Joint Base Langley-Eustis, as well at Wallops, Dahlgren, Quantico, Fort Belvoir, and Fort Lee. Lincoln Military Housing, Clark Realty Capital, Balfour Beatty Communities, and Hunt Military Communities currently manage these units.
For this reason, I introduced the Ensuring Safe Housing for our Military Act with Senators Dianne Feinstein, Tim Kaine and Kamala Harris, to begin reforming the privatized housing program to ensure that our servicemembers have safe, secure and high-quality housing. This legislation would create stronger oversight mechanisms over private military housing, allow the military to withhold rent until issues are resolved, and prohibit the private companies from charging certain fees. It would also require the military to withhold incentive fees for poor performance.
While I am glad to see that the military services are taking some steps to address these hazards, including establishing call centers for current and former housing residents to address housing related environmental hazards, and establishing a tenant bill of rights, systematic change must occur in the program. These 50-year agreements between the military services and the military housing companies must be re-opened and renegotiated to tackle the problems that have been identified.
As the military services determine the best path forward, multiple perspectives and deep expertise in housing, state and local housing regulations, and environmental hazards are necessary to determine next steps and make stronger agreements. Clearly, these areas are not the core expertise of the Pentagon leadership, nor are they part of a military leader’s career trajectory. Housing is not a core mission of the Department of Defense.
Therefore, I urge you to establish a temporary advisory group for the Department of Defense – a high-level group of independent experts, well-versed in these issues who can assist the department in this process. This group would include approximately 10-15 subject matter experts from outside of government and from other government agencies, who would provide analysis and neutral advice related to housing, real estate, public health and environmental hazards. In addition, advocates for the servicemembers and their families should be included in this group.
The Department of Defense has a long history of using advisory groups to provide independent and informed advice, such as the Defense Innovation Board, Defense Science Board, Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services, and the Military Family Readiness Council.
In addition to advising the DoD on broader policy, the advisory group would need to ensure that agreements between the military services and the private companies codify the following:
• Ensure that independent and credentialed housing inspectors provide regular inspections and oversight at the housing units to ensure safe, secure and high-quality housing;
• Ensure that companies are adhering to state, local and regulatory laws related to environmental hazards. If these standards have not been determined by these authorities, DoD should establish standards in coordination with the EPA, and require that these companies adhere to standards for these hazards, including mold;
• Require these companies to utilize appropriately credentialed and/or skilled contractors for health, safety and environmental problems across the services;
• Ensure that tenants have direct access to a true housing advocate, who assists the servicemembers and their families;
• Ensure there exists an independent, third-party arbiter who can assist in resolving disputes between the tenants and the companies in a fair and transparent manner; and
• Determine penalties when these companies fail to provide safe and healthy housing, whether that be withholding rent payments, incentive fees, cancelling the contracts or alternative mechanisms.
Thank you for your attention to this serious matter. I am happy to discuss this issue further.
Menendez, Warner Urge Trump Admin Not to Cede Leadership in Developing Global Rules for Artificial Intelligence
May 13 2019
WASHINGTON – Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Senator Mark R. Warner (D-Va.), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, sent a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo calling attention to China’s efforts to be the leading country driving the development of standards and norms related to Artificial Intelligence (AI). The Senators urged the Secretary to strengthen the Trump Administration’s diplomatic efforts around emerging technologies to make certain the United States leads in setting international standards and norms for the AI field in ways that are congruent with our nation’s interests and values.
“Without an engaged United States, and close coordination with our allies, we have limited ability to set global standards for AI development and use, with potentially disastrous consequences,” wrote the Senators. “China, as an authoritarian regime that uses AI tools to monitor its citizens and parse through vast troves a data, is a significant threat to the personal freedoms of individuals around the globe.”
Menendez and Warner concluded the letter by asking Secretary Pompeo to articulate “the U.S. vision for global standards, norms, and mechanisms for the use of artificial intelligence,” and posing a series of questions about critical issues relating to AI.
A copy of the letter can be found here and below:
Dear Secretary Pompeo:
We write to urge you to ensure the United States takes a leading role in developing international standards and norms for new and emergent innovations shaping the next generation of information technologies, in particular Artificial Intelligence (AI). Other countries are already shaping this conversation in ways that may be detrimental to U.S. interests. For example, later this month China is convening and hosting a UNESCO Conference on AI, underscoring China’s continued efforts to shape the debate and set the standards surrounding the future of AI. Even our allies are leading in this space, with the EU releasing guidelines for ethical AI development.
Emerging technologies such as AI represent the cutting edge of innovation and will facilitate critical advances in a wide range of fields, including health care, education, information processing, logistics, and security. At the same time, these technologies will present enormous challenges, whether in job displacement, algorithmic discrimination, privacy, or cybersecurity (as adversaries exploit these tools, too). The United States has long played a formative role in developing AI technologies. In recent years, however, China has made significant progress in developing AI, with a stated goal of superseding the United States in this field by 2030. China’s efforts, according to a study conducted by the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence, are ahead of schedule, with the Institute highlighting that China has “surpassed the United States in published papers on artificial intelligence” and is “poised to overtake” the United States in terms of cited papers on the subject over the next few years. Disturbingly, some of America’s most prominent technology companies have opened major AI research centers in China, potentially giving China’s military and intelligence arms access to cutting-edge technology. China’s continued robust investment in the field of AI has the potential to provide a strategic rival a critical technological edge.
China’s organization of the UNESCO conference on AI is yet another indication of its efforts to fundamentally shape global standards governing the future of AI and to drive the debate in the international community around an approach that uses AI tools to infringe on the rights of individuals throughout the globe and aid authoritarian regimes in suppressing its citizens. Technologies are shaped by the values and norms that undergird their development. While a generation of ICT technologies developed by the U.S. and its allies have been shaped by our shared values and norms of openness, pluralism, fair competition, rule of law, security, and free expression, China’s development of AI has been shaped by fundamentally different values and norms, in service of objectives such as surveillance, censorship, and social control.
As I know you appreciate, it is critically important that as China attempts to capture primacy in the field of AI the United States works with our partners and allies to assert a position of leadership within the international community on this issue. Without an engaged United States, and close coordination with our allies, we have limited ability to set global standards for AI development and use, with potentially disastrous consequences. China, as an authoritarian regime that uses AI tools to monitor its citizens and parse through vast troves a data, is a significant threat to the personal freedoms of individuals around the globe.
Due to the issues raised by China’s efforts to set international standards in the field of AI that are not congruent with our interests and values, I am concerned the United States is not doing enough to promote United States leadership in establishing the norms and global governance for AI and other emerging technologies. Consequently, I ask that you please respond to the following questions regarding U.S. efforts in the AI field:
- What is the U.S. vision for global standards, norms, and mechanisms for the use of artificial intelligence, grounded in our values, including democracy, personal liberties, and the protection of human rights?
- What U.S. efforts are currently underway to promote this vision for the use of artificial intelligence?
- What should U.S. expectations be for leading U.S.-based firms and researchers when it comes to work in China on projects that violate human rights?
- Does the current export control regime adequately prevent the export of AI technology and technical assistance to human rights violators?
- Should Congress consider an update to the Alien Tort Claims Act, allowing foreign citizens (such as Uyghurs) to seek remedies in U.S. courts for human rights violations directly aided by the actions of U.S. firms or researchers?
- What standards for AI are you promoting in international fora?
- What is the current diplomatic engagement strategy by the Department of State to promote and promulgate those standards, including through participation in appropriate international fora and meetings?
- How is the United States working with allies and partners on the development of AI tools?
Moving forward, I hope to see the United States further strengthen its efforts in the AI field to ensure that we do not cede leadership on this issue to China. AI is rapidly becoming one of the most strategically important domains of the next generation, serving as an enabling technology to a range of future innovations and across disparate fields; it is vital to the security of the United States and our allies that we play a primary role in shaping AI to serve in the best interests of liberty, prosperity, and the promotion of human rights. I ask that you please respond to my questions by May 20th. I look forward to your response.
Warner, Klobuchar, Graham Reintroduce Bipartisan, Bicameral Senate Legislation to Protect Integrity of U.S. Elections, Improve National Security
May 08 2019
WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Select Committee on Intelligence and former telecommunications executive, along with Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC), reintroduced bicameral legislation to help prevent foreign interference in future elections and improve the transparency of online political advertisements. The Honest Ads Act will safeguard the integrity of our democracy by requiring large online platforms to maintain public records of advertisers who purchase political ads. Companion legislation is being introduced in the House of Representatives by U.S. Reps. Derek Kilmer (D-WA), Elise Stefanik (R-NY), and 24 other bipartisan cosponsors.
“In 2016, Russia waged widespread disinformation campaigns that exploited social media in an effort to attack our democracy and divide the American public. As we continue to grow increasingly dependent on a handful of very large platforms, there is no doubt in my mind that foreign adversaries will continue to follow in Russia’s footsteps, exploiting the scale, amplification, and lack of transparency of these platforms in order to undermine the strength of the United States and advance their own anti-American agendas,” Sen. Warner said. “Right now, our country needs strong defenses that help ward off shady online attacks by demanding increased transparency, which is why I’m proud to introduce the Honest Ads Act. By requiring large digital platforms to meet the same disclosure standards as broadcast, cable, and satellite ads, this legislation can help prevent foreign actors from manipulating the American public and interfering in our free and fair elections through the use of inauthentic and divisive paid ads.”
“Foreign adversaries interfered in the 2016 election and are continuing to use information warfare to try to influence our government and divide Americans. We must act now to protect our democracy and prevent this kind of interference from ever happening again,” Sen. Klobuchar said. “The goal of the Honest Ads Act is simple: to ensure that voters know who is paying to influence our political system. The bill would put in place the same rules of the road for social media platforms that currently apply to political ads sold on TV, radio, and in print regarding disclaimers and disclosures so that Americans know who is behind the ads they see online. I also want to commend Senator Graham for taking up the mantle of bipartisanship from our late friend, Senator John McCain. Protecting our elections isn’t about politics—it’s about national security and the future of our democracy. I look forward to working with him and Senator Warner to get the Honest Ads Act passed.”
“Hardening our electoral infrastructure will require a comprehensive approach and it can’t be done with a single piece of legislation,” Sen. Graham said. “I am cosponsoring this legislation because it’s clear we have to start somewhere. I am pleased to work with Senators Klobuchar and Warner to address the gaps that currently exist, particularly with regards to social media. Online platforms have made some progress but there is more to be done. Foreign interference in U.S. elections – whether Russia in the 2016 presidential election or another rogue actor in the future – poses a direct threat to our democracy. I intend to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to bolster our defenses and defend the integrity of our electoral system.”
Prior to the 2016 presidential election, Russia attempted to influence the American electorate by using fake accounts to buy and place political ads on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Google. Without greater transparency and disclosure requirements, foreign adversaries and bad actors copying their playbook can continue exploiting the opacity of large social media platforms.
The Honest Ads Act would improve disclosure requirements for online political advertisements by:
- Amending the definition of ‘electioneering communication’ in the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, to include paid internet and digital advertisements.
- Requiring 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.
- Requiring 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.
The Honest Ads Act has the support of the Campaign Legal Center, the Alliance for Securing Democracy, the Brennan Center for Justice, Issue One, the Sunlight Foundation, the Center for American Progress, and the German Marshall Fund's Digital Innovation Democracy Initiative, as well as Facebook, and Twitter.
The full text of the Honest Ads Act is available here.
Washington – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, released the following statement regarding the signing of the Executive Order transferring responsibility for background investigations to the Department of Defense:
“I am pleased that after many months of delay, the President has kept the background investigation mission intact, signing an executive order transferring the remaining portion of the National Background Investigation Bureau to the Department of Defense. This is an important step toward transforming the security clearance system.
“There is much more we can do to reform decades-old policies and processes to reflect today’s threat environment, adapt to the dynamic of a modern mobile workforce, and capitalize on opportunities offered by modern information technology. I look forward to working with my colleagues and the Administration to pass my legislationenacting further critical reforms to the security clearance process.”
In February, Sen. Warner reintroduced the Modernizing the Trusted Workforce for the 21st Century Act of 2019, which draws on provisions from the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Years 2018/2019, which was unanimously reported out of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in June 2018. The Modernizing the Trusted Workforce for the 21st Century Act would:
- Hold the Executive Branch accountable for addressing the immediate background investigation backlog crisis.
- Provide a plan for consolidating the National Background Investigation Bureau at the Department of Defense.
- Implement practical reforms so that policies and clearance timelines can be designed to reflect modern circumstances.
- Require that reforms be implemented equally for all departments, and for personnel requiring a clearance, regardless of whether they are employed by the government or industry.
- Strengthen oversight of the personnel vetting apparatus by codifying the Director of National Intelligence’s responsibilities as the Security Executive Agent.
- Promote innovation, including by analyzing how a determination of trust clearance can be tied to a person, not to an agency’s sponsorship.