Press Releases

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cc:

Derek N. Benner

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

 

 

 

The Honorable Michael Pompeo

Secretary of State

U.S. Department of State

2201 C Street NW

Washington, D.C. 20520

Dear Mr. Secretary:

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

Sincerely,

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  

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

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

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

The America LEADS Act

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Full text of the resolution can be found here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The resolution can be found here.

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

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

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

Background:

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

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

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) joined Chris Coons (D-Del.), Foreign Relations Committee Chairman James Risch (R-Idaho), and Ranking Member Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), along with Sens. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), in a joint statement ahead of the 22nd anniversary of the bombings of the U.S. Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania on August 7, 1998. The Senators called on the Trump Administration and Congress “to deliver justice to the victims and their families and appropriately and equitably address terrorism-related claims against Sudan.”

“On August 7, 1998, twin explosions at the U.S. Embassies in Nairobi, Kenya and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania claimed the lives of over 250 people – including 12 American embassy personnel – and wounded over 5,000 people in attacks later linked to al-Qaeda, which had been given safe haven in Sudan. On this anniversary of a tragedy that shocked our nation’s conscience, we honor those killed and injured in the Embassy bombings as well as all the dedicated individuals – from our diplomats to security guards – who make enormous daily sacrifices to serve and protect our nation overseas.  Our hearts are with the victims and their family members who continue to bear the wounds of these heinous attacks.

“The murderous regime of former Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir that for years harbored terrorists and terrorist organizations was toppled by a peaceful revolution in April 2019, which has put Sudan on the path toward democracy and opened the possibility of resolving certain longstanding issues in Sudan’s relationship with the United States. It is critical that the Trump Administration and Congress redouble efforts to deliver justice to the victims and their families and appropriately and equitably address terrorism-related claims against Sudan.

“As we mark this solemn day for our nation, let us continue honoring the legacy of all who perished in these attacks by recommitting ourselves to end the scourge of terrorism and seeing the perpetrators of this and other attacks on Americans brought to justice.  We must never forget those who died in service to the United States.”

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WASHINGTON – Today, Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee sent a letter demanding that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) provide information to the Committee about the role that its Office of Intelligence and Analysis (I&A) has played in responding to the protests in Portland, OR. The letter was signed by Committee Vice Chairman Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Angus King (I-ME), Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Michael Bennet (D-CO).

“We have grown increasingly concerned about the role and operations of the Department of Homeland Security, and the Office of Intelligence and Analysis (I&A) in particular, with regard to the protests in Portland, Oregon.  As a member of the Intelligence Community, I&A is obligated by statute to keep the congressional intelligence committees fully and currently informed of its operations.  Given the intense national as well as congressional interest in DHS activities related to protests in Portland and around the country, documents and other information related to I&A’s operations should be provided to the Committee pro-actively, and not merely in response to repeated requests or following revelations in the press,” wrote the Senators in the letter, which was addressed to Acting Under Secretary of Homeland Security for Intelligence and Analysis Brian Murphy.

The Senators posed a series of 25 questions to the Department, setting an August 6, 2020 deadline to reply:

1.      Of the I&A personnel deployed to, or otherwise who have been assigned to missions connected to the Portland protests, how many are analysts and how many are collectors?  What I&A mission centers do they work for?  What backgrounds and training do they have that are relevant to the Portland mission? 

2.      Has I&A employed any contractors for the Portland mission?  If yes, please describe their roles.

3.      Where have I&A personnel in Portland physically worked and with whom have they been co-located?

4.      Please provide a breakdown of the DHS components I&A personnel have supported and a description of the support provided to each such component.  To what extent does the chain of command of I&A personnel include those components, as opposed to I&A Headquarters?

5.      Please describe interactions and coordination between I&A personnel in Portland and state and local law enforcement and political authorities.

6.      Please describe interactions and coordination between I&A personnel in Portland and federal law enforcement, including elements of the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security.

7.      A July 9, 2020, I&A document describing “Portland Surge Operation” states that I&A personnel may “collect from incarcerated, detained, or arrested persons” so long as the collection is conducted overtly.  You stated during a briefing for Committee staff on July 23, 2020, that I&A personnel have not engaged in custodial debriefings.  Please confirm.  Have I&A personnel been indirectly engaged with detainee operations, for example, by providing collection requirements or requests, or suggested lines of questioning, to detaining authorities or otherwise requesting or receiving information related to detainees?

8.      You also stated during the July 23, 2020, briefing that I&A personnel have not interacted with protesters in any way.  Please confirm.

9.      During the July 23, 2020, briefing, you stated that I&A had neither collected nor exploited or analyzed information obtained from the devices or accounts of protesters or detainees.  Please confirm.

10.  Please describe I&A’s open source collection.  What rules of engagement apply to open source collection in the context of protests in which the vast majority of participants are exercising their First Amendment rights?  What rules or guidance does I&A follow to distinguish actual threats of violence or vandalism from political hyperbole, and what training do I&A personnel receive on the implementation of that guidance?

11.  What processes does I&A have to vet the authenticity of open source threat reporting?  What processes does I&A have to vet the authenticity of social media accounts in which individuals take credit for acts of violence or vandalism, on their own behalf or on behalf of an ideology?  How has this vetting been conducted prior to disseminating this information, or using it as a basis for analysis?

12.  Have I&A operations in connection with the Portland protests been reviewed by an I&A Intelligence Oversight Officer, DHS’s Privacy Office and Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, or any other DHS personnel responsible for reviewing the impact of I&A operations on the privacy and civil liberties of U.S. persons?  If yes, please describe those reviews.

13.  The “Job Aid” document authorizes collection of information that “informs an overall assessment that threats to [law enforcement] personnel, facilities, or resources will materialize.”  The document includes a similar explicit authorization with regard to public monuments, memorials and statues.  Can I&A collect information on U.S. persons who are not threatening violence and, if so, under what circumstances?

14.  Has I&A conducted network analysis linking individuals suspected of violence?  If yes, please describe how that analysis has been conducted while not collecting on U.S. persons not suspected of violence?  Please provide any such analysis.

15.  During the July 23, 2020, briefing, you stated that I&A is able to track those who engage in violent acts because “it is the same people who come out after midnight.”  Please describe how I&A is able to differentiate between peaceful protesters exercising their First Amendment rights and those individuals who have planned or conducted acts of violence, and what information or intelligence is used in making this determination.

16.  Has I&A produced or contributed to targeting packages or dossiers on particular suspects?  If yes, please provide these to the Committee.

17.  On July 16, 2020, the FAA put in place flight restrictions over Portland to prevent drones from flying below 1000 feet.  The FAA cited a DHS conclusion that private drone use presented a threat.  Please provide any intelligence to support that conclusion.

18.  Have I&A personnel obtained or analyzed data from overhead surveillance of protests?  If yes, please describe.

19.  On July 25, 2020, you sent a memo to I&A personnel in which you stated that individuals in Portland committing acts of violence are “VIOLENT ANTIFA ANARCHIST INSPIRED (VAAI).”  Please describe the origin of this designation and the analytical process whereby it was developed and applied.

20.  Your July 25, 2020, memo stated that the VAAI designation was informed by FIRs, OSIRs, “baseball cards” and FINTEL.  Please provide these documents to the Committee.

21.  Please describe how I&A has applied its retention guidelines to information related to the Portland protests.  What information has been marked for indefinite retention?  How has I&A sought to apply its 180-day retention limitation to information it has disseminated?

22.  Please describe what I&A raw reporting has been disseminated to what entities, whether DHS, federal law enforcement, state or local or municipal law enforcement, or the Intelligence Community.

23.  Are there limits to I&A’s role in protecting public monuments, memorials or statues absent threat of violence to persons?  Does it matter whether such monuments, memorials or statues are on federal, state, local, or private property?

24.  What other cities has I&A deployed to, or plans to deploy to in response to protests or associated threats of violence?  Please provide any documentation or guidance related to any such deployments.

25.  According to press accounts, I&A disseminated Open Source Intelligence Reports on a journalist and a legal scholar who had written about I&A.  If that is accurate, provide those reports, a complete description of who they were disseminated to, and an explanation of the purpose and basis for the reports and their dissemination under law and I&A’s intelligence oversight guidelines, including with regard to the identification of any U.S. persons within them.

A copy of the letter is available here

 

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Washington, D.C. — U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Acting Chairman Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Vice Chairman Mark Warner (D-VA) made public newly declassified material as part of the report titled “Review of the Intelligence Community Assessment,” the fourth and penultimate volume in the Committee’s bipartisan Russia investigation. The newly declassified material comes as a result of recent Department of Justice (DOJ) and Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) disclosures. Rubio and Warner released the following joint statement:

“Recently, the ODNI and DOJ publicly released information relevant to the Committee’s bipartisan Russia investigation. As such, we asked them to reconsider the classification of parts of Volume 4 of the Committee’s bipartisan report, and today we are making public that newly declassified material.”

You can read the additional declassifications of “Volume IV: Review of Intelligence Community Assessmenthere.

Read the Senate Intelligence Committee’s previous reports:

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Washington, DC – Today, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA), and Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Mark Warner (D-VA) issued a joint statement following the Office of Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) releasing an update on election security and foreign threats one hundred days before the election: 

“Almost exactly four years ago, we first observed the Russians engaging in covert actions designed to influence the presidential race in favor of Donald Trump and to sow discord in the United States.  Now, the Russians are once again trying to influence the election and divide Americans, and these efforts must be deterred, disrupted and exposed.

“The statement just released by National Counterintelligence and Security Center (NCSC) Director William Evanina does not go nearly far enough in arming the American people with the knowledge they need about how foreign powers are seeking to influence our political process. The statement gives a false sense of equivalence to the actions of foreign adversaries by listing three countries of unequal intent, motivation and capability together. The statement, moreover, fails to fully delineate the goal, nature, scope and capacity to influence our election, information the American people must have as we go into November. To say without more, for example, that Russia seeks to ‘denigrate what it sees as an anti-Russia 'establishment' in America’ is so generic as to be almost meaningless. The statement omits much on a subject of immense importance.

“In our letter two weeks ago, we called on the FBI to provide a defensive briefing to the entire Congress about specific threats related to a concerted foreign disinformation campaign, and this is more important than ever.  But a far more concrete and specific statement needs to be made to the American people, consistent with the need to protect sources and methods.  We can trust the American people with knowing what to do with the information they receive and making those decisions for themselves. But they cannot do so if they are kept in the dark about what our adversaries are doing, and how they are doing it.  When it comes to American elections, Americans must decide.”

 

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) released the following statement after the Senate approved the FY21 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA):

“I’m pleased that the defense bill I voted for provides a 3 percent pay raise for our servicemembers in addition to supporting many critical priorities for the Commonwealth. The legislation authorizes $240 million in military construction projects throughout Virginia and funds advance procurement for a second Virginia-class submarine to support our nation’s military readiness – something I pushed for after it was originally excluded from the President’s defense budget,” said Sen. Warner.

After successfully passing into law reforms to fix the deplorable housing conditions in privatized military housing across the Commonwealth, I have been keeping the pressure up to ensure servicemembers and their families can feel safe in their homes. I’m pleased to report that the defense bill includes language to help guarantee that the private housing companies and the military services meet their obligations,” Sen. Warner said. But our work to ensure our servicemembers feel safe also extends to their time on-duty. That’s why I successfully pushed for a provision mandating reporting on instances of racism and discrimination that our men and women in uniform may encounter while serving our country, and why I’ve been outspoken about giving our military leadership the tools and information they need to combat these destructive biases.”

“And after pushing the Administration for years to extend benefits to Vietnam veterans suffering from health conditions associated with their exposure to Agent Orange, I commend my colleagues for joining me in successfully pushing to add Bladder Cancer, Hypothyroidism, and Parkinsonism to the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) list of service-connected presumptive conditions related to Agent Orange exposure,” continued Sen. Warner, who has repeatedly urged the Trump Administration to stop stonewalling critical benefits to Vietnam veterans suffering from health conditions associated with their exposure to Agent Orange.

In March, a U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) study found deficiencies in the Department of Defense’s (DoD) oversight of privatized military housing, concluding that the DoD lacked reliable information to provide a full picture of the conditions of privatized housing. Currently, the military departments use a range of project-specific performance metrics to monitor private housing companies’ performance. However, the metrics used, while designed to focus on resident satisfaction and on the quality of the maintenance conducted on housing units, do not always provide meaningful information or reflect actual housing conditions. For example, the GAO found that a common indicator is how quickly the private partner responded to a work order, rather than whether the issue was actually addressed. Ultimately, these metrics matter because they feed into decisions around whether privatized housing companies earn performance incentive fees.

To improve this gap in housing condition metrics, Sen. Warner’s provision in the defense bill requires that the military services review the indicators underlying the privatized housing project performance metrics to ensure they adequately measure the condition and quality of the home. Additionally, the provision requires the Secretary of Defense to publish in DoD’s Military Housing Privatization Initiative Performance Evaluation Report underlying performance metrics for each project, in order for Congress to provide effective oversight. 

In the wake of nationwide protests on racial injustice and reports of growing white nationalist extremism, Sen. Warner pushed to mandate reporting on whether servicemembers have faced “racist, anti-Semitic, or supremacist activity” while on duty. Sen. Warner’s bipartisan amendment builds upon an existing DoD requirement to include in appropriate surveys more detailed information on whether military personnel “have ever experienced or witnessed [or reported] extremist activity in the workplace.” Additionally, in an effort to create a more inclusive and diverse workforce within the Pentagon, Sen. Warner successfully included a provision that would require the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to do a diversity and inclusion study to analyze the makeup of the workforce, as well as differences in rates of promotion by race, ethnicity and gender, to help develop a stronger and more diverse pipeline of career professionals.

Warner, the Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, also applauded the inclusion in this year’s defense bill of the Intelligence Authorization Act (IAA), as well as his legislation to bolster America’s 5G capabilities and secure the semiconductor supply chain. Additionally, the Senate NDAA includes Vice Chairman Warner’s amendment to provide a secure Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF) space for flexible use across the intelligence community, DoD agencies and their contractors. Currently, each agency's SCIF space can only be used by its own personnel and contractors, leaving many secure spaces underutilized.

“This bill also makes critical investments in competing with China when it comes to next-generation 5G wireless technology by providing funding and a model for alternative, Western-driven innovation using an open-architecture, or Open-RAN, model,” said Warner, who co-founded the wireless company Nextel before entering public service. “I’m also pleased that Congress recognizes the need to secure our supply chain and bolster domestic manufacturing of semiconductors.”

The defense bill prioritizes U.S. innovation and technology development in the area of 5G and semiconductors, to compete with countries like China. As a former technology and telecommunications executive, Sen. Warner has pushed the Administration to develop a strategy to maintain our advantages in technological innovation, as well as to lead on 5G. Earlier this year, Sen. Warner teamed up with a bipartisan group of leading national security Senators to introduce the Utilizing Strategic Allied (USA) Telecommunications Act, a bill that would provide a $1 billion investment in Western-based alternatives to Chinese equipment providers such as Huawei and ZTE. Last month, Sen. Warner along with Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) introduced legislation to bring semiconductor manufacturing back to American soil by increasing federal incentives to stimulate advanced chip manufacturing, enable cutting-edge research and development, secure the supply chain, bring greater transparency to the microelectronics ecosystem, create American jobs, and ensure long-term national security. Language drawing on both proposals was included in the Senate-passed NDAA.

And while I’m glad this bill includes most of the Intelligence Authorization Act as it passed the Committee last month, with just 103 days until the presidential election, I am deeply disappointed that the Senate has failed to take one easy step to protect our democracy. By stripping the FIRE Act from this year’s defense bill, we’re essentially giving a green light to campaigns to accept foreign assistance,added Sen. Warner.

As the Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Sen. Warner pushed to include the Committee’s annual Intelligence Authorization Act (IAA) within the annual defense bill. The IAA includes several key priorities, including a bipartisan provision championed by Sen. Warner to protect the integrity of the security clearance process from being abused for political purposes, and to enhance contractor insider threat programs.

Sen. Warner’s legislation, the FIRE Act, which would require campaigns to report to the appropriate federal authorities any contacts from foreign nationals seeking to interfere in a presidential election, was included in the Committee-passed version of the IAA that passed on June 30. However, Senate Republicans forced the provision to be dropped from the bill before adding it to the NDAA. In addition, Senate Republicans stripped critical protections for whistleblowers who step forward to report wrongdoing within the intelligence community.

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Washington, D.C. — Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Acting Chairman Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Vice Chairman Mark Warner (D-VA) applauded the passage of the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021 (IAA) as part of the Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 National Defense Authorization Act. The bill, which was approved by the Committee on a bipartisan 14 - 1 vote on June 3, 2020, authorizes funding, provides legal authorities, and enhances Congressional oversight for the U.S. Intelligence Community.

“Last month, the Senate Intelligence Committee passed the IAA for Fiscal Year 2021 in overwhelming bipartisan fashion, and I applaud my Senate colleagues for supporting this critical legislation as part of the FY 2021 NDAA,” Acting Chairman Rubio said. “Our nation continues to face ever-expanding threats from hostile foreign actors, including China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea. It is vital that our Intelligence Community has the necessary resources, authorities, and personnel to protect America’s national security, and the Senate Intelligence Committee’s strong, bipartisan legislation does just that. Our bill also increases government efficiency and represents comprehensive Congressional oversight to ensure that these tools are executed responsibly and cost-effectively.” 

"I am proud to represent many of the men and women in the intelligence community who work every day to make our nation safer, and this bill furthers our bipartisan efforts to help them accomplish their mission,” Vice Chairman Warner said. “I am particularly pleased with the additional reforms we have made to the security clearance process, which continues a multi-year effort to bring that system into the 21st century. I would thank Acting Chairman Rubio and Senator Burr for working closely with me on this bill."

Background:

The IAA for Fiscal Year 2021 ensures that the Intelligence Community can continue its critical work for our country while Congress continues its oversight, including in the following key areas:

  • Confronting our adversaries’ attempts to compromise telecommunications and cybersecurity technology;
  • Development and deployment of secure 5G networks based in open-standards to compete with our adversaries;
  • Identifying corruption, influence operations, and information suppression by the Chinese government, in particular in this critical time for the people of Hong Kong;
  • Uncovering Russian and Eastern European oligarchs’ corruption and illegal activities;
  • Protecting against foreign influence threats and election interference on social media platforms;
  • Creating Intelligence Community-wide policies to facilitate sharing cleared contractor information with private companies to enhance the effectiveness of insider threat programs;
  • Requiring the publication of guidelines for granting, denying, or revoking a security clearance and preventing the revocation or denial of a clearance for reasons of discrimination, political beliefs, or retaliation; and
  • Advancing Intelligence Community hiring flexibilities, student loan repayment programs, and child care for IC personnel.

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and co-chair of the Senate Cybersecurity Caucus, issued the following statement after the United Kingdom announced its decision to ban Chinese equipment provider Huawei from its 5G wireless network:

“I welcome these developments in the UK and reiterate my hope that the Trump Administration will begin to engage multilaterally with like-minded allies on promoting secure and competitively-priced alternatives to Huawei equipment. My bipartisan legislation, the United Strategic Allied Telecommunications Act, would be a major step in the right direction and I hope to see it included, fully funded, in the eventual defense authorization act.”

Sen. Warner, a former telecommunications entrepreneur, has been outspoken about the dangers of allowing the use of Huawei equipment in U.S. telecommunications infrastructure and that of U.S. allies. In January, Sen. Warner expressed disappointment in the UK’s decision to allow Huawei to help build its 5G wireless network – a decision that was reversed in today’s announcement. 

Sen. Warner and a bipartisan group of leading national security Senators have introduced legislation to encourage and support U.S. innovation in the race for 5G, providing over $1 billion to invest in Western-based alternatives to Chinese equipment providers Huawei and ZTE. Last year, he and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) warned the Trump Administration against using Huawei as a bargaining chip in trade negotiations, and urged Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to reconsider Huawei’s inclusion in Canada’s 5G development, introduction and maintenance.

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), a member of the Senate Rules Committee responsible for election legislation, spoke on the Senate floor and warned of a rise in voter suppression tied to the coronavirus pandemic. He highlighted specific steps that states and the federal government should take to protect the right to vote, including implementing no-excuse absentee ballots, curbside voting, and expanded early voting opportunities.  

In a speech on the floor of the U.S. Senate, Sen. Warner said in part, “Americans must be able to exercise their right to vote in a way that is safe and secure this November. From Wisconsin to Georgia to Kentucky, we are already seeing a dangerous trend of making voters choose between their safety and their right to vote. And I fear that if we head into November without a plan… without a strategy for protecting the right to vote and ensuring equal access to the ballot box… we could see levels of voter suppression not seen since the Jim Crow era.”

He continued, If we are going to preserve the integrity of our elections and the trust of the American people, it is essential that states and the federal government adapt to the challenge of this pandemic and expand access to the ballot box. In short, we need to make it easier and safer for Americans to exercise their right to vote.”

In his remarks, Sen. Warner highlighted the ways that voter suppression efforts disproportionately harm the most vulnerable Americans—particularly voters in communities of color. According to a new report from the Brennan Center for Justice, Black voters, on average, wait 45 minutes longer to vote than white voters, and Latino voters wait 46 minutes longer.

Speaking about voter restrictions that have been implemented in the name of COVID-19 safety this year, Sen. Warner said: “We know who these restrictions disenfranchise: it’s the poor… it’s the elderly… it’s workers just getting off their shift. And disproportionately, it is Black and Latino voters who face the brunt of these restrictions.”

Last week, Sen. Warner led all Democrats on the Senate Rules Committee in calling for the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), the National Association of State Election Directors, and the National Association of Secretaries of State to work proactively to counter any attempts to suppress vulnerable and historically-disenfranchised voters during the COVID-19 crisis. The letter included a series of recommendations to prevent voter suppression.

 

The full text of Sen. Warner’s remarks as prepared for delivery appears below:

Mr./Madam President, I rise today because Americans must be able to exercise their right to vote in a way that is safe and secure this November.

From Wisconsin to Georgia to Kentucky, we are already seeing a dangerous trend of making voters choose between their safety and their right to vote.

And I fear that if we head into November without a plan… without a strategy for protecting the right to vote and ensuring equal access to the ballot box… we could see levels of voter suppression not seen since the Jim Crow era.

It is true, we are in uncharted territory due to COVID-19. Of course, we must make sure that voters and poll workers are protected. We must make sure that polling places do not become another vector for spreading the virus.

But the way we do that is not by restricting access to the ballot box. Not in the United States of America. That is not how the world’s greatest democracy should meet this challenge.

Mr. President, if we are going to preserve the integrity of our elections… and the trust of the American people… it is essential that states and the federal government adapt to the challenge of this pandemic and expand access to the ballot box.

In short, we need to make it easier and safer for Americans to exercise their right to vote.

The good news is, we don’t have to reinvent the wheel. A number of states—red, blue, purple—have adopted a range of ‘convenience voting’ procedures that work quite well. Some of those procedures including ample early voting opportunities and no-excuse absentee ballots… both of which reduce the risk that voters will be forced to break social distancing guidance in order to vote. 

In my home state of Virginia, we have curb-side voting for seniors and people with disabilities.

This has greatly expanded access to the ballot for Virginians with health issues that prevent them from going into a polling place. 

Every single state already has some form of convenience voting… to support voters who can’t make it to the polls on Election Day. And every election cycle, Americans securely cast millions of votes using these programs. 

We need to build on the success of these programs to ensure that every voter, regardless of circumstance, can safely and easily vote in our elections.

Unfortunately, despite these effective and secure tools at our disposal, we have also seen states implement restrictions in the name of safety that have disenfranchised far too many Americans.

In Wisconsin’s April primary, for example, Milwaukee reduced its number of polling places from 180 to just 5 locations. We saw similar moves this month in Georgia and Kentucky.

We know who these restrictions disenfranchise: it’s the poor… it’s the elderly… it’s workers just getting off their shift. And disproportionately, it is Black and Latino voters who face the brunt of these restrictions.

According to a new report from the Brennan Center, Black voters, on average, wait 45 minutes longer to vote than white voters. And Latino voters wait 46 minutes longer.

This is not right, Mr. President. We have a moral obligation to make sure that our tools to counter COVID-19 are not used to intimidate and suppress voters.

Just last week, Senator Klobuchar and I sent letters raising the warning that bad actors could use testing, immunity and protective equipment as a pretense to turn away voters or increase the difficulty of reaching the ballot box on Election Day.

Ideally, our elections officials could come together around a national strategy… of preparing every polling place and precinct… for administering our elections during a pandemic.

Unfortunately, there are those, including the President, who have tried to politicize this issue. In fact, we’ve seen the President spreading utter misinformation about mail-in voting.

The President seems to have forgotten that he has voted by mail in the last three elections. But what he fundamentally fails to understand is that the right to vote belongs to the voters, not to the politicians. It is our job to make sure Americans can exercise their rights in a way that is safe and secure.

Mr. President, that’s why Congress must rise to the occasion and ensure Americans can vote safely and securely.

The time is now to start serious preparations on contingencies to protect our elections from both the pandemic and those who would take advantage of it. I am a sponsor of the bill Sen. Klobuchar has tried to UC tonight, and I am disappointed it was blocked from passing.

I look forward to continuing with this group and the rest of our colleagues to do so. Thank you. 

###

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va) joined Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) in an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act of 2021 (NDAA) that would require President Trump to unlock the full authority and power of the Defense Production Act to scale up nation-wide production of the testing supplies, personal protective equipment, and medical equipment needed at the local level to address the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“New coronavirus cases are rising in states across the country, which means we need more testing supplies, more testing, and more personal protective equipment for workers on the frontlines of this pandemic,” said Senator Baldwin. “President Trump’s response to this pandemic has been a failure of leadership, so this amendment will force action to increase national production of testing supplies, personal protective equipment, and medical equipment needed to save lives.”

The amendment includes legislation she introduced in April with Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT). The Medical Supply Transparency and Delivery Act requires the president to utilize all available authorities under the Defense Production Act to mobilize a federal response to the pandemic through an equitable and transparent process. Key parts of Baldwin’s legislation are included in the House-passed HEROES Act, but the Republican majority in the Senate has failed to take action on the legislation.

In addition to Sen. Warner, the amendment is cosponsored by Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Senators Chris Murphy (D-CT), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Kamala D. Harris (D-CA), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Doug Jones (D-AL), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Ed Markey (D-MA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). 

The NDAA is being considered on the Senate floor this week.

The full amendment is available here.

 

###

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI) and Bob Menendez (D-NJ) pressed Facebook regarding its failure to prevent the propagation of white supremacist groups online and its role in providing such groups with the organizational infrastructure and reach needed to expand. In a letter to CEO Mark Zuckerberg, the Senators criticized Facebook for being unable or unwilling to enforce its own Community Standards and purge white supremacist and other violent extremist content from the site. They also called on Zuckerberg to answer a series of questions regarding Facebook’s policies and procedures against hate speech, violence, white supremacy and the amplification of extremist content.

“The United States is going through a long-overdue examination of the systemic racism prevalent in our society. Americans of all races, ages, and backgrounds have bravely taken to the streets to demand equal justice for all,” wrote the Senators. “While Facebook has attempted to publicly align itself with this movement, its failure to address the hate spreading on its platform reveals significant gaps between Facebook’s professed commitment to racial justice and the company’s actions and business interests.”

Citing reports by the Tech Transparency project and other numerous investigative reports, the Senators highlighted ways in which right-wing extremist groups have used Facebook as a recruitment and organizational tool. They also underscored Facebook’s own contributions to the public safety problem, which include autogenerating pages for white supremacist organizations, promoting white supremacist pages and even directing users who visit these groups to other extremist or far-right content.

“This evidence stands in marked contrast to Facebook’s professed commitment to combat extremism by redirecting users who search for terms associated with white supremacy or hate groups to the page for ‘Life After Hate,’ an organization that promotes tolerance,” the Senators added.  “The Tech Transparency Project found that Facebook directed users to the ‘Life After Hate’ page in only six percent of the searches for white supremacist organizations.”

Sens. Warner, Hirono and Menendez also cited a number of instances where online radicalization facilitated by Facebook led to real life consequences, such as when three members of a “boogaloo” group on Facebook plotted to bring Molotov cocktails to a Black Lives Matter Protest, or when Air Force Staff Sergeant Steven Carrillo used Facebook to talk about committing violent acts and to meet the individual who eventually drove his getaway van after Carrillo shot and killed a federal security officer. 

In the letter, the Senators requested answers to the following questions by July 10th:

  1. Does Facebook affirm its policy against hate speech and will it seriously enforce this policy?
  2. What procedures has Facebook put in place to identify and remove hate speech from its platform? To what degree do these procedures differ with respect to public Facebook pages and private groups?
  3. Does Facebook affirm its policy against violence and incitement and will it seriously enforce this policy?
  4. What procedures has Facebook put in place to identify and remove violence and incitement from its platform? To what degree do these procedures differ with respect to public Facebook pages and private groups?
  5. Does Facebook affirm its commitment to ban “praise, support and representation of white nationalism and white separatism on Facebook and Instagram” as detailed in the company’s May 27, 2019 post and will it seriously enforce this commitment?
  6. What steps has Facebook implemented since announcing this policy to remove “praise, support and representation of white nationalism and white separatism on Facebook and Instagram?”
  7. Please provide our offices with any Facebook internal research concerning the platform’s amplification of extremist groups.
  8. How often are you personally briefed on the status of domestic extremist and white supremacist groups on Facebook and the platform’s efforts to address these groups?
  9. Who is the senior-most Facebook official responsible for addressing white supremacist groups’ activity on Facebook and which Facebook executive does this employee report directly to?
  10. What role did Vice President of Global Public Policy Joel Kaplan play in Facebook’s decision to shut down and de-prioritize internal efforts to contain extremist and hyperpolarizing activity on Facebook?
  11. What role did Mr. Kaplan play in the participation of the Daily Caller, an outlet with longstanding ties to white nationalist groups, in Facebook’s fact-checking program?
  12. When violent extremist groups actively and openly use a platform’s tools to coordinate violence, should federal law continue to protect the platform from civil liability for its role in facilitating that activity?

A copy of the letter is available here and below.

 

Dear Mr. Zuckerberg:

We write to express our serious concerns about Facebook’s lack of action to prevent white supremacist groups from using the platform as a recruitment and organizational tool. The United States is going through a long-overdue examination of the systemic racism prevalent in our society. Americans of all races, ages, and backgrounds have bravely taken to the streets to demand equal justice for all. While Facebook has attempted to publicly align itself with this movement,[1] its failure to address the hate spreading on its platform reveals significant gaps between Facebook’s professed commitment to racial justice and the company’s actions and business interests.

On April 22, a full month before Americans started recent protests for racial justice, the Tech Transparency Project issued a report detailing the ways right-wing extremist groups were using Facebook to plan a militant uprising in the United States in response to stay-at-home orders issued to cope with the coronavirus pandemic.[2] The organization’s research uncovered “125 Facebook groups devoted to the ‘boogaloo,’” a term with ties to white supremacist movements used to describe a coming civil war.[3] Many of the groups’ posts were explicit in their calls for violence, including discussions of “tactical strategies, combat medicine, and various types of weapons, including how to develop explosives and the merits of using flame throwers.”[4] The groups experienced unchecked growth in the months leading up to the report and remained on Facebook at least as of early June,[5] despite Facebook’s prior claims that it was “studying trends around [boogaloo] and related terms on Facebook and Instagram” and that it “do[es]n’t allow speech used to incite hate or violence, and will remove any content that violates our policies.”[6]

A subsequent report issued on May 21 provided further detail regarding the extent of Facebook’s white-supremacist problem—and Facebook’s lack of attention to this public safety problem.[7] The Tech Transparency Project found that 113 of the 221 white supremacist organizations designated as hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League—a staggering 51%—have a presence on Facebook.[8] Many of the organizations’ pages were actually auto-generated by Facebook after a Facebook user identified a white supremacist or neo-Nazi organization as his or her employer.[9] Perhaps more troubling, Facebook actively promoted these and other white supremacist sites. According to the Tech Transparency Project, “Facebook’s ‘Related Pages’ feature often directed users visiting white supremacist Pages to other extremist or far-right content, raising concerns that the platform is contributing to radicalization.”[10] 

The Tech Transparency Project report echoes similar findings by the Southern Poverty Law Center (which has also tracked how these groups spread dangerous misinformation about COVID-19 on Facebook),[11] along with several investigative news reports.[12] One investigative report even concluded that Facebook served as a key recruitment tool for right-wing militia groups to recruit police officers to their movements.[13]Facebook is hardly a passive actor in this context: a recent exposé by The Wall Street Journal revealed that Facebook’s own researchers had found that “64% of all extremist group joins are due to our recommendation tools.”[14] The report concluded that Facebook senior executives shut down efforts to reform the platform’s tendency to amplify hyperpolarized and extremist content after Vice President of Global Public Policy Joel Kaplan deemed the efforts “paternalistic.”[15]

This evidence stands in marked contrast to Facebook’s professed commitment to combat extremism by redirecting users who search for terms associated with white supremacy or hate groups to the page for “Life After Hate,” an organization that promotes tolerance.[16] The Tech Transparency Project found that Facebook directed users to the “Life After Hate” page in only six percent of the searches for white supremacist organizations.[17]

Unfortunately, the online radicalization facilitated by Facebook can lead to deadly consequences. On June 16, federal authorities charged Air Force Staff Sergeant Steven Carrillo with the June shooting death of a federal security officer outside a courthouse in Oakland.[18] Authorities also charged the driver of the getaway van,Robert Alvin Justus.[19] Justus and Carrillo had met on Facebook.[20] According to the criminal complaint against Carrillo, a search of Carrillo’s Facebook account revealed not only communications with Justus, but instances where Carrillo expressed his intention to commit violent acts.[21]

In another instance in early June, federal authorities arrested three men on charges that they planned to bring Molotov cocktails to a Black Lives Matter protest.[22] All three were members of a boogaloo group on Facebook.[23] According to the Tech Transparency Project, one of the men arrested was a member of two private boogaloo groups identified in Tech Transparency Project’s April 22 report.[24] Following reporting in the Huffington Post and other media outlets, a Facebook representative told Huffington Post on April 23, “[w]e’ve removed groups and Pages who’ve used [boogaloo] and related terms for violating our policies.”[25] Yet, according to the complaint, the three men used a different online group—a Nevada boogaloo Facebook group—to facilitate organizing a planned attack on the march.[26]

The prevalence of white supremacist and other extremist content on Facebook—and the ways in which these groups have been able to use the platform as organizing infrastructure—is unacceptable. Facebook’s Community Standards expressly state:  “We do not allow hate speech on Facebook.”[27] In a March 27, 2019 post, Facebook made clear that this prohibition “has always included white supremacy.”[28] At that same time, Facebook expanded its prohibition to include “praise, support and representation of white nationalism and white separatism.”[29] And the Community Standards purport to prohibit “organizations and individuals that proclaim a violent mission,” including “organized hate” groups.[30]

In light of these clear policies—and others against “Violence and Incitement” and “Dangerous Individuals and Organizations”—we are concerned Facebook is unable (or unwilling) to enforce its own Community Standards[31] and rid itself of white supremacist and other extremist content. 

We request that you to answer the following questions by July 10, 2020:

  1. Does Facebook affirm its policy against hate speech and will it seriously enforce this policy?[32]
  2. What procedures has Facebook put in place to identify and remove hate speech from its platform? To what degree do these procedures differ with respect to public Facebook pages and private groups?
  3. Does Facebook affirm its policy against violence and incitement and will it seriously enforce this policy?[33]
  4. What procedures has Facebook put in place to identify and remove violence and incitement from its platform? To what degree do these procedures differ with respect to public Facebook pages and private groups?
  5. Does Facebook affirm its commitment to ban “praise, support and representation of white nationalism and white separatism on Facebook and Instagram” as detailed in the company’s May 27, 2019 post[34]and will it seriously enforce this commitment?
  6. What steps has Facebook implemented since announcing this policy to remove “praise, support and representation of white nationalism and white separatism on Facebook and Instagram?”
  7. Please provide our offices with any Facebook internal research concerning the platform’s amplification of extremist groups.
  8. How often are you personally briefed on the status of domestic extremist and white supremacist groups on Facebook and the platform’s efforts to address these groups?
  9. Who is the senior-most Facebook official responsible for addressing white supremacist groups’ activity on Facebook and which Facebook executive does this employee report directly to?
  10. What role did Vice President of Global Public Policy Joel Kaplan play in Facebook’s decision to shut down and de-prioritize internal efforts to contain extremist and hyperpolarizing activity on Facebook?[35]
  11. What role did Mr. Kaplan play in the participation of the Daily Caller, an outlet with longstanding ties to white nationalist groups,[36] in Facebook’s fact-checking program?
  12. When violent extremist groups actively and openly use a platform’s tools to coordinate violence, should federal law continue to protect the platform from civil liability for its role in facilitating that activity? 

Thank you in advance for your attention to this critical matter. 

Sincerely,

 

###

 

WASHINGTON – Today U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), the Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, spoke on the Senate floor and offered an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) aimed at preventing foreign election interference. The amendment would incorporate into the annual defense bill Sen. Warner’s Foreign Influence Reporting in Elections (FIRE) Act, which would require campaigns to report to the appropriate federal authorities any contacts from foreign nationals seeking to interfere in a presidential election.

The FIRE Act was initially set to be included in the NDAA as part of Intelligence Authorization Act (IAA), which passed out of the Senate Intelligence Committee earlier this month and was later incorporated into the NDAA. Over the weekend, Senate GOP leadership removed the FIRE Act from the NDAA, which is currently being debated on the Senate floor.   

Sen. Warner, who has attempted to pass the FIRE Act several times over Republican objections in the past year, took to the Senate floor today to decry the backroom deal and offer the FIRE Act as a floor amendment, setting the stage for a possible up-or-down vote in the coming week.  

In a speech on the floor of the U.S. Senate, Sen. Warner said in part, “In a different time, with a different president, this bill would not be controversial. It would simply say to all presidential campaigns going forward: if a foreign power reaches out to your campaign offering assistance or offering dirt on a political opponent, the appropriate response is not to say ‘thank you.’ The appropriate response is to call the FBI. What a sad statement about partisan politics in our country, when we can’t even agree on that.”

He continued, The [Intelligence] Committee voted 14-1 to pass an intel authorization bill that included theFIRE Act. So, you can imagine my surprise and frustration when I learned of a backroom deal to strip the FIRE Act out of the Intelligence Committee’s legislation because of a supposed turf war with another Committee. Mr. President, I am back again today because the security of our elections cannot wait. Let’s not hide behind process and turf wars. The stakes are far too high to continue the partisan blockade of election security legislation that we’ve seen over the last three years.” 

The full text of Sen. Warner’s remarks as prepared for delivery appears below:

 

Mr. President, I’m here today because I fear the Senate is about to fail once again…to protect our elections from foreign interference.

For the last three years, I’ve worked as Vice Chairman of the Intel committee to investigate Russia’s attack on our democracy in 2016. We are the only bipartisan investigation of Russian election interference to make it to the finish line. 

Any member of the public can read our declassified conclusions. And any member of this body can read additional classified materials. 

Our report offers a stark warning of Russia’s intent to interfere in future U.S. elections… and a clear roadmap for how to defend our democracy from Russia or other adversaries copying their playbook. 

Unfortunately, the White House and the leadership of the United States Senate seem to be the only ones not taking this threat seriously. Since 2016, this body has failed to vote on a single piece of standalone election security legislation. 

So, four times in the last year, I have come to the floor in an attempt to pass my bipartisan election security legislation, known as the FIRE Act, by unanimous consent. 

And each time, those efforts were blocked by my Republican colleagues— earning applause from the President on Twitter. 

In a different time, with a different President, this bill would not be controversial.

It would simply say to all Presidential campaigns going forward: if a foreign power reaches out to your campaign offering assistance…or offering dirt on a political opponent the appropriate response is not to say ‘thank you.’ The appropriate response is to call the FBI

What a sad statement about partisan politics in our country when we can’t even agree on that.

Mr. President, I introduced this bipartisan legislation months before the facts came to light… about the President pressuring Ukraine into announcing politically motivated investigations into the Bidens. 

I’m not here to rehash the impeachment trial, but I do want to note one thing.

A number of my Republican colleagues justified their votes by saying that, while not impeachable, it was wrong for the President to solicit foreign interference in our elections.

I take my colleagues across the aisle at their word that they believe foreign interference has no place in our elections.

But at some point, you have to put your money where your mouth is. 

We know the President tried to trade election favors with Ukraine. According to the new book from John Bolton, the President tried to trade political favors with Xi Jinping during trade negotiations. Maybe that happened, maybe it didn’t. 

But I’d be much more inclined to give the President the benefit of the doubt, if he hadn’t asked China to investigate the Bidens on national television; if he hadn’t asked Russia to hack Hillary Clinton’s emails during the 2016 campaign; or if he’d shown even a shred of interest in defending our democracy from foreign interference over the last four years.

Mr. President, we are under attack from adversaries who see this new era of cyberwarfare and disinformation as a golden opportunity to undermine American democracy. 

We cannot afford to have a system that allows Presidential candidates to welcome this interference with open arms. If we can’t trust the President of the United States and his campaign to do the right thing and report foreign interference, then we need to require it by law.

I’ve spent over a year inviting my colleagues across the aisle to work with us on this already bipartisan legislation. I’ve answered every objection and worked through the right channels to get this legislation to the floor as part of the NDAA.

We went back to the Intelligence Committee—the only committee engaged in serious efforts to prevent foreign election interference. We made sure that this year’s intel authorization bill included several provisions to strengthen our defenses ahead of the November elections.

The Committee voted 14-1 to pass an intel authorization bill that included the FIRE Act. 

So, you can imagine my surprise and frustration when I learned of a backroom deal to strip the FIRE Act out of the Intelligence Committee’s legislation… because of a supposed turf war with another Committee.  

So, Mr. President, I am back again today because the security of our elections cannot wait. Let’s not hide behind process and turf wars. The stakes are far too high to continue the partisan blockade of election security legislation that we’ve seen over the last three years.

If my Republican colleagues want to strip this legislation out of the NDAA behind closed doors, then I’m going to offer it as an amendment… force an up-or-down vote and put every member of this body on the record. 

More than ever, it is time to put country over party… and defend our democracy from those who would do it harm. I encourage my colleagues to support this amendment and send a clear message: foreign interference has no place in our elections.  

###

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) joined Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and 18 of their Senate colleagues in urging the Trump Administration to grant emergency refugee protections to Sikh and Hindu communities in Afghanistan facing persecution as religious minorities. In a bipartisan letter addressed to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the senators called on the State Department to prioritize resettlement opportunities under the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program allocation ceilings for Afghan Sikh and Hindu communities, whose populations have plummeted markedly due to years of persecution by the Taliban and more recent terrorist actions perpetrated by ISIS Khorasan (ISIS-K).

“This Administration has repeatedly highlighted protecting religious freedom as a top foreign policy priority,” the senators wrote. “Sikh and Hindu communities in Afghanistan face an existential threat from ISIS-K because of their religion. To protect religious freedom, we urgently ask that you take these essential steps to defend these threatened religious minorities.” 

The letter also calls on Secretary Pompeo to offer additional support to members of the Sikh and Hindu communities that choose to remain in Afghanistan, and to ensure that Afghan religious minorities benefit from the $20.6 million in American aid already provided to address COVID-19.

“Ensuring that religious minorities receive U.S. COVID-19 assistance should be a priority in all countries where protection of religious minorities is a challenge,” the senators added.

Joining Sens. Warner and Menendez in signing the letter were Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sens. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), and James Lankford (R-Okla.).

A copy of the letter may be found below:

 

Dear Secretary Pompeo: 

We are writing to express our concern about the serious threats facing religious minorities in Afghanistan. Terrorist attacks by ISIS Khorasan (ISIS-K) threaten the very survival of Afghanistan’s Sikh and Hindu communities, which have already reached historically low numbers. To protect members of these vulnerable religious minority communities, we urge the State Department to provide emergency refugee protection to Afghanistan’s Sikhs and Hindus as they face terrorist violence at the hands of ISIS-K. We further urge the State Department and USAID to ensure that U.S. COVID-19 assistance reaches religious minorities in Afghanistan.

ISIS-K targets religious minorities in Afghanistan and poses an existential threat to Afghanistan’s Sikh and Hindu communities in particular. The Sikh and Hindu communities once numbered around 250,000 people but now have fewer than 1,000 individuals due to decades of persecution. The communities continue to face discrimination in access to housing and employment, and the Taliban has previously mandated that Sikhs and Hindus wear yellow armbands or patches as a marker of their religious status. In recent years a new threat to Afghanistan’s Sikh and Hindu communities has emerged: terrorist attacks from ISIS-K. In March, ISIS-K launched an attack on a Sikh gurdwara in Kabul that killed 25 worshippers, and later detonated an explosion during a funeral service for those victims. As ISIS-K continues to attack civilians and international troops draw down in Afghanistan, Sikhs and Hindus are likely to face more violence.

In light of this existential threat, we urge the State Department to provide emergency refugee protection to Afghanistan’s Sikhs and Hindus by referring them to the FY20 U.S. Refugee Admissions Program through Priority 1 (P1) embassy referrals. We further request that the Department consider designating this group for Priority 2 (P2) referrals. We believe the potential to eliminate this population of less than 1,000 people represents a dire circumstance that requires both the urgency of individual P1 referrals as well as access to the P2 designation. A P2 designation would maximize opportunities for resettlement of Afghanistan’s Sikhs and Hindus under the FY20 allocations ceilings for the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program, including the allocation for refugees who “have been persecuted or have a well-founded fear of persecution on account of religion.” For members of the Sikh and Hindu communities who prefer to remain in Afghanistan despite this existential threat, we urge State to work with the Government of Afghanistan to ensure that it provides proper protection for these communities.

In addition, the United States has provided $20.6 million in total assistance to Afghanistan to address COVID-19. We urge the State Department and USAID to ensure that religious minorities in Afghanistan benefit from this assistance, as well as from any future COVID-19 assistance sent there. Ensuring that religious minorities receive U.S. COVID-19 assistance should be a priority in all countries where protection of religious minorities is a challenge.

Finally, we recommend that you engage with other members of the International Religious Freedom Alliance and encourage them to help ensure the security of vulnerable religious minorities in Afghanistan in the face of this existential threat.

This Administration has repeatedly highlighted protecting religious freedom as a top foreign policy priority. Sikh and Hindu communities in Afghanistan face an existential threat from ISIS-K because of their religion. To protect religious freedom, we urgently ask that you take these essential steps to defend these threatened religious minorities. 

Sincerely,

###

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX)  today introduced the Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors (CHIPS) for America Act, which would restore semiconductor manufacturing back to American soil by increasing federal incentives to stimulate advanced chip manufacturing, enable cutting-edge research and development, secure the supply chain and bring greater transparency to the microelectronics ecosystem, create American jobs, and ensure long-term national security. U.S. Representative Doris Matsui (CA-6) and House Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking Member Michael McCaul (TX-10) will introduce this legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives tomorrow. 

“America’s innovation in semiconductors undergirds our entire innovation economy, driving the advances we see in autonomous vehicles, supercomputing, augmented reality, IoT devices and more. Unfortunately, our complacency has allowed our competitors – including adversaries – to catch up. This bill reinvests in this national priority, providing targeted tax incentives for advanced manufacturing in the US, funding basic research in microelectronics, and emphasizing the need for multilateral engagement with our allies in bringing greater transparency and attention to security and integrity threats to the global supply chain,” said Sen. Warner.

“Semiconductors underpin nearly all innovation today and are critical to U.S. communications and defense computing capabilities. While Texas has been a leader in manufacturing this technology and the U.S. leads the world in chip design, most of those chips are manufactured outside the United States,” said Sen. Cornyn. “This legislation would help stimulate advanced semiconductor manufacturing capabilities domestically, secure the supply chain, and ensure U.S. maintains our lead in design while creating jobs, lowering our reliance on other countries for advanced chip fabrication, and strengthening national security.” 

“As the global economy becomes more interconnected, it is essential that the U.S. maintains the ability to produce the hardware that our high-tech economy depends on. Semiconductors are fundamental components of our phones, medical devices, and the future of quantum computing,” said Congresswoman Matsui. “In order for the U.S. to stay at the forefront of this strategically important industry, we must ensure that we lead from research and development all the way to the assembly line. The CHIPS for America Act will make needed investments in this essential hardware, allowing our domestic industry to continue to innovate and thrive.”

“Ensuring our leadership in the future design, manufacturing, and assembly of cutting edge semiconductors will be vital to United States national security and economic competitiveness. As the Chinese Communist Party aims to dominate the entire semiconductor supply chain, it is critical that we supercharge our industry here at home. In addition to securing our technological future, the CHIPS Act will create thousands of high-paying U.S. jobs and ensure the next generation of semiconductors are produced in the US, not China,” said Rep. McCaul.

The CHIPS For America Act: 

  • Creates a 40-percent refundable ITC for qualified semiconductor equipment (placed in service) or any qualified semiconductor manufacturing facility investment expenditures through 2024. The ITC is reduced to 30 percent in 2025, 20 percent in 2026, and phases out in 2027. 
  • Directs the Secretary of Commerce to create a $10 billion federal match program that matches state and local incentives offered to a company for the purposes of building a semiconductor foundry with advanced manufacturing capabilities.
  • Creates a new NIST Semiconductor Program to support advanced manufacturing in America. The program’s funds will also support STEM workforce development, ecosystem clustering, U.S. 5G leadership, and advanced assembly and test.
  • Authorizes funding for DOD to execute research, development, workforce training, test, and evaluation for programs, projects, and activities in connection with semiconductor technologies and direct the implementation of a plan to utilize Defense Production Act Title III funding to establish and enhance a domestic semiconductor production capability.
  • Requires the Secretary of Commerce to complete a report within 90 days to assess the capabilities of the U.S. industrial base to support the national defense in light of the global nature of the supply chain and significant interdependencies between the U.S. industrial base and that of foreign countries as it relates to microelectronics.
  • Establishes a trust fund in the amount of $750M over ten years to be allocated upon reaching an agreement with foreign government partners to participate in a consortium in order to promote consistency in policies related to microelectronics, greater transparency in microelectronic supply chains, and greater alignment in policies towards non-market economies. To incentivize multilateral participation, a common funding mechanism is established to use this fund to support the development of secure microelectronics and secure microelectronics supply chains. A report to Congress is required for each year funding is available. 
  • Directs the President to establish, through the National Science and Technology Council, a Subcommittee on Semiconductor Leadership responsible for the development of a national semiconductor research strategy to ensure U.S. leadership in semiconductor technology and innovation, which is critical to American economic growth and national security, and to coordinate semiconductor research and development.
  • Creates new R&D streams to ensure U.S. leadership in semiconductor technology and innovation is critical to American economic growth and national security:
    • $2 billion to implement the Electronics Resurgence Initiative of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.
    • $3 billion to implement semiconductor basic research programs at the National Science Foundation.
    • $2 billion to implement semiconductor basic research programs at the Department of Energy.
    • $5 billion to establish an Advanced Packaging National Manufacturing Institute under the Department of Commerce to establish U.S. leadership in advanced microelectronic packaging and, in coordination with the private sector, to promote standards development, foster private-public partnerships, create R&D programs to advance technology, create an investment fund ($500M) to support domestic advanced microelectronic packaging ecosystem, and work with the Secretary of Labor on establishing workforce training programs and apprenticeships in advanced microelectronic packaging capabilities.

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, was joined by Senate Intelligence Committee members Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Angus King (I-ME), and Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI), Ranking Member of Senate Armed Services Committee, in urging the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) to ensure than any potential plan to withdraw military personnel from Afghanistan is orderly, conditions-based, and planned in conjunction with military and diplomatic counterparts. The letter comes shortly after reports revealed that President Trump is considering a withdrawal of U.S. forces November of 2020 – without regard for the conditions on the ground and much earlier than the timeline established in the Taliban peace agreement that was signed earlier this year.

“While we support the goal of bringing the war in Afghanistan to a responsible end, we are concerned that a repeat of our hastily-announced withdrawal from Syria could needlessly put more American lives at risk, increase the threat to allies and partners participating in the Resolute Support Mission, and squander important intelligence relationships and counterterrorism operations,” wrote the Senators in the letter to DNI John Ratcliffe. “A rushed and premature withdrawal would also risk losing the gains we have achieved in Afghanistan, not only in counterterrorism but also in building Afghan governance and military forces.”

“We urge you to ensure the Administration has access to the best intelligence available regarding stability and governance in Afghanistan, the threat posed by groups like the Haqqani Taliban Network, al-Qa‘ida, and ISIS, and the risk posed by a precipitous U.S. withdrawal,” they continued.

In their letter, the Senators emphasized the need to give American intelligence professionals the time and space needed to plan for an organized drawdown, and prevent a rash withdrawal similar to the situation in October 2019, where President Trump decided to hastily withdraw U.S. forces from Syria, surprising U.S. and allied personnel in the region and disrupting operations to defeat ISIS.

Additionally, the Senators requested that DNI Ratcliffe provide an update on the Intelligence Community’s force posture plans for Afghanistan – including a detailed description of future basing and personnel plans, security procedures, options for continued partner engagement, and intelligence collection contingencies – if the decision is made to withdraw the U.S. military by November.

A copy of the letter can be found here and below.

 

Dear Director Ratcliffe:

As you begin your tenure as Director of National Intelligence, we request that you actively represent the interests of the Intelligence Community as the Administration plans a potential withdrawal from Afghanistan. 

On February 29, 2020, the United States and the Taliban signed an agreement stipulating that our government would remove all military personnel from the country in 12 to 14 months, based on conditions on the ground.  However, recent media reporting indicates that President Trump is seeking to expedite this process, and has requested plans to execute a complete U.S. military withdrawal by November.

During your confirmation hearing last month, you testified that you disagreed with the President’s October 2019 decision to precipitously withdraw U.S. forces from Syria – a move that surprised U.S. and allied personnel in the region, and disrupted operations to defeat ISIS.

While we support the goal of bringing the war in Afghanistan to a responsible end, we are concerned that a repeat of our hastily-announced withdrawal from Syria could needlessly put more American lives at risk, increase the threat to allies and partners participating in the Resolute Support Mission, and squander important intelligence relationships and counterterrorism operations.  A rushed and premature withdrawal would also risk losing the gains we have achieved in Afghanistan, not only in counterterrorism but also in building Afghan governance and military forces.  

Our nation’s intelligence professionals have spent nearly two decades establishing security arrangements with our Afghan partners.  Now, it is incumbent upon our government to give them the time and space to prepare for an orderly, conditions-based drawdown, in conjunction with military and diplomatic counterparts.

We urge you to ensure the Administration has access to the best intelligence available regarding stability and governance in Afghanistan, the threat posed by groups like the Haqqani Taliban Network, al-Qa‘ida, and ISIS, and the risk posed by a precipitous U.S. withdrawal.

Accordingly, we request that, at the earliest date possible, you update us on the Intelligence Community’s force posture planning for Afghanistan if the decision is made to withdraw the U.S. military by November.  Please include a detailed description of future basing and personnel plans, security procedures, options for continued partner engagement, and intelligence collection contingencies.

Thank you for your attention to this request.

Sincerely,

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