Press Releases

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, issued the following statement ahead of an expected vote this afternoon on S. 3436, a bill to require the imposition of sanctions with respect to entities responsible for the planning, construction, or operation of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline:

“The bellicose actions and rhetoric that we have seen from Vladimir Putin in recent months represent the latest in a long string of offensive actions by the Russian President. Russia’s armed buildup around Ukraine – on top of the continued occupation of eastern Ukraine and Crimea – represents a serious threat not just to Ukraine, but to the broader peace and stability of Europe, and of the world. The Biden administration is actively engaged in conversations with Russia and with our European partners and allies to de-escalate the situation.

“What the Senate should be doing is reinforcing those ongoing conversations. We could do that by passing legislation that makes clear that accelerated aggression towards Ukraine will only strengthen U.S. assistance for our Ukrainian partners, reinvigorate NATO’s collective defense posture, and bring about devastating consequences for the Russian economy.

“The bill that we’re considering today is neither well-targeted nor well-timed; in the midst of serious diplomatic conversations it takes a shot at our European allies and risks undercutting negotiations. I look forward to working with my bipartisan colleagues to continue advancing the strong support that exists for Ukraine, and backing a clear and resolute stance in opposition to Russian aggression.”

Yesterday, Chairman Warner joined Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and 24 of their Senate Democratic colleagues in introducing the Defending Ukraine Sovereignty Act of 2022, a bill to impose steep costs in the event of a renewed Kremlin invasion of Ukraine. 

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, joined Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and 24 of their Senate Democratic colleagues in introducing a bill to impose steep costs in the event of a renewed Kremlin invasion of Ukraine. This legislation to help deter a military escalation comes as the Kremlin continues to engage in an unjustified military build-up along Ukraine’s border. The proposal sends a clear message that the United States is prepared to impose devastating consequences for Putin and the Russian economy if he goes down the path of re-invading Ukraine.

“The bellicose actions and rhetoric that we have seen from Vladimir Putin in recent months represent the latest in a long string of offensive actions by the Russian President. Russia’s armed buildup around Ukraine – on top of their continued occupation of eastern Ukraine and Crimea – represents a serious threat not just to Ukraine, but to the broader peace and stability of Europe, and of the world,” said Sen. Warner. “This bill reinforces the message that the Biden administration must be conveying to Russia in face-to-face meetings this week – that accelerated aggression towards Ukraine will only strengthen U.S. assistance for our Ukrainian partners, reinvigorate NATO’s collective defense posture, and bring about devastating consequences for the Russian economy.”

Specifically, the Defending Ukraine Sovereignty Act of 2022 would impose crippling sanctions on the Russian banking sector and senior military and government officials in the case that President Putin chooses to escalate hostile action in or against Ukraine. The bill would also prohibit transactions on Russia’s primary and secondary sovereign debt and authorize sanctions on Russia’s extractive industries as well as on providers of specialized financial messaging services (e.g., SWIFT). To help meet urgent defense needs, the legislation calls upon the Departments of Defense and State to expedite transfer of defense articles to bolster Ukraine’s defense capabilities and authorizes $500 million in supplemental emergency security assistance to Ukraine in the event of a re-invasion by Russia. Lastly, the bill also expands U.S. efforts to counter Kremlin disinformation and strengthen ties with key regional partners facing Kremlin aggression.

As the top Democrat on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Sen. Warner co-led the Committee’s bipartisan investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. As a result of this investigation, the committee issued a comprehensive, five-volume report that concluded the Russian government engaged in an aggressive, multi-faceted effort to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election, and that the willingness of top officials on the Trump campaign to accept and even welcome Russian assistance represented a grave counterintelligence threat to our nation.

Text of the bill is available here.

 

The Defending Ukraine Sovereignty Act

Mandatory and Additional Sanctions in the Event of Renewed Invasion: If an affirmative determination made by the president that Russia has engaged in a renewed invasion or escalation of hostilities, the Defending Ukraine Sovereignty Act triggers a cascade of mandatory sanctions on Russia’s political and military leadership, financial institutions, extractive industries, and Nord Stream 2, outlined below.

  • Presidential Determination on Renewed Invasion or Escalation in Hostilities. Requires a Presidential determination as to whether the Russian government is engaged in or knowingly supporting a significant escalation in hostilities against Ukraine and whether the aim or effect of the escalation is to overthrow or dismantle the government of Ukraine, occupy Ukraine’s territory, or interfere with its territorial integrity.
  • Mandatory Sanctions on Officials: Requires sanctions on list of officials including President Putin, the Prime Minister, Foreign Minister, Minister of Defense, Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces, and commanders of various branches of the armed forces, including the airborne and naval forces.
  • Mandatory Sanctions on Financial Institutions: Requires the President to impose sanctions on three or more financial institutions from the following: Sberbank, VTB, Gazprombank, VEB.RF, The Russian Direct Investment Fund, Credit Bank of Moscow, Alfa Bank, Rosselkhozbank, FC Bank Otkritie, Promsvyazbank, Sovcombank, and Transkapitalbank.
  • SWIFT: Authorizes sanctions on providers of specialized financial messaging services (e.g., SWIFT), and requires reporting on efforts to terminate services for sanctioned Russian financial institutions.
  • Sovereign Debt: Prohibits transactions on primary and secondary Russian sovereign debt.
  • Additional Sanctions: Requires the President to identify and sanction sectors and industries the President determines should be sanctioned in the interest of United States national security, including oil and gas extraction and production; coal extraction, mining, and production; and minerals extraction and processing.
  • Nord Stream 2: Expresses the sense of Congress that Nord Stream 2 is a tool of malign influence of the Russian Federation, and that the United States should consider should consider all available and appropriate measures to prevent the Nord Stream 2 pipeline from becoming operational, and directs the administration to review its prior waiver of Nord Stream 2 in light of the Kremlin’s military buildup and aggression towards Ukraine.
  • Waivers and Exceptions: Provides the President with a national security waiver and provides the standard exceptions for authorized intelligence activities, compliance with international obligations, and law enforcement activities.

Expediting Security Assistance to Ukraine

  • Bolstering Ukraine’s Defenses: Directs State and DOD to develop a strategy to bolster Ukraine’s defense capabilities and enhance the delivery of security assistance to Ukraine, including meeting Ukraine’s most critical needs and coordinating with allies in providing immediate assistance to Ukraine.
  • Expediting Delivery of Defense Articles: Authorizes DOD and State to expedite procurement and delivery of defense articles and services for Ukraine, including through utilizing lease authority and the Special Defense Acquisition Fund.
  • Supplemental Security Assistance: Authorizes $500 million in supplemental emergency security assistance to Ukraine in the event Russia re-invades for fiscal year 2022 and authorizes $3 million international military and education training for Ukraine. Also makes clear that the U.S. should continue to provide robust security assistance to Ukraine in the meantime. 
  • Report on Increased Security Assistance to Ukraine: Requires a report on the security assistance and provision of defense articles provided to Ukraine by the United States and allies since Russia’s military buildup.

 

Countering Kremlin Aggression against Ukraine and Eastern European Allies

  • Combating Kremlin Disinformation: Directs State to use the Countering Russian Influence Fund to prioritize assisting Ukraine in combatting Russian disinformation.
  • Expanded Support for RFE/RL: Directs Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty to improve its reach to audiences on the periphery of Russia, authorizes the exploration of opening new bureaus to reach new audiences in the Eurasia region and encourages RFE/RL to evaluate where Russian information is most deeply pervasive in the Eurasia region.
  • Baltic Security and Economic Enhancement Initiative: Creates a new initiative to deepen security and economic ties with the Baltic states, including promoting the Baltic states’ resiliency against hybrid warfare, increasing interoperability with NATO forces, bolstering support for the Baltic region’s physical and energy security needs, and mitigating Russian and Chinese economic coercion against Baltic states.
  • European Security: Expresses the sense of Congress that the United States should work closely with NATO allies and the OSCE in any discussions on European security, and requires the Secretary of State to submit a strategy to Congress on future formats to discuss European security, including an assessment of whether Russia has sufficiently de-escalated tensions to merit such discussions.
  • Report on Russian Intelligence Services Destabilizing Ukraine: Requires a report on the role of Russian intelligence and security services in undermining Ukrainian independence and engaging in destabilizing activity.
  • Public Disclosure of Putin’s Assets and Financial Practices: Requires an accounting and disclosure on the net worth, assets, and financial practices of Vladimir Putin and his inner circle, and their family members, including a public disclosure of the unclassified details.

 

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine, Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere (both D-VA), joined 30 of their Senate Democratic colleagues in formally requesting that the Biden administration grant Temporary Protected Status (TPS) re-designations for El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua, in addition to a new TPS designation for Guatemala.

In a letter to Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas and Secretary of State Antony Blinken, the sens. expressed their concern with the worsening humanitarian conditions across Central America being compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic and multiple devastating natural disasters, all of which have contributed to an uptick in outmigration from the region.

“The crisis in Central America is urgent. ... TPS designations and redesignations would provide critical protections for eligible beneficiaries and enable them to support basic needs of loved ones back home and invest in safer alternatives to irregular migration,” the senators wrote. “It is our assessment that the severe damage caused by back-to-back hurricanes just over one year ago, combined with extreme drought conditions, and the social and economic crises exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, warrant such an action by the Administration.”

Established by the U.S. Congress through the Immigration Act of 1990, TPS is a temporary, renewable program that provides relief from deportation and access to a work permit for foreign nationals from certain countries who are unable to return safely to their home country due to natural disasters, armed conflicts, or other extraordinary conditions.

“Over one million Central Americans have been displaced by violence and insecurity. Gender-based violence continues to be a major driver of displacement, with rates increasing dramatically throughout 2020. … Additionally, countries in the region have suffered severe democratic backsliding and political persecution is on the rise, including through the consolidation of a dictatorship in Nicaragua, the dismantling of independent judiciaries, and efforts to intimidate and silence civil society and independent media,” the senators continued. “The Biden administration must act and provide certainty for eligible individuals from Central America during this challenging moment. These temporary designations would give the U.S. government more time to partner with governments and civil society to ensure that the return of a large number of individuals to Central America does not create further instability and volatility in the region.”

Sens. Warner and Kaine have been strong advocates for the TPS program and in 2020 wrote a letter urging the incoming Biden Administration to protect TPS recipients in Virginia and throughout the country.

Joining Sens. Warner and Kaine in signing the letter were Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sens. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), and Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.)

A copy of the letter is available here and below. 

Dear Secretary Mayorkas and Secretary Blinken,

We write to express our concerns about ongoing humanitarian needs in Central America and to appeal for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) redesignations for El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua, and a new TPS designation for Guatemala. It is our assessment that the severe damage caused by back-to-back hurricanes just over one year ago, combined with extreme drought conditions, and the social and economic crises exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, warrant such an action by the Administration. The Guatemalan government has requested a TPS designation, and U.S. Embassies have issued disaster declarations for El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua in recognition of the urgent needs. TPS designations and redesignations would provide critical protections for eligible beneficiaries and enable them to support basic needs of loved ones back home and invest in safer alternatives to irregular migration. Lastly, such designations would be consistent with the Administration’s commitments to address climate migration.

The crisis in Central America is urgent. In the past year, the region has experienced extreme weather events, including two hurricanes followed by a months-long drought. According to the World Food Program (WFP), farmers in the region face the worst dry farming season in 35 years. Hunger in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua has increased almost fourfold over the past two years, according to WFP, from 2.2 million people in 2018 to close to 8 million people in 2021. Eight in ten households are resorting to crisis coping measures, selling their lands, tools, and livestock, and missing meals or eating less nutritious meals. It will take years to repair damage to roads, schools, bridges, wells, and other physical infrastructure caused by hurricanes Eta and Iota, which continue to impede citizens’ livelihoods. The pressures have led to an uptick in outmigration from the region. In January, 15 percent of people surveyed by WFP said they were making concrete plans to migrate — double the number two years ago. Media report that the region’s citizens are having to choose between migrating or facing hunger. Despite U.S. Embassies’ disaster declarations, which activated the delivery of U.S. humanitarian assistance, 8.3 million people were in need of humanitarian assistance in July 2021, including 5.5 million who were in desperate need of food as of September 2021, according to the Famine Early Warning System Network.

The International Monetary Fund says that remittances initially supported the region’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, but tropical storms Eta and Iota interrupted progress, damaging crops and halting manufacturing. In 2020, Honduras’ GDP dropped nine percent, El Salvador’s GDP dropped nearly eight percent, Nicaragua’s dropped two percent, and Guatemala’s by 1.8 percent. The IMF supported the region with emergency financing to cope with these shocks. However, the enduring effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and lagging vaccination campaigns, especially in Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua, will prolong the region’s economic recovery.

Combined, the effects of the natural disasters and the COVID-19 pandemic have profoundly exacerbated food insecurity, violence, and led to rising social tensions. Forced displacement continues to plague the region. Over one million Central Americans have been displaced by violence and insecurity. Gender-based violence continues to be a major driver of displacement, with rates increasing dramatically throughout 2020. On November 3, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights named El Salvador the most dangerous Latin American country for women. Additionally, countries in the region have suffered severe democratic backsliding and political persecution is on the rise, including through the consolidation of a dictatorship in Nicaragua, the dismantling of independent judiciaries, and efforts to intimidate and silence civil society and independent media.

TPS is a humanitarian tool used by both Democratic and Republican administrations to provide relief for individuals who are unable to return to countries facing extraordinary conditions. The Biden administration must act and provide certainty for eligible individuals from Central America during this challenging moment. These temporary designations would give the U.S. government more time to partner with governments and civil society to ensure that the return of a large number of individuals to Central America does not create further instability and volatility in the region. They would also provide immediate and tangible humanitarian benefits to new status holders and help mitigate the factors driving dangerous outmigration by securing life-saving remittances.

It is our view that El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua meet the standards for TPS. We look forward to working closely with and supporting the Biden administration as it take this important step to uphold humanitarian protections, safeguard U.S. national security interests, and defend American families. Thank you for your consideration of this important matter.

Sincerely,

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) today applauded the Senate passage of the nation’s annual defense bill, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).  

“I’m proud to have voted today to pass legislation that will further strengthen our nation’s military and technological capabilities, as well as reaffirm our commitment to servicemembers – all while making crucial investments that will boost local economies and the industrial base throughout Virginia. I look forward to seeing this bill get signed into law,” said Sen. Warner.

The $768.2 billion bill passed by the Senate today includes a number of provisions authored or cosponsored by Sen. Warner that would:

  • Make historic reforms to the military’s handling of sexual assault cases. Provisions modeled after the Warner-sponsored Military Justice Improvement and Increasing Prevention Act would empower independent prosecutors with the exclusive authority to refer certain offenses to trial, removing this authority from the military chain of command; improve tracking of sexual assault retaliation claims; include sexual harassment as a “standalone offense,” and make claims subject to investigation by an independent investigator; expand use of a Department of Defense (DoD) safe helpline for sexual assault reporting; and make important reforms to help support survivors.
  • Create a basic needs allowance for servicemembers, to ensure that all men and women in uniform can support their families with necessities like adequate food. The provision, modeled after the Warner-sponsored Military Hunger Prevention Act is aimed at combating disturbing rates of food insecurity in the military.
  • Commission a report on the impacts of the Afghan resettlement mission on the National Guard. Support from the military has been vital in the historic and incredibly important Operation Allies Welcome mission, helping bring vulnerable Afghans to safety, and ultimately resettling them in the U.S. This provision would require the Secretary of Defense to produce a report on the impacts of that resettlement mission on the National Guard, including any effects on mission readiness, training, maintenance, and equipment, so that we can ensure the Guard has the support it needs going forward.
  • Require a fuller analysis on planned restructuring of military medical positions. The final bill includes a provision that mirrors an amendment introduced by Sen. Warner to hold the military’s plans for reductions and realignment to military end strength authorizations, pending an independent Government Accountability Office (GAO) review of the analysis backing the move, and its potential impacts.
  • Promote defense research at HBCUs and MSIs. Based off Senator Warner’s amendment and bill the BEACON Act of 2021, the NDAA requires the Secretary of Defense to develop a plan to promote defense research at Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Minority Serving Institutions, including by providing contracting assistance and establishing goals and incentives for further partnership.
  • Support military mental health resources by creating a process through which a servicemember can self-initiate a referral for mental health evaluation. Senator Warner cosponsored a bipartisan amendment to include this provision – that provision is modeled after the Brandon Act, which is named in honor of United States Navy Petty Officer Third Class Brandon Caserta.

The bill also includes a number of other crucial measures supported by Sen. Warner.

For the Commonwealth, this bill authorizes:

  • Nearly $500 million for 19 military construction projects in Virginia that will create jobs, strengthen local economies, and provide needed improvements to our military installations. These projects are authorized at installations across the Commonwealth, including Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Norfolk Naval Shipyard, Marine Corps Base Quantico, Naval Station Norfolk, Naval Weapons Station Yorktown, Ft. Belvoir, the Humphreys Engineer Center, NGA, the Virginia National Guard Readiness Center, and the Pentagon.
  • $3.1 billion for the Columbia-class submarine program – $130 million more than the President’s budget. This funding will go towards industrial base development and expansion, which supports the Virginia- and Columbia-class programs. This would increase capacity, qualify new suppliers, add resiliency and create competition for critical components, and identify points in the supply chain where shortfalls exist.
  • Boosted funding for shipbuilding programs that would allow the military to procure 13 battle force ships, including two Virginia-class submarines, two additional destroyers, and an extra expeditionary fast transport.
  • A $25 million increase to strengthen the industrial base workforce training pipeline to support the development of advanced manufacturing capabilities, and the ability to train a world-class manufacturing workforce.

For a stronger military, this bill authorizes:

  • A pay increase of 2.7 percent for our nation’s servicemembers.
  • Expanded parental leave, which will authorize up to 12 weeks of leave for all primary and secondary caregivers following the birth, adoption, or foster care placement of a child.
  • Increased accountability around military housing by requiring the Secretaries of the military departments to ensure that personnel performance evaluations assess the extent to which certain military officers have exercised effective oversight and leadership of military privatized housing.
  • An additional $30 million for the Defense Health Program to increase capacity to provide treatment for servicemembers, civilians, and family members affected by Havana Syndrome. It would also require the President to designate a senior official as the interagency coordinator for responding to this threat.

To strengthen our nation’s technological capabilities and supply chains, this bill includes:

  • Full authorization of U.S. Cyber Command, and requirements for various assessments of our cyber capabilities and defenses.
  • An increase of $3 billion in funding for science and technology programs that fund cutting-edge research across universities, small businesses, defense labs, and industry. This will help develop U.S. capacity in critical areas such as AI, microelectronics, advanced materials, 5G, and biotechnology.
  • A supply chain directive requiring the Comptroller General to assess DoD’s efforts to address information and communications technology supply chain risks.
  • Authorization for $250 million to establish a national network for microelectronics research and development to support a world-leading domestic microelectronics manufacturing capability. This provision strengthens measures made possible by Sen. Warner’s CHIPS for America Act.

To bolster our ability to address strategic global challenges, this bill would authorize:

  • $7.1 billion for the Pacific Deterrence Initiative to support U.S. strategic aims in the Indo-Pacific region, and respond to actions by China and the CCP.
  • $4 billion for the European Deterrence Initiative to counter Russian aggression and support our NATO allies.
  • $300 million in security assistance and intelligence support to Ukraine to deter continued malign actions by Russia.

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) announced that the Senate-passed FY 2022 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) conference report includes a version of their bipartisan Building Equitable Access to Contribute to Our National Security (BEACON) Act, legislation to expand Department of Defense (DoD) research funding opportunities for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Minority Institutions (MIs). This includes Central State University and Wilberforce University in Ohio, and Hampton University, Norfolk State University, Virginia State University, Virginia Union University, and Virginia University of Lynchburg in Virginia. The Department funds basic research at institutions of higher education and this legislation would ensure HBCU students get the resources and research opportunities to succeed in STEM and other related careers. Brown and Warner filed a modified version of the BEACON Act as an amendment during Senate consideration of the NDAA. The House included a version of the BEACON Act in the NDAA and the FY22 NDAA Conference Report retained a similar provision. The House-Senate NDAA conference report now heads to the President’s desk to be signed into law.

“This legislation will help tap into the enormous potential of Virginia’s five Historically Black Colleges and Universities, which for too long received a disproportionally small portion of our nation’s defense research funding,” said Warner. “I’m proud to have fought for this provision, which will strengthen the STEM pipeline at our HBCUs and help ensure that these institutions can access the resources they need to bolster critical defense research.”

“Historically Black Colleges and Universities, like Wilberforce and Central State in Ohio, are a critical part of our nation’s higher education system and provide important research opportunities for students traditionally underrepresented in STEM careers,” said Brown. “This funding will widen the talent pool and help elevate partnerships between the Department of Defense and these institutions for years to come.” 

Defense research is a vital source of innovation and a financial resource for our nation’s universities, which received over $4.6 billion from the Department of Defense in science and engineering funding in 2018. Yet, Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) received only $21 million – less than a half percent, of that funding. These disparities continue while Black individuals are underrepresented in the STEM labor force by 53% and despite the fact HBCUs are a proven pipeline for diverse STEM talent, graduating 20 percent of all African American college students and nearly 30 percent of all African American STEM professionals.

An interim report from NASEM found that “limited set aside dollars and no requirements or incentives to increase their participation in non-targeted programs, [congressional] encouragement has not translated into significant capacity-building or sustained support.” The report further found that “new funding streams may be necessary to expand opportunities to HBCU/MIs” and “mutually beneficial partnerships may serve as a strategy for HBCU/MIs to build and better utilize their current capacity to conduct DoD-funded research.”

Specifically, the amendment would:

  • Require the Department of Defense to establish a plan to elevate a consortium of HBCUs/MIs, assess their ability to participate and compete in engineering, research, and development activities, and report this plan to Congress.
  • Give DoD the authority to establish a grant program to build out HBCU defense research capacity, including developing the workforce and research infrastructure and improving the capability to retain research faculty and staff. 
  • Increase partnerships between federally funded research development centers, University Affiliated Research Centers (UARCs), and HBCUs/MIs. 

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and U.S. Rep Abigail Spanberger (D-VA), a member of the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs, teamed up with U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and U.S. Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN) to introduce bipartisan legislation that would make it unlawful for a foreign national to contribute money, either directly or indirectly, to a state or local ballot initiative or ballot referendum. The Protecting Ballot Measures from Foreign Influence Act would overturn a July decision from the Federal Election Commission (FEC), which gave a green light to foreign nationals seeking to finance campaign efforts related to ballot initiatives after ruling that a federal law banning foreign money in campaigns applies only to federal, state and local candidate elections.

“The Protecting Ballot Measures from Foreign Influence Act further safeguards our elections from foreign interference by making it illegal for foreign donors to contribute to any ballot initiative or referendum,” Sen. Warner said. “There is no circumstance under which foreign entities should be able to sway the American democratic process and this legislation works to ensure that.” 

“American elections should remain American elections. Local and state ballot initiatives here in the United States should be focused on the concerns of a community — not the interests of a foreign individual, company, or nation,” Rep. Spanberger said. “The current loophole that allows foreign entities to influence these initiatives should be closed immediately, and I am proud to work with a bipartisan group of legislators in both the Senate and the House to make that happen. The Protecting Ballot Measures from Foreign Influence Act would reassert the American people’s rightful control of their local ballot measures, and I am proud to work with Senator Warner, Senator Rubio, and Congressman Banks on this critical effort.”

“Foreign donors should not be able to influence America’s democratic process,” Sen. Rubio said. “It is already illegal for foreign nationals to donate to political candidates, parties, and committees. The Protecting Ballot Measures from Foreign Influence Act will extend that commonsense protection of our political process to ballot initiatives and other referendums. We must do everything we can to protect the votes of American citizens.”

“The FEC’s decision to let foreign actors directly influence U.S. policy fights undermines our democracy,” Rep. Banks said. “That’s why I’ve joined Sens. Rubio and Warner and Rep. Spanberger to overturn it and ensure Americans voices are heard.”

As the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Warner co-led the Committee’s bipartisan investigation into interference in the 2016 election, eventually issuing a comprehensive, five-volume report that concluded the Russian government engaged in an aggressive, multi-faceted effort to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election, and that the willingness of top officials on the Trump campaign to accept and even welcome Russian assistance represented a grave counterintelligence threat to our nation. Sen. Warner also introduced the Foreign Influence Reporting in Elections (FIRE) Act, legislation that would require political campaigns to report attempts at foreign elections influence to the appropriate federal authorities at the FEC and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

A copy of the bill is available here.

 

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, issued the following statement after the Biden administration announced a diplomatic boycott of the upcoming Olympics in Beijing, China:

“I applaud President Biden’s decision to impose a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. A diplomatic boycott of the Games sends a powerful message to the Chinese Communist Party that the United States will not turn a blind eye to the CCP’s increasing aggression globally and its disturbing human rights abuses, a list that is long and growing and includes vast and systematic repression of Uyghurs and other minority groups in Xinjiang; cultural destruction in Tibet; the silencing of those deemed threatening to the CCP, such as tennis player Peng Shuai, and companies and individuals around the world who do not adhere to the CCP’s narrative; escalating threats against the people of Taiwan; and the destruction of democratic freedoms in Hong Kong.”

 

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) joined Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Congresswoman Karen Bass (D-CA) in a bicameral letter with over 50 of their colleagues to President Joe Biden and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas urging the Administration to provide critical protections to Cameroonians in the midst of the current humanitarian crisis facing the nation. Senator Van Hollen is the Chair of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health Policy and Congresswoman Bass is the Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations.

The lawmakers begin, “We write to you today to request that you issue an immediate 18-month designation of either Temporary Protected Status (TPS) or Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) for Cameroon. A humanitarian crisis and civil war characterized by massive internal displacement, war crimes, and shortages of essentials like water, food, healthcare, and housing make safe return impossible, and we must act quickly to extend protection against deportation to Cameroonian nationals in the United States (U.S.).”

They go on to underscore the worsening crisis in Cameroon, noting, “Based on the high risk of armed conflict and kidnapping, the U.S. State Department has issued ‘Do Not Travel’ warnings for six regions: the North, Far North, North-West, South- West, East, and parts of Adamawa. In its most recent human rights report on Cameroon, the State Department identified a troubling catalogue of human rights abuses, including extrajudicial killings, torture, arbitrary detention, violence against women and children, and targeted attacks against members of the LGBTQ+ community. The United Nations estimates that 4.4 million people in Cameroon need assistance, with over 1.5 million people internally displaced and another 67,000 Cameroonian refugees displaced in Nigeria. An estimated 38,790 Cameroonians currently living in the U.S. would benefit from a DED or TPS designation for Cameroon.”

“Cameroon is facing three separate humanitarian crises sprawling across its ten regions: conflict with the armed Islamist group Boko Haram in the Far North region; a political and humanitarian crisis in the Anglophone North-West and South-West regions; and a refugee crisis in the East, near the border with the Central African Republic. Inter-communal violence has also affected several regions. The government’s continued crackdowns on peaceful political opposition and security forces’ documented use of incommunicado detention and torture contribute to the danger of return.5 Deportees from the U.S. are at particular risk of being targeted for actual or imputed opposition to the government and have experienced arbitrary detention and other abuses upon return,” they continue.

The lawmakers close the letter urging, “Announcing a TPS or DED designation for Cameroon would serve as a key and strategic part of the U.S. government’s commitment to human rights and international stability, safeguarding Cameroonians in the U.S. from a return to these dangerous conditions. We call upon this administration to do its part to protect Cameroonians. Given that the devastating human consequences of these humanitarian crises in Cameroon have escalated in recent months, this protection is urgently needed now more than ever.”

In addition to Senator Van Hollen and Congresswoman Bass, the letter was signed by Senators Kaine, Shaheen, Murray, Padilla, Booker, Markey, Cardin, Brown, Warren, Smith, Klobuchar, Warner, and Warnock and Representatives Nadler, Lofgren, Velazquez, Ruppersberger, Vargas, Beatty, Gwen Moore, Norton, Johnson, Jr., Brown, Lee, McGovern, Schakowsky, Espaillat, Connolly, Raskin, Lieu, Jacobs, Sewell, Evans, Garamendi, Tlaib, Jayapal, Adam Smith, Lowenthal, Ocasio-Cortez, Jones, Cicilline, Meng, Rush, Watson Coleman, Quigley, Castro, Dean, McCollum, Chu, Napolitano, Garcia, Gallego, Pressley, Khanna, and Clarke.

The full text of the letter is available here and below:

Dear President Biden and Secretary Mayorkas:

We write to you today to request that you issue an immediate 18-month designation of either Temporary Protected Status (TPS) or Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) for Cameroon. A humanitarian crisis and civil war characterized by massive internal displacement, war crimes, and shortages of essentials like water, food, healthcare, and housing make safe return impossible, and we must act quickly to extend protection against deportation to Cameroonian nationals in the United States (U.S.).

TPS is a form of statutory deferred action afforded to nationals of a country living in the U.S. if conditions in the country make return unsafe. The Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) may designate a country for TPS if conditions in the country meet requirements regarding ongoing armed conflict, natural disasters, or other extraordinary and temporary conditions in the country that prevent safe return. TPS provides protection from deportation and permission to work in the U.S. for the duration of the designation.

DED serves as a vital foreign policy tool of the President and another mechanism to protect foreign nationals in the U.S. from civil, political, and humanitarian crises in their home country that make it unsafe for them to return, or whose suspension of deportation serves other U.S. foreign policy or domestic interests. DED provides similar protections as TPS, but it does not require registration and is only triggered when an individual is identified for removal. A DED designation uses minimal administrative resources and has an immediate effect for eligible individuals.

Based on the high risk of armed conflict and kidnapping, the U.S. State Department has issued “Do Not Travel” warnings for six regions: the North, Far North, North-West, South- West, East, and parts of Adamawa. In its most recent human rights report on Cameroon, the State Department identified a troubling catalogue of human rights abuses, including extrajudicial killings, torture, arbitrary detention, violence against women and children, and targeted attacks against members of the LGBTQ+ community. The United Nations estimates that 4.4 million people in Cameroon need assistance, with over 1.5 million people internally displaced and another 67,000 Cameroonian refugees displaced in Nigeria. An estimated 38,790 Cameroonians currently living in the U.S. would benefit from a DED or TPS designation for Cameroon.

Cameroon is facing three separate humanitarian crises sprawling across its ten regions: conflict with the armed Islamist group Boko Haram in the Far North region; a political and humanitarian crisis in the Anglophone North-West and South-West regions; and a refugee crisis in the East, near the border with the Central African Republic. Inter-communal violence has also affected several regions. The government’s continued crackdowns on peaceful political opposition and security forces’ documented use of incommunicado detention and torture contribute to the danger of return. Deportees from the U.S. are at particular risk of being targeted for actual or imputed opposition to the government and have experienced arbitrary detention and other abuses upon return.

Since late 2016, Cameroon, a bilingual country with eight Francophone and two Anglophone regions, has faced a protracted humanitarian crisis in its Anglophone North-West and South- West regions resulting in the internal displacement of more than 712,000 civilians and the displacement of over 67,000 Cameroonian refugees across the border to Nigeria. Grassroots advocacy in the Anglophone regions in late 2016 called for more political autonomy or secession. In response, government security forces cracked down on protests and non-state armed groups continued to seek independence, with both sides committing serious and widespread human rights violations. As a result of this crisis, at least 4,000 civilians have been killed in the Anglophone regions alone.

The Far North region of Cameroon has been severely impacted by armed conflict between government forces and the armed Islamist group Boko Haram and its splinter faction, the Islamic State in West Africa Province. The Boko Haram insurgency, which began in Nigeria in 2009 and spread to Cameroon in 2014, has led to the deaths of more than 3,000 Cameroonians and has resulted in the internal displacement of over 340,000.

Conflict in the neighboring Central African Republic (CAR) also impacts Cameroon, which currently hosts over 330,000 refugees from the CAR in its East, Adamawa, and Northern regions after a new wave of refugees crossed the border following election-related violence in CAR in late 2020. The influx of refugees has put significant pressure on the already limited natural resources and basic social services in host communities, severely exacerbating pre- existing vulnerabilities and leading to increased incidents of criminality, kidnappings, and inter-communal violence.

The conflict in the Far North and the crisis in the Anglophone regions have also exacerbated long-standing inter-communal tensions over natural resources, resulting in violence and increased civilian casualties. In August 2021 in the Far North Region, clashes between ethnic Choa Arab herders and ethnic Mousgoum fishermen and farmers killed at least 32, injured at least 74 people, and razed at least 19 villages, representing the most violent inter-communal attack to date in Cameroon.

The Cameroonian government and security forces create risks for deportees nationwide, including crackdowns on political dissent, the security forces’ documented use of torture, and criminalization of and targeted violence towards LGBTQ+ people. Political and ethnic tensions in Cameroon have been further frayed by uprisings and violence following the 2018 presidential and 2020 local elections.

On three known deportation flights in October, November, and September of 2020 the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) deported an estimated 80-90 Cameroonians en masse. According to press reports and interviews with deportees, Cameroonian authorities confiscated the identification documents of most Cameroonians deported on the October and November 2020 flights.

The COVID-19 pandemic has only intensified the humanitarian crises and human rights issues in Cameroon, where violence and heavy rains have catastrophically degraded infrastructure essential to the delivery of humanitarian aid and pandemic relief. Citing limited medical resources and a high risk of contracting the virus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has warned against all but essential travel to Cameroon. The Cameroonian government has also been criticized for its lack of transparency on the misuse of millions of dollars in pandemic relief funds.

Announcing a TPS or DED designation for Cameroon would serve as a key and strategic part of the U.S. government’s commitment to human rights and international stability, safeguarding Cameroonians in the U.S. from a return to these dangerous conditions. We call upon this administration to do its part to protect Cameroonians. Given that the devastating human consequences of these humanitarian crises in Cameroon have escalated in recent months, this protection is urgently needed now more than ever.

Sincerely,

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WASHINGTON – Today U.S. Senators and India Caucus Co-Chairs Mark Warner (D-VA) and John Cornyn (R-TX) sent a letter to President Biden encouraging him to waive Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) sanctions against India for buying military arms from Russia.

They wrote: “While India has taken significant steps to reduce its purchases of Russian military equipment, it has a long history of purchasing arms from the Soviet Union, and later Russia. In 2018, India formally agreed to purchase Russian S-400 Triumf air-defense systems after having signed an initial agreement with Russia two years prior. We are concerned that the upcoming transfer of these systems will trigger sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), which was enacted to hold Russia accountable for its malign behavior.”

“As such, we strongly encourage you to grant a CAATSA waiver to India for its planned purchase of the S-400 Triumf surface-to-air missile system. In cases where granting a waiver would advance the national security interests of the U.S., this waiver authority, as written into the law by Congress, allows the President additional discretion in applying sanctions.”

“We share your concerns regarding the purchase and the continued Indian integration of Russian equipment, even with these declining sales. We would encourage your administration to continue reinforcing this concern to Indian officials, and engaging with them constructively to continue supporting alternatives to their purchasing Russian equipment.”

 

October 26, 2021

 

The Honorable Joseph R. Biden, Jr.

President

The White House

Washington, DC 20500

 

Dear Mr. President:

We commend the steps you have taken to deepen the U.S.-India partnership since you have taken office. The robust and swift support that your administration provided to India during its devastating COVID surge earlier this year undoubtedly saved many lives and demonstrated the strength of our countries’ bond. Your revitalization of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, of which India is a core member, has served as an additional mechanism for closer cooperation between our two countries. In the midst of this strengthening bilateral relationship, we are concerned that possible upcoming sanctions against India could reverse or slow this progress. 

While India has taken significant steps to reduce its purchases of Russian military equipment, it has a long history of purchasing arms from the Soviet Union, and later Russia. In 2018, India formally agreed to purchase Russian S-400 Triumf air-defense systems after having signed an initial agreement with Russia two years prior. We are concerned that the upcoming transfer of these systems will trigger sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), which was enacted to hold Russia accountable for its malign behavior.

CAATSA’s provisions, including sanctions targeting Russia’s defense and intelligence sectors, serve as an important tool for the U.S. government to discourage Russian arms purchases around the world. However, in the case of this current S-400 transaction involving India, we believe that the application of CAATSA sanctions could have a deleterious effect on a strategic partnership with India, while at the same time, not achieve the intended purpose of deterring Russian arms sales.

As such, we strongly encourage you to grant a CAATSA waiver to India for its planned purchase of the S-400 Triumf surface-to-air missile system. In cases where granting a waiver would advance the national security interests of the U.S., this waiver authority, as written into the law by Congress, allows the President additional discretion in applying sanctions.

Congress established criteria for determining the appropriateness of waiving CAATSA sanctions. Specifically, the Fiscal Year 2019 National Defense Authorization Act allows the President to issue a waiver if doing so is in the national interest, and if it would not endanger U.S. national security, adversely affect U.S. military operations, or compromise U.S. defense systems. We believe that a waiver for India is appropriate for several reasons.

First, India has taken significant steps to reduce its imports of Russian military hardware in recent years. From 2016 to 2020, there was a 53 percent drop in Russian arms exports to India compared to the preceding five-year period. Meanwhile, India has shown its intent to purchase equipment from the United States, with sales reaching $3.4 billion in FY20. These are positive trends that show India’s effort to reduce reliance on Russian equipment, and a desire to take advantage of its new status as a Strategic Trade Authorization-1 (STA-1) partner.

Second, we believe there is a national security imperative to waiving sanctions. Imposing sanctions at this time could derail deepening cooperation with India across all aspects of our bilateral relationship – from vaccines to defense cooperation, from energy strategy to technology sharing. Furthermore, sanctions have the potential to embolden critics within India who warn that the United States will not be a consistent and reliable partner for cooperation, and to thwart the Indian government’s efforts and long-term strategy to reduce Russian purchases and reliance on Russian defense hardware. 

We share your concerns regarding the purchase and the continued Indian integration of Russian equipment, even with these declining sales. We would encourage your administration to continue reinforcing this concern to Indian officials, and engaging with them constructively to continue supporting alternatives to their purchasing Russian equipment. We also propose that your administration establish a bilateral working group to identify ways to promote the security of U.S. technology, and to chart a path forward to develop strategies to enhance U.S.-India military interoperability. We believe these actions reinforce India’s status as a Major Defense Partner and will provide another avenue to counter PRC influence in the Indo-Pacific.

Sincerely,

 

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 WASHINGTON – Today, the Helping American Victims Afflicted by Neurological Attacks (HAVANA) Act—legislation authored by Intelligence Committee Chairman Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman Marco Rubio (R-FL), Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME), and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) to support American public servants who have incurred brain injuries likely from directed energy attacks—was signed into law. The legislation, which passed Congress unanimously, authorizes additional financial support for injured individuals. 

“Havana Syndrome” is the term given to an unknown illness that surfaced among more than 40 U.S. Embassy staff in Havana, Cuba, beginning in 2016.  Since then, dozens more U.S. diplomats and members of the intelligence community have suffered symptoms that a study by the National Academy of Sciences found are consistent with the effects of directed, pulsed, radiofrequency energy.

Symptoms have included severe headaches, dizziness, tinnitus, visual and hearing problems, vertigo, and cognitive difficulties, and many affected personnel continue to suffer from health problems years after the attacks. 

“Every day, American diplomats and intelligence officers around the world put themselves at risk to keep our nation safe. In return, we have an obligation to provide ample support when these brave men and women are injured in the line of duty,” said Chairman Warner. “As the Senate Intelligence Committee continues to look into the mysterious and debilitating attacks on U.S. personnel abroad, I’m proud to know that these officials will now be able to count on the compensation and care they deserve, thanks to President Biden’s signing of our Helping American Victims Afflicted by Neurological Attacks (HAVANA) Act.”

“As American diplomats and personnel continue to be targets of directed energy attacks by malign actors and rogue states, I’m proud to see my bipartisan initiative become law,” said Vice Chairman Rubio.  “We need to stand in support of our diplomatic corps, and their relatives, as they face long-term health challenges and demand that those who are responsible face justice.”

“I have spoken personally with Havana Syndrome victims who were forced to battle the bureaucracy while dealing with their own health challenges.  These Americans who experienced traumatic brain injuries from likely directed energy attacks while serving our country should have been treated the same way we treat a soldier who suffered a traumatic brain injury on the battlefield,” said Sen. Collins.  “Now that the HAVANA Act has been signed into law, Havana Syndrome victims will finally receive the financial assistance and medical support that they deserve.  As we continue our efforts to support victims, we must also redouble our whole-of-government approach to identify and stop the heartless adversary who is harming U.S. personnel.”

“For far too long, U.S. public servants and their loved ones who’ve suffered from directed energy attacks have been denied the care they need and deserve. That’s unacceptable, and is why I’ve partnered with Senator Collins and this bipartisan group of lawmakers to ensure affected Americans have access to long-term, emergency health benefits,” said Sen. Shaheen. “By removing barriers to critical medical attention and paving the way for personnel with brain injuries to recover, the HAVANA Act is an important step forward. I’m very pleased President Biden has signed our bipartisan legislation into law, and I’ll continue to fight to get to the bottom of these attacks and protect our national security.”

The HAVANA Act authorizes the CIA Director, the Secretary of State, and other agency leaders to provide injured employees with additional financial support for brain injuries.  Both the CIA and State Department will be required to create regulations detailing fair and equitable criteria for payment.  This legislation also requires the CIA and State Department to report to Congress on how this authority is being used and if additional legislative or administrative action is required. 

Full text of the bill is available here

 

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, issued the statement below, following the release of an unclassified report on the origins of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19:

“This report underscores the need for China to stop stonewalling international investigations into a global pandemic that has cost so many lives and livelihoods around the world. It's disheartening that the Chinese Communist Party remains unwilling to cooperate with an investigation of this magnitude, even as the world mourns the deaths of 4.5 million people and counting. At the same time, I would urge Americans around the country to denounce hateful rhetoric and discrimination against our AAPI friends and neighbors, many of whom have suffered racist attacks throughout the period of this crisis.”

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

“I am closely tracking the horrifying situation in Kabul and will remain in touch with intelligence and administration officials as we learn more about today’s attacks. As we await more information regarding the casualties, my thoughts will be with our troops and with the innocent people killed in these brutal acts of terror. We must do everything we can to stabilize the situation outside the airport so that we can resume evacuations of American citizens, SIVs, and the Afghans most in danger as soon as possible. We all owe an enormous debt of gratitude to U.S. servicemembers who are carrying out the mission on the ground despite the great danger and challenges they are facing.”  

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Today, U.S. Senator Mark R. Warner, Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and Senator Tim Kaine, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) and the Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC), joined Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Joni Ernst (R-IA) in a bipartisan letter urging the Biden Administration to address the quickly-deteriorating situation in Afghanistan that threatens the lives of tens of thousands of Afghan partners.    

In the letter, the Senators call for the urgent evacuation of Afghan Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) applicants and their families. They urge the Administration to enforce strategic agency coordination and hold the Hamid Karzai International Airport to ensure the safety of Afghan partners and their families, as well as U.S. citizens. The letter marks the latest congressional response to the danger posed by the Taliban to Afghan allies who aided the U.S. mission in Afghanistan. 

“The Taliban’s rapid ascendancy across Afghanistan and takeover of Kabul should not cause us to break our promise to the Afghans who helped us operate over the past twenty years and are counting on us for assistance. American inaction would ensure they become refugees or prime targets for Taliban retribution,” the Senators wrote.  

“Specifically, we urge continued coordination between the Departments of State and Defense to secure and hold Hamid Karzai International Airport, including to allow for the continuation of military flights and the resumption of commercial and charter flights. We also urge your Administration to assist with the passage of individuals to the airport to safety – both those within Kabul and those outside of the capital – as well as to consider cases where Afghans fleeing quickly may not have been able to collect or gather appropriate documents,” the Senators added. “We were pleased that you immediately signed [our]…legislation to make extensive improvements to the SIV program into law three weeks ago, and now ask that you move just as quickly to ensure it is properly and fully implemented ensuring applicants and their families can get out of harm’s way.” 

Joining Senators Warner, Kaine, Shaheen, and Ernst in signing the letter were Senators Durbin (D-IL), Romney (R-UT), Reed (D-RI), Collins (R-ME), Leahy (D-VT), Graham (R-SC), Peters (D-MI), Rounds (R-SD), Menendez (D-NJ), Lummis (R-WY), Coons (D-DE), Sasse (R-NE), Warnock (D-GA), Cornyn (R-TX), Van Hollen (D-MD), Daines (R-MT), Duckworth (D-IL), Moran (R-KS), Gillibrand (D-NY), Marshall (R-KS), Markey (D-MA), Cardin (D-MD), Murphy (D-CT), Cortez Masto (D-NV), Stabenow (D-MI), Warren (D-MA), Manchin (D-WV), Hickenlooper (D-CO), Bennet (D-CO), Hassan (D-NH), Rosen (D-NV), Blumenthal (D-CT), Klobuchar (D-MN), Padilla (D-CA), Murray  (D-WA), King (I-ME), Heinrich (D-NM), Merkley (D-OR), Whitehouse (D-RI), Feinstein (D-CA), Schatz (D-HI), Sanders (I-VT), Hirono (D-HI), Carper (D-DE), Lujan (D-NM), Smith (D-MN), Ossoff (D-GA), Tester (D-MT), Brown (D-OH), Kelly (D-AZ), and Booker (D-NJ).

Senators Warner and Kaine are in close communication with the Administration and U.S. allies on the ground to ensure the safety and quick evacuation of U.S. personnel, Afghan partners, journalists, women leaders, activists, human rights defenders, and others. Their offices are working to help with the evacuation of Americans, as well as SIV-eligible and other at risk Afghans, to get them to safety as quickly as possible.

Earlier this week, Warner and Kaine joined their Senate colleagues in a bipartisan letter calling on the Administration to take swift, robust action to protect and support Afghan women leaders facing unparalleled danger following the Taliban’s violent sweep across Afghanistan and seizure of Kabul.

A copy of the letter can be found here and below

Dear Mr. President,   

We write to urge the immediate and full implementation of recently-passed legislation amending the process and eligibility for the Afghan Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program and for the urgent evacuation of SIV applicants whose service to the U.S. mission has put their lives in jeopardy. As you know, this critical program provides safety for the brave Afghans who served alongside United States troops in support of the U.S. missions in Afghanistan. As the situation in Afghanistan deteriorates, these individuals face increased danger at the hands of the Taliban that has sworn retribution. For this reason, Congress provided additional authorities to improve and expedite the application process while maintaining the program’s security and integrity. We implore your Administration to expeditiously implement these changes and immediately evacuate our Afghan allies to safety.  

The United States led coalition forces in Afghanistan for nearly twenty years following the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States. Our mission safeguarded the American homeland safe from terrorist attacks, eliminated Osama bin Laden, and delivered freedom and education to a generation of Afghan women and children. At every step of the way, our mission was supported by Afghans who fought alongside us for a better future for their country. They risked their safety and the well-being of their families to work with the United States. With the departure of U.S. forces and Taliban rule in place, the safety and security of our Afghan allies who put their lives on the line to help our service members and diplomats must be a top priority.   

For this reason, we urge you to continue the expeditious evacuation of SIV applicants and their families. At your direction, on July 17 the United States launched Operation Allies Refuge in order to evacuate SIV applicants in danger from the Taliban’s advances. We appreciate that this effort has already brought 2,000 Afghans, including primary SIV applicants and their families, to the United States. However many more remain. The Taliban’s rapid ascendancy across Afghanistan and takeover of Kabul should not cause us to break our promise to the Afghans who helped us operate over the past twenty years and are counting on us for assistance. American inaction would ensure they become refugees or prime targets for Taliban retribution.   

Specifically, we urge continued coordination between the Departments of State and Defense to secure and hold Hamid Karzai International Airport, including to allow for the continuation of military flights and the resumption of commercial and charter flights. We also urge your Administration to assist with the passage of individuals to the airport to safety – both those within Kabul and those outside of the capital – as well as to consider cases where Afghans fleeing quickly may not have been able to collect or gather appropriate documents.?    

Additionally, the support and protection of our Afghan allies is why Congress recently passed, with broad bipartisan support, legislation to make extensive changes to the SIV program. We did so with the goal of improving the process for applicants while maintaining our national security. We were pleased that you immediately signed this legislation to make extensive improvements to the SIV program into law three weeks ago, and now ask that you move just as quickly to ensure it is properly and fully implemented ensuring applicants and their families can get out of harm’s way.  

To this end, we respectfully request that your Administration immediately implement all aspects of the statute as Congress intended, including:   

1.       Updating internal and external guidance to reflect the change in the employment requirement for eligibility from two years of service to one. This adjustment of eligibility must be applied to all pending applications, including those on appeal which have been denied on the basis of insufficient duration of service but whose appeal is still eligible to be re-adjudicated. To ensure that this change is fully implemented, we ask that all staff who are charged with processing applications receive training to apply the 12 month standard to all pending applications and appeals.   

2.       The issuance of special immigrant visas to all applicants and their qualified family members that have passed all steps of the visa process and only await a medical exam. The adjustment of status conferred by a SIV is preferable both to the processing of visas and to the applicants than paroling evacuated individuals into the country, thus requiring additional filings to confer the statuses included in a SIV.   

3.       Full and immediate repeal of the “sensitive and trusted” requirement for individuals employed by or on behalf of the NATO-led military mission in Afghanistan, as required by the Emergency Security Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2021, as well as those employed by or on behalf of the United States government. Congress repealed the “sensitive and trusted” requirement from U.S. government employment in December 2019, but as of this date we are not satisfied that it has been fully implemented. We expect the Department of State to implement the removal of “sensitive and trusted” activities from NATO-led forces support immediately, re-open the cases of any U.S. government employees who have been denied Chief of Mission approval for lack of “sensitive and trusted employment” since December 2019, and expeditiously update internal and external guidance to reflect this change.  

4.       The process for appeals of denials. As newly amended, the law now allows that, if an appeal is denied for a reason not listed in the initial denial, the applicant must be allowed an opportunity to address the new denial ground. This allowance is due to the high success rate for appeals when the cause of denial is known to the applicant. As with other changes to the law, we request that your Administration ensure that this change applies to all applications within the appeal period. This spares applicants the time and effort of re-applying and conserves the precious processing resources of the U.S. government.  

5.       Prioritization of applications based on date of the initial application. We once again clarify that the “prioritization” scheme that was introduced in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2019 is no longer law. In addition, all application processing must comply with the Congressionally-mandated nine month processing requirement.   

6.       Full transparency and adequate guidance for applicants. This includes, but is not limited to, updating all public websites maintained by the relevant U.S. government authorities to provide applicants with complete information about eligibility and process for applying. Most applicants do not have access to legal counsel for the sake of understanding the current process. All changes in program eligibility must be readily accessible and all changes that impact current applicants must be communicated directly to applicants.   

We appreciate the efforts that you and your Administration have made on behalf of Afghans who worked in support of the U.S. in Afghanistan. We must now concentrate all U.S. efforts on supporting and protecting our Afghan allies. Anything short of full implementation results in grave security implications. You have the strong support of both chambers of Congress to ensure that no additional Afghan lives are needlessly lost.   

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

“The images from Afghanistan that we’ve seen in recent days are devastating. 

“We went into Afghanistan to defeat al-Qa‘ida and eliminate their safe harbor after September 11, 2001. Two decades later, the price of our longest war has been tremendous. We’re on track to spend $2 trillion on a conflict that has cost 6,000 U.S. servicemembers and contractors their lives and returned tens of thousands of our fellow Americans from the battlefield with wounds both visible and invisible. We owe a debt of gratitude to all those brave men and women who have served in Afghanistan, many of whom are experiencing renewed pain and grief today as they grapple with traumatic images out of Kabul, thoughts of their fellow servicemembers, and fears for those alongside whom they fought. 

“At this moment, our top priorities must be the safety of American diplomats and other citizens in Afghanistan, and the extraction of Afghans who are at greatest risk, including those who bravely fought alongside our forces since 2001. The world must know that the United States stands by her friends in times of need, and this is one of those times. We must do everything we can to secure the airport in Kabul, restore evacuation flights, and allow our trusted Afghan partners to find safe haven in the United States or elsewhere before it is too late. We also cannot lose sight of the reason we were there in the first place and must continue to stay focused on potential threats to the United States posed by terror groups like the Haqqani network, al-Qa‘ida, and ISIS.

“Intelligence officials have anticipated for years that in the absence of the U.S. military the Taliban would continue to make gains in Afghanistan. That is exactly what has happened as the Afghan National Security Forces proved unable or unwilling to defend against Taliban advances in Kabul and across the country. As the Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, I hope to work with the other committees of jurisdiction to ask tough but necessary questions about why we weren’t better prepared for a worst-case scenario involving such a swift and total collapse of the Afghan government and security forces. We owe those answers to the American people and to all those who served and sacrificed so much.”  

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WASHINGTON—United States Senators Mark Warner (D-VA) and Bill Hagerty’s (R-TN) Communist China’s Digital Currency – National Security Risks Act has been included in the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2022 as marked-up by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. 

The bill requires the Biden Administration to report on the potential short-, medium-, and long-term national security risks to the United States associated with Communist China’s creation and use of an official digital currency. The bill requires reporting specifically on risks arising from the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) potential surveillance of financial transactions; risks related to security and illicit finance; and risks related to economic coercion and social control by the CCP.

“A Chinese digital currency could have significant national security implications for the U.S.,” said Senator Warner, Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. “This bill will ensure the intelligence community is monitoring and reporting on the risks posed by China’s digital currency, including its potential to be used as a way to evade U.S. sanctions or increase the Chinese government’s surveillance and ability to exert social or economic control. We cannot be caught flat-footed on these developments, which is why I fought to include this bill in the Intelligence Authorization Act.”

“I am pleased the Intelligence Committee has included this requirement for a report in its Intelligence Authorization Act,” said Senator Hagerty, a member of the Senate Banking Committee. “Since 2014, the Chinese Communist Party has been developing a digital version of its currency and may have the most advanced state-sponsored digital currency among major economies in the world. CCP officials are now ramping up for wider-spread deployment of its digital currency by the 2022 Winter Olympics. This will provide the CCP with additional information about financial transactions and economic activity, and could be used to evade U.S. sanctions. Now is the time for the U.S. intelligence community to act and inform us of their assessment of the different national security risks to America so that Congress may act appropriately and protect the U.S. Dollar’s position as the world’s reserve currency—a key ingredient of America’s global leadership.”

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WASHINGTON – As many Virginians adapt to life with a new pet in the wake of the pandemic, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) is requesting more information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) regarding a recent decision to temporarily suspend the importation of dogs from countries with heightened risk for rabies. In a letter to CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, the senator commended the CDC for working to keep animals and people safe, while also encouraging the agency to develop eventual plans to lift the ban, which has placed a strain on military and U.S. diplomatic families who own dogs.

“I understand this decision was prompted by several factors relevant to the pandemic, including a recent lack of facilities for quarantining dogs safely and a disruption to vaccination programs for animals and people. I applaud the agency for acting quickly to ensure that the canine rabies virus variant—which has been eradicated in the U.S. since 2007—is not reintroduced,” wrote Sen. Warner. “While I believe the decision was necessary, as reported cases of COVID-19 continue to decline with vaccination efforts underway, I also encourage the agency to develop plans to eventually lift the importation ban while still ensuring the health and safety of dogs in the aftermath of the public health emergency.”

“The temporary ban has been a cause for concern for the many U.S. diplomatic and military families who live in Virginia. While I know these families can be considered for a waiver, your agency’s website says these approvals are advanced ‘on an extremely limited basis,’ and this onerous application process has left pet owners scrambling to find a solution,” he continued. “I respectfully ask that the CDC work with Congress to find long-term solutions to this problem, specifically focusing on the following areas: the pandemic’s disruption on vaccination programs for animals and people, the lack of safe animal quarantine facilities in the U.S., the surge in breeders cutting corners due to the increasing demand for pets brought on by the pandemic, and the unique impact the ban has had on diplomatic and military families.” 

On July 14, the CDC temporarily suspended the importation of dogs from 113 countries classified as high risk for dog rabies. This was due, in part, to a significant 2020 increase in the number of imported dogs that were denied entry into the United States from high-risk countries. Due to reduced flight schedules, dogs denied entry are facing longer wait times to be returned to their country of departure, leading to illness and even death in some cases.

In the letter, Sen. Warner also asked the CDC to proactively engage in conversations and listening sessions with stakeholders that will be impacted by this ban, including rescue groups, representatives of U.S. diplomatic and military families, and other interested parties.  

Sen. Warner, a dog owner, has been an advocate for dogs in Virginia and throughout the country. In 2019, he wrote to the Department of State, raising alarm about reports that the Department sent highly-trained bomb-sniffing dogs to foreign partner nations without proper follow-up, resulting in the death of at least ten dogs from largely preventable illnesses.

A copy of the letter is available here and below. 

 

Dear Director Walensky: 

I write today regarding the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) recent decision to suspend the import of dogs from high-risk countries for canine rabies and inquire about the agency’s future plans related to this suspension.  

I greatly respect the CDC’s acute attention toward keeping both animals and people safe in its decision to limit the importation of dogs as the deadly COVID-19 virus continues to spread throughout the United States. I also appreciate the temporary nature of the suspension, and I hope to work with the CDC to limit the threat of rabies spreading in the U.S. while still protecting the rights of responsible pet owners.

I have, however, heard from many of my constituents with questions and concerns about the CDC’s decision to suspend dogs from 113 countries with heightened risk for rabies, which went into effect on July 14, 2021. I understand this decision was prompted by several factors relevant to the pandemic, including a recent lack of facilities for quarantining dogs safely and a disruption to vaccination programs for animals and people. I applaud the agency for acting quickly to ensure that the canine rabies virus variant—which has been eradicated in the U.S. since 2007—is not reintroduced.

While I believe the decision was necessary, as reported cases of COVID-19 continue to decline with vaccination efforts underway, I also encourage the agency to develop plans to eventually lift the importation ban while still ensuring the health and safety of dogs in the aftermath of the public health emergency. The temporary ban has been a cause for concern for the many U.S. diplomatic and military families who live in Virginia. While I know these families can be considered for a waiver, your agency’s website says these approvals are advanced “on an extremely limited basis,” and this onerous application process has left pet owners scrambling to find a solution.

I respectfully ask that the CDC work with Congress to find long-term solutions to this problem, specifically focusing on the following areas: the pandemic’s disruption on vaccination programs for animals and people, the lack of safe animal quarantine facilities in the U.S., the surge in breeders cutting corners due to the increasing demand for pets brought on by the pandemic, and the unique impact the ban has had on diplomatic and military families. I would also encourage that, in finding long-term solutions to this problem, the CDC proactively engages in conversations with stakeholders that will be impacted by this ban, including rescue groups, representatives of U.S. diplomatic and military families, and other interested parties.  In this vein we would recommend that the agency holds listening sessions with stakeholders impacted by the ban to better understand the needs of these communities and to ensure that any long-term solutions best serve the needs of both the CDC and the impacted communities.  

For years, the U.S. had strict quarantine and rabies vaccination procedures in place that proved highly effective in keeping animals in the U.S. safe from rabies. As we continue to adapt our ways of life in the aftermath of the pandemic, I look forward to your partnership in tackling these issues.

I appreciate your time and attention to this matter. I look forward to working together to ensure the health and safety of Americans and their pets.

Sincerely, 

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, released the following after the U.S., European Union, and NATO allies and partners publicly attributed the Microsoft hack to Chinese state-sponsored actors: 

“Today’s news makes clear: state-sponsored cyberattacks that threaten our national security and economic stability will be traced and found. Cyberattacks aren’t a uniquely American problem; our allies are also grappling with a barrage of cyberattacks coming from our foreign adversaries. It’s why I have long called for building international cyber norms to confront our shared cyber vulnerabilities and why I’m pleased to see joint recognition from our NATO and EU allies about this threat. I applaud the Biden administration for publicly exposing the actions of these Chinese state-sponsored actors, pursuing diplomatic cooperation on these threats and for taking additional steps to bolster our cyber defenses. As we take these first steps in an international effort to confront these challenges, there’s still more work to do to address our cyber vulnerabilities.” 

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner, Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, released the following after the Biden administration announced plans to relocate thousands of Afghan interpreters and translators with special immigrant visas (SIV) to U.S. Army base Fort Lee in Petersburg, Va.:

“Virginia has a long history of standing up for our military, and those who have risked their lives for our country. For two decades, thousands of Afghans have put their own lives and safety in danger in order to work with U.S. and allied personnel to fight Al Qaeda, the Haqqani Network, ISIS and other terrorist groups. Their efforts contributed to the decimation of Al Qaeda and its ability to attack the U.S. homeland. I applaud the President and his administration for acting to help bring these individuals to safety, and encourage further swift action to help the thousands of other Afghans and their family members who remain at risk because of their support for the U.S. mission in Afghanistan.” 

Last week, Sen. Warner sent a letter to President Biden urging the administration to act swiftly in ensuring the safety of Afghans who have worked closely with U.S. intelligence in the country as American forces withdraw from Afghanistan.

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WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Vice Chairman of the Committee, today sent a letter to President Biden, asking the administration to ensure the safety of Afghans who have worked closely with U.S. intelligence in the country.  

“For two decades, thousands of Afghans have risked their lives to work with intelligence professionals from the United States and other NATO countries to fight Al Qaeda, the Haqqani Network, ISIS and other terrorist groups. Their efforts contributed to the decimation of Al Qaeda and its ability to attack the U.S. homeland,” the Senators wrote. “Given the increasingly precarious security situation in Afghanistan and the Taliban’s direct targeting of Afghan partners to the United States, we ask that you pursue a set of options to keep these Afghans safe, including approving Special Immigrant Visas, evacuations to a third country, and/or priority admission under the U.S. Refugee Admissions program.”

“Currently the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program offers one avenue for our Afghan allies, but its timeline – a years-long process with thousands in the pipeline – does not align with the pace of withdrawal and the rapid deterioration in security. While we urge you to expedite this program and stand ready to provide additional resources for a faster processing timeline, we also ask that you consider the other evacuation options listed above,” the Senators added. “Further, we ask that you consider whether there is sufficient capacity at U.S. facilities to process applications from those Afghan personnel who have made our efforts possible over the last two decades, or whether there is – given the rapid pace of withdrawal of U.S. military forces from Afghanistan – sufficient capacity to evacuate our Afghan partners quickly as needs arise.” 

Concluded the Senators, “Abandoning these individuals, who have provided essential support to our intelligence community in Afghanistan, would send a damaging message to our allies and potential partners about the United States’ reliability and trustworthiness. It would also be a stain on our national conscience.”

A copy of the letter is available here, and the full text appears below. 

                                                            

Dear President Biden:

As your administration conducts its withdrawal of military personnel from Afghanistan, we ask that you ensure the safety and security of Afghans who have worked closely with our intelligence agencies and partners.   

For two decades, thousands of Afghans have risked their lives to work with intelligence professionals from the United States and other NATO countries to fight Al Qaeda, the Haqqani Network, ISIS and other terrorist groups.  Their efforts contributed to the decimation of Al Qaeda and its ability to attack the U.S. homeland.    

Given the increasingly precarious security situation in Afghanistan and the Taliban’s direct targeting of Afghan partners to the United States, we ask that you pursue a set of options to keep these Afghans safe, including approving Special Immigrant Visas, evacuations to a third country, and/or priority admission under the U.S. Refugee Admissions program.  

Currently the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program offers one avenue for our Afghan allies, but its timeline – a years-long process with thousands in the pipeline – does not align with the pace of withdrawal and the rapid deterioration in security. While we urge you to expedite this program and stand ready to provide additional resources for a faster processing timeline, we also ask that you consider the other evacuation options listed above.  

Further, we ask that you consider whether there is sufficient capacity at U.S. facilities to process applications from those Afghan personnel who have made our efforts possible over the last two decades, or whether there is – given the rapid pace of withdrawal of U.S. military forces from Afghanistan – sufficient capacity to evacuate our Afghan partners quickly as needs arise.

Abandoning these individuals, who have provided essential support to our intelligence community in Afghanistan, would send a damaging message to our allies and potential partners about the United States’ reliability and trustworthiness. It would also be a stain on our national conscience.

We stand ready to support your effort to ensure these Afghan partners are protected. 

Sincerely,

 

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WASHINGTON – Ahead of the ninth anniversary of Cuban political reformer Oswaldo Payá’s suspicious death, U.S. Senator Mark R. Warner (D-VA), along with Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD), Ted Cruz (R-TX), and Bob Menendez (D-NJ) urged the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to advance its efforts on this case without further delay.  In 2013, Durbin sent a letter to previous Commission Executive Secretary Emilio Icaza originally urging the Commission investigate Payá’s suspicious death.  Subsequent letters urging continued attention were sent in 2014 and 2016.       

“We hope the Commission’s unique role in such matters will help advance such an accounting and continue to stand ready to assist with this important matter,” the Senators wrote in a letter to Tania Reneaum Panszi, newly appointed Executive Secretary of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. 

In 2002, Payá started the Varela Project that sought greater political freedom in Cuba through a peaceful petition drive and referendum process as allowed for in the Cuban constitution.  Not only did the Cuban government reject the historic effort and brazenly change the constitutional provision allowing such public avenue for change, but also began a decade of shameful harassment of Payá and his movement.   

In July 2012, this persecution culminated in his car being rammed from behind by a tailing government vehicle, resulting in the death of Payá and fellow passenger and youth activist Harold Cepero.  The Cuban government has yet to provide a credible explanation, accounting, or justice for this tragic incident.  

Full text of the letter is available here and below: 

Dear Secretary Panszi:

Congratulations on your recent appointment to lead the Commission – a timely selection amid troubling democratic and human rights backsliding in Latin America.  In 2013, several of us sent the included letter to previous Commission Executive Secretary Emilio Icaza urging the Commission investigate the suspicious death of Cuban political reformer Oswaldo Payá.  With the ninth anniversary of this troubling event soon approaching and a refusal of the Cuban government to allow or provide for a credible investigation into the matter, we once again urge the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to advance its efforts on this case without further delay.

As you likely recall, in 2002 Payá started the Varela Project that sought greater political freedom in Cuba through a peaceful petition drive and referendum process as allowed for in the Cuban constitution.  Not only did the Cuban government reject the historic effort and brazenly change the constitutional provision allowing such public avenue for change, but also began a decade of shameful harassment of Payá and his movement.   

In July 2012, this persecution culminated in his car being rammed from behind by a tailing government vehicle, resulting in the death of Payá and fellow passenger and youth activist Harold Cepero.  The Cuban government has yet to provide a credible explanation, accounting, or justice for this tragic incident.  In fact, shortly after his death the United States Senate unanimously passed a resolution honoring Payá’s work which also called on the “Government of Cuba to allow an impartial, third-party investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death of Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas.”

We hope the Commission’s unique role in such matters will help advance such an accounting and continue to stand ready to assist with this important matter.   

Sincerely,

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner, Tim Kaine (both D-Va.), and Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Chair of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, and Border Safety sent a letter to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas urging him to reopen Howard Bailey’s immigration proceedings and grant him humanitarian parole. Bailey is a U.S. Navy veteran who lives in exile in Jamaica after being deported in 2012 for a conviction that has since been pardoned.

“The Biden administration has committed to honoring family unity and redressing racial injustices where possible. Returning Mr. Bailey to the U.S., in light of his overwhelming positive equities and the injustice of his deportation, honors these priorities and is a small step toward restoring humanity to the U.S. immigration system,” wrote the Senators. “We urge you to join his motion to reopen his immigration proceedings and grant his application for humanitarian parole.”

Last week, Bailey was invited to testify at an Immigration Subcommittee hearing to examine how we can better honor the promises made to our brave military members, veterans, and their families in our immigration policy. At the conclusion of the hearing Padilla stated, “Mr. Bailey fought for our country and I am happy to fight for him.” Padilla also raised this issue directly to Robert Silvers, the Nominee for DHS Under Secretary for Strategy, Policy, and Plans during a Homeland Security Committee hearing. 

Howard Bailey moved to the U.S. when he was around 17-years-old after obtaining lawful permanent residence status through his U.S. citizen mother. He joined the U.S. Navy after high school and served for nearly four years, including two tours in Operation Desert Storm. He was awarded the National Defense Service Medal and honorably discharged. After Mr. Bailey’s service to the U.S. Navy, he devoted himself to his wife and two U.S. citizen children, purchased a home, and started two small businesses including a thriving trucking company employing seven people. 

The full text of the letter is available HERE and below:

 

Dear Secretary Mayorkas:

We write to request that the Department of Homeland Security join U.S. veteran Howard Bailey’s motion to reopen his immigration proceedings and grant him humanitarian parole so that he can return to the United States.

Mr. Bailey joined the U.S. Navy after high school. During his subsequent four years of service, he served on a critical supply ship often in danger zones as a part of Operation Desert Storm and Project Comfort. After he left the Navy, he started a trucking business, purchased his home with a V.A. loan, and built a stable life for his family. He was living the American Dream in every sense of the phrase. Mark Warner

Soon after his honorable discharge, Mr. Bailey was arrested after a package of marijuana was mailed to his home for a friend. Despite not knowing the contents of the package, he pled guilty to a marijuana charge based on counsel from his attorney, who also failed to advise him of the immigration consequences of his plea. Fifteen years later, when Mr. Bailey applied for citizenship, he disclosed that he had a marijuana conviction from 1995. ICE learned of his conviction only when Mr. Bailey himself brought it to the agency’s attention as he applied for U.S. citizenship. ICE then initiated deportation proceedings against him on the basis of this sole marijuana conviction—arresting him on his front lawn with his daughter, son, and wife as witnesses.

In the years after his deportation to Jamaica, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that such convictions no longer render people like Mr. Bailey deportable or make them ineligible for discretionary relief from deportation. More recently, in 2017, former Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe issued a pardon for Mr. Bailey’s marijuana conviction in light of his service to the U.S. Navy and the increasing decriminalization of marijuana nationwide. Today, the conviction that led to his deportation is no longer a part of his record, and the law makes clear that he is eligible for relief from deportation.

On May 27, 2021, a memorandum was issued by DHS headquarters to ICE OPLA attorneys explicitly encouraging DHS to join motions to reopen cases like Mr. Bailey’s where “an individual is eligible for relief under the law and merits relief as a matter of discretion.” The memo lists factors that should be taken into account in joining a motion and that weigh in favor of his case. These include his prior military service, his prior lawful permanent residence status, decades of residency in the U.S. with significant family ties, the length of time since his conviction (26 years) and the compelling humanitarian circumstances in his case such as the severe mental health challenges suffered by his daughter.

As the Secretary of Homeland Security, you have the authority under current law to grant humanitarian parole for cases like Mr. Bailey’s where urgent humanitarian considerations and significant public benefit apply. In addition to the public benefit of bringing home a U.S. veteran who has proudly served his country, paroling Mr. Bailey into the United States is also an appropriate next step to address the profoundly devastating impact of his deportation on his two U.S. citizen children. His daughter, only 11-years-old at the time ICE officers took her father away, continues to face significant mental health challenges and has been unable to attend college, a dream both her and her father shared for her. His son—traumatized by the loss of his father and the subsequent economic challenges including suffering from hunger—has had trouble with the criminal legal system.

The Biden administration has committed to honoring family unity and redressing racial injustices where possible. Returning Mr. Bailey to the U.S., in light of his overwhelming positive equities and the injustice of his deportation, honors these priorities and is a small step toward restoring humanity to the U.S. immigration system. We urge you to join his motion to reopen his immigration proceedings and grant his application for humanitarian parole.

Sincerely,

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, released the following statement upon the release of a congressionally-mandated declassified report on Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP):

“I was first briefed on these unidentified aerial phenomena nearly three years ago. Since then, the frequency of these incidents only appears to be increasing. The United States must be able to understand and mitigate threats to our pilots, whether they’re from drones or weather balloons or adversary intelligence capabilities. Today’s rather inconclusive report only marks the beginning of efforts to understand and illuminate what is causing these risks to aviation in many areas around the country and the world.”

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WASHINGTON -- Today, U.S. Senator Mark R. Warner (D-VA) joined Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Mike Rounds (R-SD), and a bipartisan group of 37 senators in calling for $500 million to fully fund U.S.-Israel cooperative missile defense programs in the Defense Appropriations bill for fiscal year 2022. Israel’s missile defense system is made up of four operational layers: Iron Dome, David’s Sling, Arrow 2 and now Arrow 3. In addition to contributing to ballistic missile defense, the funding will support crucial work on research, development and test activities to counter hostile unmanned aerial systems.  

The bipartisan group of senators wrote, “the U.S.-Israeli cooperation has resulted in a system that can, and has, countered numerous missile threats from state and non-state actors from adversaries in Gaza, Lebanon, Syria, Iran, and elsewhere. This system provides Israel with the ability to protect lives at home and on the battlefield, keeping its citizens and soldiers out of harm’s way.”

In addition to Senators Warner, Gillibrand, and Rounds, the letter was signed by Senators Bennet (D-CO), Blumenthal (D-CT), Booker (D-NJ), Brown (D-OH), Cantwell (D-WA), Cardin (D-MD), Casey (D-PA), Coons (D-DE), Cortez Masto (D-NV), Cramer (R-ND), Daines (R-MT), Duckworth (D-IL), Feinstein (D-CA), Fischer (R-NE), Hassan (D-NH), Hickenlooper (D-CO), Kaine (D-VA), Kelly (D-AZ), Klobuchar (D-MN), Lankford (R-OK), Markey (D-MA), Merkley (D-OR), Padilla (D-CA), Peters (D-MI), Rosen (D-NV), Rubio (R-FL), Schatz (D-HI), Sinema (D-AZ), Smith (D-MN), Stabenow (D-MI), Thune (R-SD), Van Hollen (D-MD), Warnock (D-GA), Wyden (D-OR) and Young (R-IN).

The text of the letter appears below:

 

Dear Chairman Tester and Ranking Member Shelby: 

Thank you for this committee’s strong support of U.S.-Israel collaborative defense programs, including Iron Dome, David's Sling, and Arrow as well as our continued cooperative work on Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS). As you begin work on the Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 Defense Appropriations bill, we write seeking $500 million for continued support for these in order to meet the United States’ and Israel's national security needs.

Joint U.S.-Israel missile defense collaboration on Israel’s multilayer missile defense system has been foundational to the defense of Israel since the 1980s. Congress has consistently supported this project. Israel’s missile defense system is made up of four operational layers: Iron Dome (short-range), David’s Sling (medium-range), Arrow 2 (longer range), and now Arrow 3 (very long range). The U.S.-Israeli cooperation has resulted in a system that can, and has, countered numerous missile threats from state and non-state actors from adversaries in Gaza, Lebanon, Syria, Iran, and elsewhere. This system provides Israel with the ability to protect lives at home and on the battlefield, keeping its citizens and soldiers out of harm’s way.

This cooperative program has also created an important flow of data and invaluable insight to support vital U.S. missile defense technology while safeguarding our strategic ally Israel and our service members in the region. This program synergizes with our ongoing operations in the area increasing interoperability between U.S. and Israeli systems and forces. Moreover, the program supports critical elements of the industrial base and important jobs here in the United States through co-development and co-production agreements. 

Another area of critical importance to both the United States and Israel, is in the field of UAS, and perhaps just as importantly, counter-UAS. In February 2020, the U.S. Defense Innovation Unit announced it had selected Israeli firm D-Fend Solutions to field a counter-drone system for the FBI and U.S. military. This technology was co-developed with the U.S. Combatting Terrorism Technical Support Office. CTTSO has played a crucial role in U.S.-Israel cooperation and innovation.  

For FY 2022, in addition to ballistic missile defense, $500 million will continue critical work on research, development and test activities to counter hostile unmanned aerial systems. This funding will further development of a range of systems designed to handle the imminent threats American and Israeli forces face. 

Together, these programs confront the compelling challenges facing both Israel and the United States and form a strong foundation of the enduring friendship of our nations. We look forward to working with you on these important programs. 

Sincerely,

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, released the following statement on President Biden’s executive order on protecting sensitive data from foreign adversaries:

“This executive order by the Biden administration adopts a risk-based, transparent, and comprehensive approach to evaluating the security and privacy risks of foreign technology products, a clear contrast to the previous administration’s uncoordinated approach on this issue. I look forward to working with the administration and my colleagues on ways in which we can codify these approaches to better ensure long-term consistency and predictability in our national policies in this area.”

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, released the following statement on the disclosure by Microsoft of a Russian hacking operation targeting USAID and other government agencies, think tanks, consultants, and non-governmental organizations :

“We have to step up our cyber defenses, and we must make clear to Russia – and any other adversaries – that they will face consequences for this and any other malicious cyber activity.” 

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