Warner Presses State Department on Plan for Protecting Health & Safety of Bomb-Sniffing Dogs Sent to Partner Countries
Sep 17 2019
WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, wrote to the U.S. Department of State to follow up on an Inspector General (IG) report that found the Department sent highly-trained bomb-sniffing dogs to foreign partner nations without proper follow-up to ensure they were receiving adequate healthcare. The IG found that as a result, at least 10 dogs trained to assist in fighting terrorism died in the Kingdom of Jordan from various medical problems, including largely preventable illnesses such as parvovirus and heat exhaustion. Many of the dogs were trained at a State Department-contracted facility located in Winchester, Va.
“The IG report outlined a series of problems in the program, which led to the premature deaths of many dogs due to preventable illness, lack of veterinary care, and poor working conditions. Overall, the report makes clear the Department of State is not adequately monitoring and protecting the canines it provides to these countries,” wrote Sen. Warner, a dog owner.
The State Department’s antiterrorism assistance program provides Explosive Detection Canines (EDCs) to foreign countries to support local law enforcement in deterring and countering terrorism. The program is primarily implemented by the Bureau of Diplomatic Security’s Office of Antiterrorism Assistance, in partnership with the Bureau of Counterterrorism. Although the State Department previously relied on the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms to provide and train the bomb-sniffing dogs, in 2016, the State Department established its own canine training center, the Canine Validation Center (CVC) in Winchester, Va., which is responsible for procuring dogs, training foreign students as handlers, and conducting assessments to determine a country’s ability to care for the dogs and operate a canine program. In addition, the CVC is responsible for conducting health and welfare assessments in foreign countries.
As of September 2018, 100 dogs had been trained at the CVC and provided under the antiterrorism program to six partner nations. In addition, the State Department retains responsibility for approximately 70 dogs that had previously been trained and provided under the ATF program to seven countries.
The IG report found several deficiencies in the program, including:
- The Bureau of Counterterrorism and the Bureau of Diplomatic Security “do not have mechanisms in place to ensure effective management of the health and welfare of canines in the EDC program” including an absence of policies, procedures, written standards for the department, or written agreements with partner nations to ensure the dogs’ health and safety.
- The Department does not sufficiently monitor the trained canines that are provided to partner nations, including through follow-up visits and agreements that outline standards.
- The treatment and care of the dogs in Jordan, where the majority of the dogs are sent, is of particular concern. Despite longstanding concern over the treatment and care of the dogs in Jordan’s care, at least 100 EDCs have been sent to Jordan since 2008. From 2008 through 2016, at least ten dogs died as a result of medical conditions.
The report found multiple instances of dogs that had been severely mistreated in Jordan, including Zoe, a 2-year-old female Belgian Malinois that died of heatstroke; Mencey, a 3-year-old male Belgian Malinois that was euthanized after she contracted two diseases spread by sandflies and ticks; and Athena, a 2-year-old female Malinois who made a full recovery in the United States after a State Department veterinary team conducted a site visit in Jordan and found her “severely emaciated” and housed in a kennel that was “covered in dirt and feces,” according to the IG. While the IG advised that the State Department cease providing canines to Jordan until “there is a sustainability plan in place to ensure canine health and welfare,” the State Department has not yet agreed to that recommendation.
“The Department spends millions of taxpayer dollars in order to train the canines, provide appropriate veterinary care, and embed mentors in partner nations, among other expenses associated with the program. Yet once the dogs are deployed, many face mistreatment, malnutrition and unsafe facilities,” Sen. Warner wrote today. “I ask that you provide my office with a plan for how you will improve this program to protect taxpayer resources and ensure the safety and health of these highly-trained bomb-detection dogs.”
The full text of the letter is below, and a PDF is available here.
September 17, 2019
The Honorable Mike Pompeo
Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520
Dear Secretary Pompeo:
I am writing to express my concern over a recent State Department Office of Inspector General report, which documented the failure of the Department to protect highly skilled explosion-detection dogs trained by the U.S. government and deployed to Jordan, an important U.S. counterterrorism partner, and additional countries.
Earlier this month, the Inspector General for the State Department released a report entitled, “Evaluation of the Antiterrorism Assistance Explosive Detection Canine Program – Health and Welfare,” which evaluated the Department’s program to provide Explosive Detection Canines (EDCs) to foreign countries for counterterrorism purposes. Many of these dogs were trained in the Canine Validation Center (CVC) in Winchester, Virginia. As of September 30, 2018, the CVC had trained 100 dogs, which were sent to six foreign partner nations. In addition, 66-89 dogs trained by a pre-existing program run by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) were still active in seven partner nations.
The IG report outlined a series of problems in the program, which led to the premature deaths of many dogs due to preventable illness, lack of veterinary care, and poor working conditions. Overall, the report makes clear the Department of State is not adequately monitoring and protecting the canines it provides to these countries. Some specific findings from their investigation include the following:
- The Bureau of Counterterrorism and the Bureau of Diplomatic Security “do not have mechanisms in place to ensure effective management of the health and welfare of canines in the EDC program” including an absence of policies, procedures, written standards for the Department, or written agreements with partner nations to ensure the dogs’ health and safety.
- The treatment and care of the dogs in Jordan, where the majority of the dogs are sent, is of particular concern.
- Despite longstanding concern over the treatment and care of the dogs in Jordan’s care, at least 100 EDCs have been sent to Jordan since 2008. From 2008 through 2016, at least 10 dogs died as a result of medical conditions including canine parvovirus and heat exhaustion.
- The Department does not sufficiently monitor the trained canines that are provided to partner nations, including through follow-up visits and agreements that outline standards.
The Department spends millions of taxpayer dollars in order to train the canines, provide appropriate veterinary care, and embed mentors in partner nations, among other expenses associated with the program. Yet once the dogs are deployed, many face mistreatment, malnutrition and unsafe facilities.
I ask that you provide my office with a plan for how you will improve this program to protect taxpayer resources and ensure the safety and health of these highly-trained bomb-detection dogs. Should you have any questions, please contact Caroline Wadhams in my office at (202) 224-2023.
Warner Raises Questions about Cybersecurity Practices Amid Breaches Involving Sensitive Biometric Data
Sep 16 2019
WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee and former tech entrepreneur, wrote to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and South Korean company Suprema HQ, following separate but alarming incidents that impacted both entities and exposed Americans’ personal, permanently identifiable data. In a letter to CBP, Sen. Warner inquired about the information security practices of CBP contractors, in light of a June cyberattack that resulted in the theft of tens of thousands of facial images belonging to U.S. travelers. In a separate letter, Sen. Warner requested more information from Suprema HQ, the company that owns web-based biometric lock system, Biostar 2, which experienced a cyber incident in August, resulting in the exposure of permanently identifiable biometric data belonging to at least one million people worldwide.
“While all of the stolen information was sensitive and required protection, facial image data is especially sensitive, since such permanent personal information cannot be replaced like a password or a license plate number,” wrote Sen. Warner to Acting CBP Commissioner Mark Morgan. “It is absolutely critical that federal agencies and industry improve their track records, especially when handling and processing biometric data. Americans deserve to have their sensitive information secured, regardless of whether it is being handled by a first or a third-party.”
In June, CBP announced the theft of at least 100,000 traveler ID photos from a CBP subcontractor that had improperly transferred copies of these photos from CBP servers to its own company database. In addition to facial images, the cyberattack resulted in the theft of several gigabytes of data, including license plate photos, confidential agreements, hardware blueprints for security systems, and budget spreadsheets.
In the letter to CBP, Sen. Warner expressed alarm regarding the failure of federal agencies to ensure that Americans’ sensitive information is safe in the hands of contractors. He also asked CBP to provide timely answers to a series of questions regarding the information security practices of CBP contractors and subcontractors. Among these questions, Sen. Warner requested details on CBP’s third-party contractual requirements concerning database encryption, biometric data management, vulnerability management, logging data retention, and identity and access management, among other security measures.
Similarly, in his letter to Suprema HQ, Sen. Warner raised concerns about the Biostar 2 incident, which exposed permanently identifiable biometric data, including user photos.
“Unlike passwords, email addresses and phone numbers, biometric information in voices, fingerprints, and eyes are unique data that are impossible to reset. Biometric data can be used effectively for unauthorized surveillance and access to secure facilities, to steal identities, and is even valuable in developing deepfake technologies,” wrote Sen. Warner to Suprema HQ CEO James Lee. “It is my understanding that your customers use your biometric security system to provide access to secure facilities, and that the product has also been integrated into Nedap’s AEOS access control systems, which are used by at least 5,700 organizations in 83 countries, including banks and foreign law enforcement entities. Given the sensitivity of this information, it is absolutely critical that companies like yours exercise exceptional due care when collecting and securing biometric information, and when contracting with customers that collect permanent personal information.”
The Biostar 2 breach resulted in the online exposure of more than one million fingerprint records, in addition to user images, personal details, usernames and passwords, and employee security clearances. The breach also revealed that large portions of the Biostar 2 database were unprotected and unencrypted. In the letter, Sen. Warner asked Suprema HQ to list which U.S. businesses are served by the company. He also requested more information on the company’s practices regarding server security, biometric data storage security, and database encryption.
Sen. Warner has been a champion for cybersecurity throughout his career, and has been an outspoken critic of poor cybersecurity practices that compromise Americans’ personal information. In May, Sen. Warner introduced bold legislation to hold credit reporting agencies accountable for data breaches. He also introduced legislation earlier this year to empower state and local government to counter cyberattacks, and to increase cybersecurity among public companies.
Senate Democrats Urge President Trump To Push For Action Against North Korea For Violation Of U.N. Security Resolutions And To Redouble Efforts To Build Pragmatic Path To Verifiable Denuclearization
Sep 05 2019
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations Ranking Member Bob Menendez (D-NJ), U.S. Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations Ranking Member Patrick Leahy (D-VT), U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Ranking Member Sherrod Brown (D-OH), U.S. Senate Committee on Armed Services Ranking Member Jack Reed (D-RI), and U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Vice Chairman Mark Warner (D-VA) yesterday sent a letter to President Donald Trump urging the president to intensify efforts to build a durable pathway towards diplomatic denuclearization of North Korea, and more specifically, to recognize that North Korea’s series of ballistic missile tests clearly violate United Nations Security Council resolutions and are being used to advance their operational capabilities to deliver nuclear weapons. The Senators urge President Trump to push the United Nations to take enforcement action against North Korea for its violations of U.N. Security Council resolutions.
Senate Democrats note that the administration has downplayed the significance of North Korea’s series of ballistic missile tests and suggested that there is no rush to reach an agreement that freezes and reverses North Korea’s nuclear and missile development, despite these clear violations of United Nations Security Council resolutions and direct threats to our allies, and recent reporting and analysis that indicate these violations are akin to a research, development and testing program that are furthering North Korea’s nuclear and missile program.
The Senators emphasize that finding a path to engagement with North Korea that minimizes, and subsequently eliminates, its nuclear and ballistic missile threat while providing stability and preserving our strategic edge in the region, is vital. They urge the president to pursue a more pragmatic, verifiable approach to pursue denuclearization on the Korean peninsula and to take advantage of the upcoming United Nations General Assembly session to push for strong enforcement of existing sanctions and accountability for North Korea’s on-going ballistic missile activities at the Security Council, while also seeking to establish the regular working-level negotiations necessary for diplomacy to succeed.
Senate Democrats’ letter to President Trump can be found here and below:
September 5, 2019
President Donald Trump
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
Dear President Trump,
We write to express our grave concern regarding your policy and diplomacy with North Korea and to urge you to redouble efforts to forge a successful and durable path towards denuclearization of North Korea – by diplomatic means – while the opportunity still exists. Specifically, we urge you to recognize that North Korea’s series of ballistic missile tests clearly contravene United Nations Security Council resolutions and are being used to advance their operational capabilities to deliver nuclear weapons, and to press the United Nations to take enforcement action against North Korea for its violations of U.N. Security Council resolutions. While these tests did not directly threaten the United States, they are a clear threat to our treaty allies in the Republic of Korea and Japan, and they have allowed North Korea to continue to develop significant new ballistic missile technology alongside its still unconstrained nuclear weapons programs.
Despite these clear violations of United Nations Security Council resolutions – and direct threats to our allies – your administration has downplayed the significance of these tests and suggested that there is no rush to reach an agreement that verifiably freezes and reverses North Korea’s nuclear and missile development. Accepting North Korean ballistic missile tests represents, in our view, a significant step backwards in the negotiations, especially as you yourself have previously asserted that North Korea halting all ballistic missile tests and nuclear tests was a sign of your administration’s success.
Moreover, by repeatedly calling into question the importance of our alliances and combined military exercises, you threaten to undermine strategic stability on the Korean Peninsula. Our alliance architecture is critical to safeguard US national interests, and these exercises are a critical element of US strategic engagement on the Peninsula, a guarantee of the freedom and prosperity of the people of the Republic of Korea, and a vital element of any coherent strategy to assure that the United States maintains leverage for successful denuclearization diplomacy. Threatening to unravel the integrity of our alliance architecture in Asia makes us less capable of dealing with North Korea, not more.
Mr. President, we must find a path to engagement with North Korea that minimizes, and subsequently eliminates, its nuclear and ballistic missile threat while providing stability and preserving our strategic edge in the region. Your success in this endeavor is vital for our national security interests, and we want to support your administration in the execution of a coherent, durable and sustainable strategy.
As a first step to rebalance our denuclearization diplomacy with North Korea we urge you to undertake a more pragmatic, verifiable approach to pursue denuclearization on the Korean peninsula. We also urge you to take advantage of the upcoming United Nations General Assembly session to simultaneously push for strong enforcement of existing sanctions and accountability for North Korea’s on-going ballistic missile activities at the Security Council while also seeking to establish the sort of regular working-level negotiations necessary for diplomacy to succeed. A pathway for progress and successful diplomacy with North Korea that balances pressure and engagement in the right measure is still possible, and we urge you and your administration to take immediate and meaningful action.
Sep 04 2019
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine condemned the Trump Administration’s plans to build portions of President Trump’s border wall by diverting $3.6 billion in military construction funds, including by taking funding from four projects in Virginia:
“The decision by the President to divert funding meant to support U.S. national security interests so that he can build a border wall only makes us less safe,” said Warner. “Taking money away from our military – including funding to support critical projects here in Virginia – will mean we are less equipped to tackle threats here at home and abroad.”
“I’m deeply concerned about President Trump’s plan to pull funding from critical national security projects – including millions of dollars from important projects in Virginia – so he can build his border wall. The well-being of American troops is the core responsibility of every commander in the military, yet the Commander-in-Chief is shirking that duty so he can advance his own political agenda,” said Kaine.
The Department of Defense informed Warner and Kaine that the Trump Administration plans to take the following funding away from military construction projects in Virginia:
- Cyber Operations Facility at Joint Base Langley-Eustis will lose $10,000,000.
- Navy Ships Maintenance Facility in Portsmouth will lose $26,120,000.
- A project to replace a hazardous materials warehouse in Norfolk will lose $18,500,000.
- A project to replace a hazardous materials warehouse in Portsmouth will lose $22,500,000.
Warner and Kaine have been outspoken against President Trump’s plan to pull money from military construction projects to build his border wall since it was initially announced earlier this year. Kaine has demanded details on the projects that will lose funding and called on his colleagues in the Senate to oppose the Administration’s efforts.
WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) released the following statement after China announced that it will instate additional retaliatory tariffs starting September 1 in response to President Trump’s plans to impose additional levies on Chinese goods:
“Time and time again, we have warned President Trump against escalating a trade war with China. Trade wars yield no winners and hurt consumers and producers all over the Commonwealth, especially the farmers and small business owners who count on Chinese demand for products grown in Virginia. We’re even seeing devastating second-order effects of this trade war, with the possibility that fires in the Amazon are being deliberately set to clear land for soybean exports to China. While the U.S. must absolutely crack down on China for its illegal trade practices, we can’t afford to do so in an incoherent and erratic way. Today’s announcement shows once again that the Trump Administration’s bizarre trade policies destabilize the economy, put the livelihoods of many Americans at risk, undermine global stability, and fundamentally fail to hold China accountable for its unfair practices.”
According to an announcement by the Chinese finance ministry, China’s tariffs will range from five to ten percent on items such as agricultural products, apparel, chemicals, and textiles, in addition to a 25 percent tariff on automobiles and a five percent tariff on automobile parts. These levies are scheduled to take effect on September 1 and December 15, matching the dates of the President’s most recent tariffs.
Sens. Warner and Kaine have continuously warned the Trump Administration about how its haphazard approach on trade hurts Virginia’s families, businesses, and economy. According to the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS), China is the Commonwealth’s number-one agricultural export market for soybeans. In 2018, Virginia exported more than $58 million soybean products to China – an 83 percent decrease from 2017.
WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and Jack Reed (D-RI), Ranking Member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Mark Esper following a report that the Department of Defense (DoD) will reexamine the process for awarding a $10 billion Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) cloud-computing contract.
“The integrity of our federal procurement process rests in large part on its insulation from undue political influence, so that sound technical and business judgements can be used to make data- and evidence-based decisions. The importance of political noninterference is especially important in the context of Department of Defense procurements, where procurement decisions must focus on cost, quality, performance and other considerations directly related to promoting our national security in an increasingly complex global environment,” wrote Sens. Warner and Reed to DoD Secretary Mark Esper.
In their letter to the DoD, the Senators inquired about the possibility that political pressure may have led to DoD’s abrupt decision to pause the process for awarding the contract. Additionally, the Senators called on Secretary Esper to explain the reasoning behind DoD’s decision to reexamine the contract.
“Successful procurement programs foster an open, fair, and competitive process, and are informed by technical and acquisition expertise and an understanding of the planned operational environment. The federal government benefits from being served by a variety of providers, ensuring competition that will deliver the best cost, quality, and performance. There are already built-in mechanisms for independent review of potential conflicts of interest– some of which have already been used in the JEDI initiative,” the Senators continued. “We appreciate your desire to review this initiative as you take on your new role as Secretary, but we urge you to resist political pressures that might negatively affect the implementation of sound acquisition practices and of the cloud strategy.”
A copy of the letter is found here and below.
Dr. Mark T. Esper
Secretary of Defense
U.S. Department of Defense
1000 Defense Pentagon
Washington, D.C. 20301
Dear Secretary Esper:
We urge you to take appropriate steps to ensure that the ongoing Department of Defense initiative to a contract for commercial cloud computing services through the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) program, is pursued in a manner that is consistent with the Department’s cloud strategy and serves the best interests of taxpayers and execution of DoD missions.
The integrity of our federal procurement process rests in large part on its insulation from undue political influence, so that sound technical and business judgements can be used to make data- and evidence-based decisions. The importance of political noninterference is especially important in the context of Department of Defense procurements, where procurement decisions must focus on cost, quality, performance and other considerations directly related to protecting our national security in an increasingly complex global environment. In particular, efficiently executing DOD’s cloud strategy, which emphasizes the appropriate evaluation and use of best available commercial services and systems, is extremely important to meeting the goals of the National Defense Strategy.
Successful procurement programs foster an open, fair, and competitive process, and are informed by technical and acquisition expertise and an understanding of the planned operational environment. The federal government benefits from being served by a variety of providers, ensuring competition that will deliver the best cost, quality, and performance. There are already built-in mechanisms for independent review of potential conflicts of interest– some of which have already been used in the JEDI initiative.
It is our understanding that the Department of Defense’s Chief Information Officer is moving towards concluding the competition for the JEDI contract, and appreciate his efforts to keep Congress informed during a lengthy process of protests by competitors and in the development and execution of a very complex and ambitious acquisition plan. We appreciate your desire to review this initiative as you take on your new role as Secretary, but we urge you to resist political pressures that might negatively affect the implementation of sound acquisition practices and of the cloud strategy.
For these reasons, we request that you respond to the following questions:
Did anyone outside of the Department of Defense direct you to delay or cancel the JEDI program or the award of this contract?
Has the Department of Defense obtained new information relative to the program that was not available to the Inspector General, Government Accountability Office, or U.S. Federal Court of Claims?
What prompted the new examination of the JEDI initiative?
We look forward to receiving your responses within the next week. If you should have any questions or concerns, please contact Caroline Wadhams in Senator Warner’s office at 202-224-2418 and Arun Seraphin in Senator Reed’s office at 202-224-3871.
WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, and Jack Reed (D-RI), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Armed Services, wrote to President Trump to request that he direct a review of the Executive Office of the President’s (EOP) compliance with security clearance policies and procedures after several alarming media reports suggesting abuses in the process at the White House.
“Over the last two years, public reporting has raised serious concerns about irregularities and questionable decisions related to eligibility determinations for EOP personnel access to classified information. Among other things, reports allege that individuals have been granted interim clearances, to include access to Secure Compartmented Information, without undergoing a complete background investigation; that the EOP has extended these temporary clearances beyond the usual six month timeframe; that the EOP has overruled unfavorable adjudication recommendations by career security professionals in more than 30 cases; and that the EOP has threatened to revoke former officials’ eligibility for access to classified information for reasons other than the adjudicative guidelines,” the Senators wrote.
The Democratic request follows an earlier letter sent in March 2019 to the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) and the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community (ICIG), requesting a review of the Trump administration’s compliance with security clearance protocols. In a pair of responses four months later, the DNI and the ICIG told the Senators that, despite having conducted such a review of the EOP’s practices in 2015, the DNI lacks the authority to conduct such a review unless expressly directed by the President.
According to press reports, President Trump ignored objections from then-White House Counsel Donald McGahn and then-Chief of Staff John F. Kelly to grant security clearances to his daughter, Ivanka Trump, and her husband Jared Kushner. Additional reports have alleged that former White House Staff Secretary Robert Porter was allowed to handle extremely sensitive information for over a year with an interim clearance, despite his record of domestic abuse, and that the White House overturned at least 30 clearance adjudication recommendations made by career security professionals.
“We believe a new review is necessary to address the allegations that have been raised and, if necessary, implement corrective action. Without such a review, it will be incumbent upon Congress to take a more direct role in overseeing and legislating on EOP security clearances to protect national security,” the Senators told the President.
Sen. Warner has been an outspoken critic of the Trump administration’s abuse of the security clearance process. He believes it significantly distracts from the shared agenda that he has with the administration to reform an antiquated process that does not reflect today’s threats, use advanced technologies and analytics, or support an increasingly mobile workforce. He has championed comprehensive legislation, included in the Senate-passed National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020, to modernize the government’s security clearance system and reduce the background investigation backlog. He has also teamed up with Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) to introduce bipartisan legislation to protect the integrity of the security clearance process and ensure that it cannot be abused for political purposes.
Full text of the letter is below and a copy can be found here.
President Donald Trump
The White House
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President:
We request that you direct the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) perform a Security Executive Agent National Assessment Program (SNAP) review of the Executive Office of the President’s (EOP) compliance with security clearance policies and procedures.
Over the last two years, public reporting has raised serious concerns about irregularities and questionable decisions related to eligibility determinations for EOP personnel access to classified information. Among other things, reports allege that individuals have been granted interim clearances, to include access to Secure Compartmented Information, without undergoing a complete background investigation; that the EOP has extended these temporary clearances beyond the usual six month timeframe; that the EOP has overruled unfavorable adjudication recommendations by career security professionals in more than 30 cases; and that the EOP has threatened to revoke former officials’ eligibility for access to classified information for reasons other than the adjudicative guidelines.
A SNAP review will assess compliance with statutory requirements and executive-branch policies and procedures governing security clearances and access to Sensitive Compartmented Information. Such policies and procedures ensure proper due diligence in exercising the granting, denying, and revoking of access to classified information. The DNI has conducted scores of SNAP reviews to ensure rigorous application of proven standards and to give Congress faith that classified information is being properly protected.
In a recent letter, the Office of the DNI advised us that, despite completing a SNAP review of the EOP personnel security program in 2015, it does not have the legal authority under Executive Order 13467 to conduct a SNAP review of the EOP unless you specifically direct it to do so. We believe a new review is necessary to address the allegations that have been raised and, if necessary, implement corrective action. Without such a review, it will be incumbent upon Congress to take a more direct role in overseeing and legislating on EOP security clearances to protect national security.
Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.
Washington, D.C. – Citing the vital need for a secure U.S. industrial base, U.S. Senators Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) and Mark Warner (D-Virginia) have introduced bipartisan legislation to guard against attempts by the People’s Republic of China and others to undermine U.S. national security by exploiting and penetrating U.S. supply chains. The Manufacturing, Investment, and Controls Review for Computer Hardware, Intellectual Property and Supply (MICROCHIPS) Act (S. 2316) would develop a national strategy to assess and prevent risks to critical U.S. technologies.
“Actions by the People’s Republic of China have contributed to an unfair and unsafe advantage in its technological race against the United States,” said Senator Crapo. “Through government investments and subsidies, as well as intellectual property theft of companies like Idaho’s Micron, China aims to dominate a $1.5 trillion electronics industry, which creates serious, far-reaching threats to the supply chains that support the U.S. government and military. The MICROCHIPS Act would create a coordinated whole-of-government approach to identify and prevent these efforts and others aimed at undermining or interrupting the timely and secure provision of dual-use technologies vital to our national security.”
“While there is a broad recognition of the threats to our supply chain posed by China, we still lack a coordinated, whole-of-government strategy to defend ourselves,” said Senator Warner. “As a result, U.S. companies lose billions of dollars to intellectual property theft every year, and counterfeit and compromised electronics in U.S. military, government and critical civilian platforms give China potential backdoors to compromise these systems. We need a national strategy to unify efforts across the government to protect our supply chain and our national security.”
Chinese companies export telecommunication technology equipment into software, hardware, and services used in the United States, and hope to export fifth generation technology (5G) to the U.S. that could potentially harm and expose both consumer and U.S. military information. Malicious chips or counterfeit parts could create backdoors enabling the monitoring or stealing of consumer data or cause broader system malfunctions. Even with high investments in cybersecurity, the United States remains vulnerable to advanced cyber attackers like Russia and China. A 2018 Government Accountability Office report stated that, despite multiple warnings since the early 1990s, cybersecurity has not been a focus of weapon systems acquisitions within the military community. The Department of Defense’s (DOD) continuous acquisition of weapons systems without making security a key priority could potentially lead to loss of U.S. intellectual property and technological advantage of the U.S. Armed Forces, contribute to unnecessary risks to human life and interfere with the ability of the Armed Forces to execute their missions.
The MICROCHIPS Act would address China’s practice of four major non-kinetic areas of warfare, including supply chain exploitation through supplying faulty software hardware and components; cyber-physical attacks on U.S. systems with real-time operating deadlines, such as missiles, aircraft and electrical grids; cyber-attacks on computer systems; and bad actors gaining sensitive information. S. 2316 contains four sections with the following main components:
- Summarizes key findings of Congress regarding supply chain security;
- Directs the Director of National Intelligence, DOD and other relevant agencies to develop a plan to increase supply chain intelligence within 180 days;
- Establishes a National Supply Chain Security Center within the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to collect supply chain threat information and disseminate it to agencies with the authority to intervene; and
- Makes funds available under the Defense Production Act for federal supply chain security enhancements.
Section two of the bill was included in the House-passed version of the Intelligence Authorization Act, and the Senate adopted section four of the bill through its version of the National Defense Authorization Act.
WASHINGTON — Following Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s testimony regarding Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, led a group of Senators asking for votes on several pieces of legislation to improve election security and protect our democracy ahead of 2020. All of the requests were blocked by Senate Republicans, who, led by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the White House, have resisted legislative efforts to secure our elections against foreign interference in future elections.
“Earlier today, Special Counsel Robert Mueller testified that the Russian government’s efforts to undermine our elections are, quote, ‘among the most serious challenges to our democracy.’ A challenge, he says, that ‘deserves the attention of every American.’ Mr. Mueller’s testimony should serve as a warning to every member of this body about what could happen in 2020, literally in our next elections, if we fail to act,” Sen. Warner said on the Senate floor in making the request. “When asked if he thought that Russia would attack our democracy again in 2020, Mr. Mueller said ‘they are doing it as we sit here.’ Think about that for a moment. The special prosecutor spent two and a half years looking into Russian intervention in our election in 2016 and says not only are they going to do it, but they are doing it as we sit here.”
Warner added, “Now, if this is was just coming from the special prosecutor, some folks might be willing to dismiss it, but this is exact the same message we heard earlier this week from FBI Director Wray. It’s a message that all of us have heard – and I particularly on the Intelligence Committee have heard repeatedly – from Director of National Intelligence Coats, and we have heard this as well from other leaders of law enforcement and our intelligence community. Again, I point out leaders all who were appointed by this president, who have sounded the alarm about the ongoing Russian threat to our elections. Unfortunately, in the nearly three years since we have uncovered Russia’s attack on our democracy, this body has not held a single vote on standalone legislation to protect our elections.”
“I am not looking to relitigate the 2016 election or for that matter, to second-guess the special counsel’s findings. This is more a question of how we defend our democracy on a going-forward basis,” Warner noted, before asking for unanimous consent for the Senate to take up and pass his legislation that would require presidential campaigns to report to the appropriate federal authorities any contacts from foreign nationals seeking to interfere in a presidential election, which was rejected by a Republican Senator acting on behalf of Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
This is the second time Republicans have rejected Sen. Warner’s attempt to pass the Foreign Influence Reporting in Elections (FIRE) Act. After Sen. Warner made a previous attempt to pass the bill by unanimous consent last month, President Donald Trump thanked Senate Republicans for blocking the measure via Twitter, instead launching an attack on Sen. Warner for raising the issue in the first place.
Sen. Warner’s remarks as prepared for delivery can be found below:
Mr. President, in a moment I will ask unanimous consent for the Senate to take up and pass legislation I’ve introduced to help protect our democracy from foreign interference.
Earlier today, Special Counsel Mueller testified that the Russian government’s efforts to undermine our elections are “among the most serious challenges to our democracy” — a challenge he says “deserves the attention of every American.”
Mr. Mueller’s testimony should serve as a warning to every member of this body about what could happen in 2020, if we fail to act.
When asked if he thought Russia would attack our democracy again in 2020, Mr. Mueller said, “they are doing it as we sit here.”
This echoes what we’ve heard from Director Wray, DNI Coats, and others who are sounding the alarm about the ongoing Russian threat to our elections.
Unfortunately, in the nearly three years since we uncovered Russia’s attack on our democracy, this body has not held a vote on standalone legislation to protect our elections.
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.
Just over a month ago, the President of the United States sat in the oval office and effectively gave Russia the green light to interfere in future elections. Since then, my Republican colleagues have done nothing to prevent future attempts at undermining our democracy.
Let me be clear. If a foreign adversary tries to offer assistance to your campaign, you have a moral obligation to call the FBI.
Mr. Mueller, the former FBI Director and arguably the straightest arrow in public service, said as much this afternoon.
So 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 the FIRE Act is all about.
The FIRE Act is a simple, narrowly targeted bill. All it does is make sure attempts to interfere in future presidential elections are promptly reported to the FBI and FEC.
The FIRE Act is not about prohibiting innocent contacts or the exercise of First Amendment rights.
Contrary to some of the mistaken rhetoric we’ve heard, it does not require reporting of contacts with foreign journalists, or DREAMers, or official meetings with foreign governments.
It is simply about preserving 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.
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.
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.”