Press Releases

WASHINGTON – Today, Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Vice Chairman Marco Rubio (R-FL) urged the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to formally investigate TikTok and its parent company, ByteDance. The call comes in response to recent reports that the social media platform has permitted TikTok engineers and executives in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) to repeatedly access private data of US users despite repeated claims to lawmakers and users that this data was protected. This includes instances where staff based in the United States had to consult with their China-based colleagues for information about U.S. user data as they did not have access to the data on their own. These revelations undermine longstanding claims by TikTok’s management that the company’s operations were firewalled from demands of the Chinese Communist Party.

“We write in response to public reports that individuals in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) have been accessing data on U.S. users, in contravention of several public representations, including sworn testimony in October 2021,” the senators wrote in a letter to FTC Chair Lina Khan. “In light of this new report, we ask that your agency immediately initiate a Section 5 investigation on the basis of apparent deception by TikTok, and coordinate this work with any national security or counter-intelligence investigation that may be initiated by the U.S. Department of Justice.”

The report also highlights TikTok’s misrepresentation of the company’s relationship to ByteDance and its subsidiaries, including Beijing-based ByteDance Technology, which is partially owned by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). 

The senators continued, “TikTok’s Trust and Safety department was aware of these improper access practices and governance irregularities, which – according to internal recordings of TikTok deliberations – offered PRC-based employees unfettered access to user information, including birthdates, phone numbers, and device identification information. Recent updates to TikTok’s privacy policy, which indicate that TikTok may be collecting biometric data such as faceprints and voiceprints (i.e. individually-identifiable image and audio data, respectively), heighten the concern that data of U.S. users may be vulnerable to extrajudicial access by security services controlled by the CCP.”

As Chairman and Vice Chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Sens. Warner and Rubio have been vocal about the cyber and national security threats posed by the CCP. In 2019, the senators introduced legislation to combat tech-specific threats to national security posed by foreign actors like China.

A copy of the letter is available here and below. 

Dear Chairwoman Khan:

We write in response to public reports that individuals in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) have been accessing data on U.S. users, in contravention of several public representations, including sworn testimony in October 2021. In an interview with the online publication Cyberscoop, the Global Chief Security Officer for TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, made a number of public representations on the data security practices of TikTok, including unequivocal claims that the data of American users is not accessible to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the government of the PRC. As you know, TikTok’s privacy practices are already subject to a consent decree with the Federal Trade Commission, based on its improper collection and processing of personal information from children. In light of this new report, we ask that your agency immediately initiate a Section 5 investigation on the basis of apparent deception by TikTok, and coordinate this work with any national security or counter-intelligence investigation that may be initiated by the U.S. Department of Justice.

Additionally, these recent reports suggest that TikTok has also misrepresented its corporate governance practices, including to Congressional committees such as ours. In October 2021, TikTok’s head of public policy, Michael Beckerman, testified that TikTok has “no affiliation” with another ByteDance subsidiary, Beijing-based ByteDance Technology, of which the CCP owns a partial stake. Meanwhile, as recently as March of this year, TikTok officials reiterated to our Committee representations they have previously made that all corporate governance decisions are wholly firewalled from their PRC-based parent, ByteDance. Yet according to a recent report from Buzzfeed News, TikTok’s engineering teams ultimately report to ByteDance leadership in the PRC. 

According to this same report, TikTok’s Trust and Safety department was aware of these improper access practices and governance irregularities, which – according to internal recordings of TikTok deliberations – offered PRC-based employees unfettered access to user information, including birthdates, phone numbers, and device identification information. Recent updates to TikTok’s privacy policy, which indicate that TikTok may be collecting biometric data such as faceprints and voiceprints (i.e. individually-identifiable image and audio data, respectively), heighten the concern that data of U.S. users may be vulnerable to extrajudicial access by security services controlled by the CCP.

A series of national security laws imposed by the CCP, including the 2017 National Intelligence Law and the 2014 Counter-Espionage Law provide extensive and extra-judicial access opportunities for CCP-controlled security services. Under these authorities, the CCP may compel access, regardless of where data is ultimately stored. While TikTok has suggested that migrating to U.S.-based storage from a U.S. cloud service provider alleviates any risk of unauthorized access, these latest revelations raise concerns about the reliability of TikTok representations: since TikTok will ultimately control all access to the cloud-hosted systems, the risk of access to that data by PRC-based engineers (or CCP security services) remains significant in light of the corporate governance irregularities revealed by BuzzFeed News. Moreover, as the recent report makes clear, the majority of TikTok data – including content posted by users as well as their unique IDs– will remain freely accessible to PRC-based ByteDance employees.

In light of repeated misrepresentations by TikTok concerning its data security, data processing, and corporate governance practices, we urge you to act promptly on this matter.

Sincerely, 

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WASHINGTONToday, Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Mark R. Warner (D-VA), and committee members Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Ben Sasse (R-NE), unveiled the American Technology Leadership Act, legislation to establish an Office of Global Competition Analysis to assess how the United States fares in key emerging  technologies relative to other countries to inform policy and strengthen U.S. competitiveness. Bennet plans to advocate for the bill’s inclusion in the Fiscal Year 2023 Intelligence Authorization Act.

“As we compete to supply the world with cutting-edge technologies, we don’t have a meaningful way to track how our progress stacks up against China’s in advancing the technologies of the future. Establishing an Office of Global Competition Analysis will help fill this knowledge gap and allow us to better compete on the world stage,” said Warner. 

“To compete with countries like China, we have to secure U.S. leadership in critical emerging technologies, such as semiconductors and artificial intelligence,” said Bennet. “Today, we have no idea where the United States stands in these growing sectors compared to our competitors and adversaries. Our bipartisan legislation would fuse information across the federal government, including classified sources, to help us better understand U.S. competitiveness in technologies critical to our national security and economic prosperity and inform responses that will boost U.S. leadership.”

“We are currently in a tech war with China, and the urgency to keep the upper hand is growing,” said Sasse. “Staying technologically competitive needs to be our top priority, which is why we need to assess how we compare with other countries technologically and which technologies matter most to our economic and national security. We’re going to need to stay sharp and creating an office to focus on global competition is just one step that helps us stay ahead of our competition.” 

Today, there is no federal entity responsible for assessing U.S. leadership in key technologies relative to strategic competitors like China. Although the Department of Defense evaluates how our battleships, tanks, and aircraft compare to other nations, there is no equivalent process for critical technologies like artificial intelligence and quantum computing, despite their far-reaching consequences for America’s national security and economic prosperity. 

The Office of Global Competition Analysis would be staffed by experts from the Departments of Commerce, Treasury, and Defense, along with the Intelligence Community, and other relevant agencies. The new Office could also draw on experts from the private sector and academia on a project basis, and the legislation allows it to leverage the capability of an existing Federally Funded Research and Development Center (FFRDC). The Office would support both economic and national security policy makers. The White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), National Economic Council, and the National Security Council (NSC) would jointly manage the office and set priorities and project requirements.

Specifically, a technology net assessment capability will enable the U.S. government to:

 

  • Identify which technologies will matter most to America’s economic and national security;
  • Evaluate America’s technology leadership relative to other countries; and
  • Determine the appropriate policy response to ensure U.S. leadership. 

 

The bill text is available here. A one-page summary of the bill is available here.

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WASHINGTON – Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Vice Chairman Marco Rubio (R-FL) led bipartisan members of the Senate Intelligence Committee in urging the Biden administration to increase sanctions on enablers of Vladimir Putin’s regime amidst its unprovoked and illegal war in Ukraine.

In a letter to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, the senators wrote, “While many of the Putin regime’s top figures are already subject to United States, European, and other nations’ sanctions, we believe it is important that lower-tier enablers of the regime’s aggressive policies, including its militarists, propagandists, corrupt officials, public supporters, senior federal officials, and legislators, also be subject to a sanctions regime to ensure that they cannot continue to support Russia’s reprehensible aggression, yet benefit from assets, vacations, or educational opportunities in the West.”

Specifically, the senators urged the administration to take into account the list of 6,000 such Russian officials and regime enablers compiled by the Anti-Corruption Foundation of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

Added the senators, “The goal of such sanctions should be to ensure that these individuals do not have access to assets in the United States or ability to travel to the U.S.; force them to leave their posts, thereby hollowing out the Putin regime’s capacity to continue its unjust war; and pressure such officials to denounce publicly Russia’s aggression against Ukraine and the corruption of the Putin regime.”

In addition to Sens. Warner and Rubio, the letter was signed by Sens. Ron Wyden (D-OR), Jim Risch (R-ID), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Susan Collins (R-ME), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), John Cornyn (R-TX), and Ben Sasse (R-NE).

A copy of the letter is available here and below. 

Dear Secretary Yellen:

We write to you regarding the need to increase sanctions on enablers of the Putin regime in Russia, including those who provide support for Russia’s unjustified invasion of Ukraine.

While many of the Putin regime’s top figures are already subject to United States, European, and other nations’ sanctions, we believe it is important that lower-tier enablers of the regime’s aggressive policies, including its militarists, propagandists, corrupt officials, public supporters, senior federal officials, and legislators, also be subject to a sanctions regime to ensure that they cannot continue to support Russia’s reprehensible aggression, yet benefit from assets, vacations, or educational opportunities in the West. 

Specifically, we urge you to take into account the list of 6,000 such Russian officials and regime enablers compiled by the Anti-Corruption Foundation of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny. 

The goal of such sanctions should be to ensure that these individuals do not have access to assets in the United States or ability to travel to the U.S.; force them to leave their posts, thereby hollowing out the Putin regime’s capacity to continue its unjust war; and pressure such officials to denounce publicly Russia’s aggression against Ukraine and the corruption of the Putin regime.

On May 19, 2022, the European Parliament passed a resolution similarly calling for greater sanctions to impose consequences for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, including calling “to extend the list of individuals directly targeted by EU sanctions, including Russian oligarchs, taking into account the list of 6,000 individuals presented by Navalny’s Foundation.”

We stand ready to assist you as needed in implementing these targeted sanctions.

Sincerely,

 

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WASHINGTON — Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine released the following statement after their Republican colleagues blocked the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act from receiving a final Senate vote:

“Everyone deserves to go to work or the store without worrying about being a victim of domestic terrorism. Yet in the last two weeks alone, 10 Black Americans died in a racist shooting in Buffalo. Nothing about addressing extremist violence, hate crimes, and domestic terrorism should be partisan, and it’s deeply disappointing that not a single Republican in the Senate stood with us today to even open debate on legislation to help make our communities safer. The American people deserve action and we’re going to keep working to deliver it.” 

According to a March 2021 report by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the two most lethal threats among domestic violent extremists are racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists (RMVEs) and militia violent extremists (MVEs). RMVEs are most likely to conduct mass-casualty attacks against civilians, such as the deadly shooting at a Tops Friendly Markets in Buffalo earlier this month.

Had Republicans not blocked the bill from reaching a final vote—where it would have been expected to pass and proceed to President Biden’s desk for signature—the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act would have established new requirements to expand the availability of information on domestic terrorism, as well as the relationship between domestic terrorism and hate crimes.

The legislation would also have authorized components within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Department of Justice (DOJ), and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to monitor, analyze, investigate, and prosecute domestic terrorism. DHS, DOJ, and the FBI would have also been required to review their anti-terrorism training programs and make training on prosecuting domestic terrorism available to its prosecutors.

In addition, the bill would have created an interagency task force to analyze and combat white supremacist and neo-Nazi infiltration of the uniformed services and federal law enforcement agencies, and directed the FBI to assign a special agent or hate crimes liaison to each of its field offices.

Full text of the legislation is available here.

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) joined Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Thom Tillis (R-NC), and 78 of their colleagues in a letter to President Biden urging him to expedite the Executive Branch’s process to advance Sweden and Finland’s applications for NATO membership and pledging to work with the Administration to ensure swift ratification of the Washington Treaty.

In the letter, the Senators noted that NATO’s expansion will send a clear message to Putin and authoritarian leaders across the globe that the free world stands ready to bolster the alliance and defend our values and sovereignty, including through NATO’s open door policy.

“As Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine has proven, NATO, along with our democratic partners around the world, is more united than ever in opposition to the illegal acts of war waged by President Putin. Expanding NATO to include Finland and Sweden will send a clear message to Vladimir Putin, and any leader that attempts to follow in his path, that the free world stands ready to defend its values and sovereignty. We will also continue to support NATO’s open-door policy, which affirms that new members are welcome to the alliance,” the Senators wrote.

The Senators also affirmed their support for Sweden and Finland’s applications as part of the Senate’s role to provide advice and consent for NATO enlargement. During this pivotal moment to our global security, they noted this expansion will further strengthen NATO’s military and diplomatic capabilities to address emerging threats, and that mutual security assurances should extend to these two countries under the alliance.

“Members of the U.S. Senate take seriously our role in advising and consenting to NATO enlargement, a process that must be approved by all NATO member states. We affirm our support for Sweden and Finland’s applications for membership. In addition, we pledge to work closely with you and with our Senate colleagues to ensure that their applications are swiftly considered and approved by the Senate,” the senators concluded. “The transatlantic alliance has never been more crucial to global security and stability. The addition of these two important allies to NATO will ensure the alliance’s resilience and readiness, and we look forward to welcoming Sweden and Finland to NATO.”

The full list of 82 Senators on the letter includes Senators Warner, Kaine, Shaheen, Tillis, Blumenthal (D-CT), Cardin (D-MD), Carper (D-DE), Coons (D-DE), Duckworth (D-IL), Durbin (D-IL), Hickenlooper (D-CO), King (I-ME), Rosen (D-NV), Wyden (D-OR), Tester (D-MT), Hassan (D-NH), Kelly (D-AZ), Manchin (D-WV), Portman (R-OH), Collins (R-ME), Murkowski (R-AK), Cramer (R-ND), Graham (R-SC), Sasse (R-NE), McConnell (R-KY), Barrasso (R-WY), Ernst (R-IA), Romney (R-UT), Rounds (R-SD), Thune (R-SD), Grassley (R-IA), Hagerty (R-TN), Toomey (R-PA), Hoeven (R-ND), Cornyn (R-TX), Scott (R-SC), Gillibrand (D-NY), Cortez Masto (D-NV), Sinema (D-AZ), Baldwin (D-WI), Feinstein (D-CA), Murphy (D-CT), Hirono (D-HI), Booker (D-NJ), Merkley (D-OR), Bennet (D-CO), Warnock (D-GA), Murray (D-WA), Leahy (D-VT), Brown (D-OH), Klobuchar (D-MN), Markey (D-MA), Lujan (D-NM), Cotton (R-AR), Burr (R-NC), Inhofe (R-OK), Schatz (D-HI), Schumer (D-NY), Van Hollen (D-MD), Fischer (R-NE), Reed (D-RI), Heinrich (D-NM), Peters (D-MI), Whitehouse (D-RI), Padilla (D-CA), Menendez (D-NJ), Ossoff (D-GA), Capito (R-WV), Young (R-IN), Wicker (R-MS), Risch (R-ID), Hyde-Smith (R-MS), Stabenow (D-MI), Blackburn (R-TN), Sullivan (R-AK), Smith (D-MN), Casey (D-PA), Blunt (R-MO), Marshall (R-KS), Daines (R-MT), Crapo (R-ID) and Warren (D-MA).

Full text of the letter is available here.

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WASHINGTON — Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner, Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and Tim Kaine, who serves on the Senate Foreign Relations and Armed Services Committees, issued the following statement after voting to pass a $40 billion military and humanitarian aid package for Ukraine:

“Putin’s illegal war in Ukraine underscores the importance of democracies around the world sticking together to stand against authoritarians who violate international law and commit war crimes. Today’s vote is another powerful signal that the United States is committed to that principle, and we’re going to keep working to ensure that we remain a very strong ally of Ukraine.”

Behind the scenes and in public, Chairman Warner has been a strong advocate for the $5 billion in food aid included in this bill to support non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that have been working since day one to address the dire humanitarian crisis caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Among other efforts, Chairman Warner has also pushed to ensure the effectiveness of U.S. sanctions on Russia. Earlier this year, he introduced legislation with a group of lawmakers aimed at preventing Russian oligarchs from using digital currencies to avoid the full brunt of the sanctions.

Sen. Kaine has been a consistent advocate for both directing assistance to Ukraine and ensuring Americans aren’t complicit in Russia’s unjustified war. Kaine was one of the first members of Congress to call for a war crimes investigation into Russia’s actions, and applauded International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor Karim Khan’s announcement that he would launch such an investigation. To ensure that the United States is doing its part in a coordinated effort to collect and maintain evidence of Russia’s war crimes and atrocities, Kaine teamed up with a bipartisan group of colleagues to introduce the Ukraine Invasion War Crimes Deterrence and Accountability Act.

Broadcast-quality video of Sen. Warner speaking about the legislation is available here.

Broadcast-quality video of Sen. Kaine speaking about the legislation is available here.

The aid package is now headed to President Biden’s desk for signature.

 

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, released the following statement after the U.S. House of Representatives voted to pass the supplemental aid package that will deliver more than $40 billion in additional aid to support Ukraine: 

“The Ukrainian people are facing horrific violence inflicted by Russia. In the face of significant tragedy and loss of life, so many are fighting to repel Putin’s authoritarian campaign and preserve the freedoms that we sometimes take for granted. I’m glad that the House voted to advance this critical legislation, which will provide Ukraine with critically needed humanitarian and military assistance. I’m proud to have successfully pushed for $5 billion in food aid to help support the remarkable work of non-governmental organizations that are responding to this crisis on the ground by providing hot meals, food supplies, and other desperately-needed aid.”

Behind the scenes and in public, Sen. Warner has been a strong advocate for increasing available funding for non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that have been on the ground since day one, working to address the dire humanitarian crisis caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

This package will now head to the Senate, which will vote on whether to send the bill to President Biden for his signature.  

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), one of the Senators tasked with negotiating the U.S. jobs and competitiveness package, released the following statement after the Senate moved to begin negotiations between the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate, following a series of procedural votes:

“It has taken the Senate far too long to get to this point, but I’m pleased to finally have the green light to start these critical negotiations. This package stands to bring manufacturing back to the U.S., create good-paying jobs, and propel our innovation economy forward. I look forward to a productive series of negotiations and will work to get this bill to President Biden’s desk as soon as possible.”

In April, Sen. Warner, Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, was selected to serve on the conference committee of Senators and House members working to reconcile differences between the House and Senate versions of the jobs and competitiveness bill. This bill has been known variously as the Bipartisan Innovation Act, America COMPETES Act, the United States Innovation and Competition Act, and the Endless Frontier Act.

Once the conference committee comes to an agreement on a final version of the bill, the House and Senate will each vote on whether to send that bill to President Biden’s desk to be signed into law.  

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WASHINGTON – Today, Senator Rick Scott released the following statement applauding the Senate’s unanimous approval of his bipartisan resolution with Senator Mark Warner supporting Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai. Senator Scott’s resolution also rebukes the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for its failure to clearly and forcefully challenge the Chinese Communist Party’s claims about her safety.

The resolution was previously reported favorably out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. It is cosponsored by Senators Shelley Moore Capito, Sherrod Brown, John Hoeven, Ron Wyden, Ted Cruz, Jeff Merkley, Mike Braun, Chris Van Hollen, Marsha Blackburn, Bob Casey, Tom Cotton, Raphael Warnock, Ron Johnson and Jeanne Shaheen. A companion, bipartisan resolution led by Congressman Michael Waltz and Congresswoman Jennifer Wexton unanimously passed the U.S. House of Representatives in December 2021.

Senator Rick Scott said, “Today, the United States Senate sent a clear message that Communist China’s silencing of Peng Shuai is unacceptable and the IOC’s cooperation with the authoritarian and oppressive communist Chinese regime in covering up this alleged assault will not be tolerated. In passing this resolution, the Senate is again rightly standing in support of freedom and democracy around the world, and showing Xi Jinping that we will never turn a blind eye to his gross behavior. We will never stop fighting to support brave women like Peng Shuai and will continue to demand accountability and condemn the horrific abuses of the Chinese Communist Party.”

Senator Mark Warner said, “In the time since the closing ceremony of the Beijing Olympics we have not been given any clarity regarding the freedom, well-being, and safety of Peng Shuai. In passing this resolution, the United States Senate is reaffirming that the International Olympic Committee’s unwillingness to clearly and forcefully stand up to the CCP and call for independent assurance into the safety of Peng Shuai has stood in direct opposition to what we stand for, and to the broader diplomatic efforts to push for her freedom and well-being. The U.S. will continue to call out disturbing human rights abuses by the CCP.”

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WASHINGTON – Today it was announced that U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, will serve on the conference committee of Senators and House members working to reconcile differences between the House and Senate version of the jobs and competitiveness bill, which has been known variously as the Bipartisan Innovation Act, America COMPETES Act, the United States Innovation and Competition Act, or the Endless Frontier Act, in order to send a final bill to President Biden’s desk for signature.

“For too long, the United States has allowed our global competitors to out-invest and out-hustle us in regard to our innovation economy. This competitiveness bill will make major investments in domestic semiconductor manufacturing, create good-paying jobs, and provide the tools our country needs to continue competing in the global economy while addressing some of the major causes of economic inflation,” said Sen. Warner. “I am honored to be a member of the conference committee that will work to get a strong bill to the president’s desk ASAP.”

“The Senate is moving an important step closer to delivering a robust jobs and competitiveness bill that will help fix our supply chains and boost American innovation and technological dominance for generations. Our Democratic conferees will ensure that the Senate-passed bill stays on track to create more good-paying jobs, boost domestic manufacturing, and spark American ingenuity that will be the engine that drives our economy forward for years to come,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY).

In June, the Senate voted 68-28 to pass the United States Innovation and Competition Act, bipartisan legislation that includes Warner-led provisions to foster U.S. innovation in the race for 5G and shore up American leadership in the semiconductors industry. In February, the House finally acted to pass its own version of the bill, the America COMPETES Act. Now, a small group of House members and Senators will form a conference committee to negotiate differences between the two bills and assemble a final product to send to President Biden.

Earlier today, Sen. Warner joined Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-VA) in leading the Virginia congressional delegation in calling on the U.S. Department of Commerce to consider Virginia for future locations of major semiconductor production and research facilities.

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U.S. Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) joined Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) in sending a letter urging Secretary of State Antony Blinken and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Samantha Power to press international donors at the United Nations pledging conference to fulfill the current $3.8 billion funding gap for humanitarian aid for Afghanistan and to ensure that aid can reach the Afghan people in need.

“The humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan is deepening, with more than half the population - 23 million people - in need of assistance. In response, the UN has released an appeal to international donors for $4.4 billion to meet the humanitarian needs in Afghanistan - the largest single country appeal in history. In advance of the high-level pledging event for the country scheduled for March 31, we urge the administration to work closely with our international partners to generously commit and rapidly deliver funds that will help save lives in Afghanistan,” the senators wrote.

The senators continued: “As the economy craters, the suffering of the Afghan people deepens. Today, 95% of households in Afghanistan don’t have enough food to eat. By this summer, 97% of Afghans will be living below the poverty line—trying to survive on less than two dollars a day. With nine million people just one step away from famine, this humanitarian crisis could kill more Afghans than the past 20 years of war.”

“We understand that the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan is driving unprecedented levels of suffering of the Afghan people, and urge robust oversight to ensure that all assistance gets to the people of Afghanistan. Without the full participation of female humanitarian staff in the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of all humanitarian services, aid will not be delivered in a manner that upholds humanitarian principles, and will be unable to reach the most vulnerable Afghan women and girls in the hardest to reach areas. The Taliban must allow unhindered humanitarian access, safe conditions for humanitarians, independent provision of assistance to all vulnerable people, and freedom of movement for aid workers of all genders,” the senators wrote.

The senators concluded: “Amid crises in Yemen, Ukraine, Ethiopia, Syria, and elsewhere, the international community must not lose focus on Afghanistan. We encourage you to press key international donors to make up the current $3.8 billion funding deficit for humanitarian programs and to expediently deliver such funds. These include countries in the region and members of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, as well as likeminded partners who have generously supported Afghanistan in years past. Finally, we encourage you to work closely with our allies in the region to ease any restrictions on humanitarian access in Afghanistan to enable humanitarian partners to reach people in need.”

The letter led by Senator Murphy was signed in addition to Senator Warner by Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Chris Van Hollen (D-VA) Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Edward Markey (D-MA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR.), and Sherrod Brown (D-OH).

Full text of the letter is available below.

Dear Secretary Blinken and Administrator Power,

The humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan is deepening, with more than half the population - 23 million people - in need of assistance. In response, the UN has released an appeal to international donors for $4.4 billion to meet the humanitarian needs in Afghanistan - the largest single country appeal in history. In advance of the high-level pledging event for the country scheduled for March 31, we urge the administration to work closely with our international partners to generously commit and rapidly deliver funds that will help save lives in Afghanistan. 

Even prior to the Taliban’s takeover, Afghanistan’s economy suffered from longstanding structural problems. The country was highly dependent on external aid, which financed 75% of public expenditures and were equal to about 40% of the country’s GDP. The Taliban’s takeover caused a pullback in foreign aid and strained the liquidity and solvency of Afghanistan’s financial sector. The IMF estimates that the country’s economy will contract up to 30% this year, and many of the senior officials and technical experts needed to provide sound economic management have fled the country. While humanitarian aid is critical to saving lives in the short-term, it cannot replace a functioning economy in Afghanistan. These underlying structural economic problems will take years to solve. 

As the economy craters, the suffering of the Afghan people deepens. Today, 95% of households in Afghanistan don’t have enough food to eat. By this summer, 97% of Afghans will be living below the poverty line—trying to survive on less than two dollars a day. With nine million people just one step away from famine, this humanitarian crisis could kill more Afghans than the past 20 years of war.

Robust international commitments to support humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan are more critical now than ever. Last year, Afghanistan faced a 40% loss of wheat production due to drought and economic deterioration related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the past month, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has further raised the price of wheat in the global food market. The World Food Programme had previously depended on Russia and Ukraine for more than half of the wheat it provides to countries such as Afghanistan.  

We understand that the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan is driving unprecedented levels of suffering of the Afghan people, and urge robust oversight to ensure that all assistance gets to the people of Afghanistan. Without the full participation of female humanitarian staff in the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of all humanitarian services, aid will not be delivered in a manner that upholds humanitarian principles, and will be unable to reach the most vulnerable Afghan women and girls in the hardest to reach areas. The Taliban must allow unhindered humanitarian access, safe conditions for humanitarians, independent provision of assistance to all vulnerable people, and freedom of movement for aid workers of all genders.

In the immediate aftermath of the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan, Congress passed a supplemental appropriations bill that included $915 million in humanitarian assistance for Afghanistan. With that funding, Congress sent a strong signal that the United States must lead a robust response by the international community to the ongoing humanitarian crisis. We support the administration’s initial 2022 contribution of more than $308 million in humanitarian aid to Afghanistan on January 11th. At the upcoming pledging event on March 31st, we urge the administration to commit additional, substantial funding to the Afghanistan response as soon as possible to ensure vital assistance programs are not reduced or cancelled. A significant U.S. pledge is vital to encourage other countries to follow suit. Generous and timely investments, delivered to the right agencies on the front lines, are instrumental to saving lives and staving off famine in Afghanistan.

Amid crises in Yemen, Ukraine, Ethiopia, Syria, and elsewhere, the international community must not lose focus on Afghanistan. We encourage you to press key international donors to make up the current $3.8 billion funding deficit for humanitarian programs and to expediently deliver such funds. These include countries in the region and members of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, as well as likeminded partners who have generously supported Afghanistan in years past. Finally, we encourage you to work closely with our allies in the region to ease any restrictions on humanitarian access in Afghanistan to enable humanitarian partners to reach people in need.

Thank you for your urgent attention to this crisis, as the people of Afghanistan deserve our unwavering support.

Sincerely,

 

WASHINGTON – Sens. Mark Warner (D-VA) and James Lankford (R-OK), member of the Senate Finance and Energy and Natural Resources Committees, along with Sens. Angus King (I-ME) and John Cornyn (R-TX) today introduced legislation to establish a secure supply chain of critical minerals and counter China’s market dominance by leveraging the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) partnership, which includes the US, Australia, India, and Japan.

“The ubiquity of critical minerals in our daily lives, and their importance in so many modern and emerging technologies, means that ensuring that our supply chains for these critical minerals are robust and secure is essential. China’s control of much of market for these minerals and other rare earth elements – combined with the exponential growth in demand that is expected in the coming years – is particularly alarming,” said Warner, Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. “I’m glad that the Biden administration recognizes this threat, and the comprehensive strategy and multilateral engagement that this bill calls for—in concert with our close Quad partners, like India—will be an important step in meeting this challenge.”

“Anyone who wants to stand up to China needs to support this bill to diminish our dependence on China’s critical and rare earth minerals by encouraging trade partnerships with our allies,” said Sen. Lankford. “Oklahomans know it’s critically important to solve our dependence on China for minerals because we use these materials every day in everything from cellphones and batteries to military gear and medical devices. I look forward to coming together with our allies, instead of begging for minerals from China.”

“So many of the technologies that will define the future depend on critical minerals that are overwhelmingly controlled by China—which severely threatens America’s economic leadership and national security in the decades ahead,” said Sen. King. “As supply chain snarls continue to prevent Americans from accessing vital goods, it is critical that we work with allies like Australia, India, and Japan to build better systems and increase collaborative efforts to compete on the global market. Investing in rare earth minerals today is a fundamental way we can prepare ourselves for a successful and secure tomorrow—which is why I am proud to cosponsor this bipartisan bill.”

“The United States has spent years cultivating and strengthening our ties with the Quad partnership countries, and working with them is a commonsense step towards eliminating China from our critical mineral supply chain,” said Sen. Cornyn. “This legislation would ensure critical minerals for everything from consumer electronics to military defenses come from our allies instead of an adversary like China.”

In light of the national security threat posed by China’s control of nearly two-thirds of the global supply of rare earth elements and many other critical minerals, This bill would direct the Administration to leverage the Quad partnership to promote shared investment and development of this critical resource. The partnership would utilize the US Development Finance Corporation to support new development projects, production technologies, and refining facilities in coordination with our Quad partners to produce a more reliable and secure supply chain of critical minerals, and direct the United States Trade Representative to reduce trade barriers for critical minerals.

A copy of the legislation is available here.


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WASHINGTON – In an effort to combat money laundering and sanctions evasion, a group of six Senate Committee Chairs including Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, sent a letter to the Treasury Department urging the agency to revise and reissue proposed rules from 2015 that would have imposed anti-money laundering (AML) and suspicious activity report filing requirements on investment advisers, including advisers to private equity funds and hedge funds.

Advisers to private funds have enjoyed an exemption from requirements to maintain AML programs, verify the identities of their customers, and report suspicious transactions to the U.S. government.  This exemption has made private funds a potentially attractive avenue for money launderers and sanctioned persons to hide their wealth, and the Senators urge Treasury to move as quickly as practicable to address this weakness in the AML system.

In addition to Sens. Warner and Jack Reed (D-RI), Chair of the Armed Services Committee and a leading Congressional champion for transparency and accountability for financial intuitions, the letter is signed by Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Chair of the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee; Ron Wyden (D-OR), Chair of the Finance Committee; Richard Durbin (D?IL), Chair of the Judiciary Committee; Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Chair of the Foreign Relations Committee.

“Requiring advisers to establish AML programs, report suspicious activity, and file currency transaction reports, among other requirements, would go a long way towards deterring [politically exposed Russians]—and other illicit actors—from using private equity funds, hedge funds, venture capital funds, credit funds, real estate funds, and other private pools of capital to enter the U.S. financial system.  Following Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, the United States has worked with its allies and partners to find the assets of sanctioned Russian oligarchs. However, loopholes and vulnerabilities in our financial reporting laws have made it increasingly challenging for federal investigators to identify where oligarchs and other criminal actors are placing their assets.  Holding investment advisers to the same AML standards applicable to other financial institutions would help achieve this important national security objective,” the Senators wrote.

Full text of the letter is available here and below.  

We write to urge the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) to revise and reissue, as necessary, proposed rules from 2015 on anti-money laundering (AML) and suspicious activity report filing requirements for investment advisers. In doing so, we urge FinCEN to use its discretionary authority to include investment advisers in the definition of “financial institution” in the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA), which would require them to file currency transaction reports and keep certain records related to the transmittal of funds. Finally, we urge FinCEN to work with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to ensure adequate examination of the industry for AML purposes.

Investment advisers are exempt from requirements to maintain AML programs, verify the identities of their customers, and report suspicious transactions to FinCEN. Other financial institutions like banks, broker-dealers, mutual funds, futures commission merchants, introducing brokers in commodities, and insurance companies, among others, have been subject to these requirements for decades. According to the SEC’s Investment Adviser Information Reports, during just the last ten years, assets under management attributed to registered investment advisers has ballooned from approximately $44 trillion to approximately $113 trillion, raising fresh questions of whether FinCEN should eliminate these special exemptions.

The private funds segment of the asset management industry may be particularly attractive for money launderers and sanctioned persons due to existing regulatory gaps. In an Intelligence Bulletin from May 2020, the FBI indicated with high confidence that “threat actors likely use private placement of funds, including investments offered by hedge funds and private equity firms, to launder money, circumventing traditional AML programs.” Press reports have confirmed the FBI’s assessment. According to an article in Buzzfeed, a prominent Russian oligarch has used opaque corporate structures to invest at least $1.3 billion with private funds managed by U.S. investment advisers. And according to the New York Times, this very same oligarch made up to 100 investments in hedge funds and private equity funds managed by the nation’s largest asset managers, which allegedly did not confirm the source of these funds.

While the largest advisers to private funds may voluntarily implement AML programs, those advisers are not subject to regular examinations to test the adequacy of their programs. No government agency currently holds advisers accountable for adhering to their voluntary AML and sanctions compliance commitments. By contrast, banks, broker-dealers, and insurance companies are subject to periodic examinations to spot violations of the BSA and any compliance weaknesses.

Last month, FinCEN issued an alert warning financial institutions to be vigilant against attempts by politically exposed Russians to launder money, evade sanctions, and hide their assets. Requiring advisers to establish AML programs, report suspicious activity, and file currency transaction reports, among other requirements, would go a long way towards deterring these individuals—and other illicit actors—from using private equity funds, hedge funds, venture capital funds, credit funds, real estate funds, and other private pools of capital to enter the U.S. financial system. Following Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, the United States has worked with its allies and partners to find the assets of sanctioned Russian oligarchs. However, loopholes and vulnerabilities in our financial reporting laws have made it increasingly challenging for federal investigators to identify where oligarchs and other criminal actors are placing their assets. Holding investment advisers to the same AML standards applicable to other financial institutions would help achieve this important national security objective.

In August 2015, FinCEN proposed rules to do just that. The proposal would have closed existing regulatory gaps by requiring investment advisers to implement and maintain AML programs. In the preamble to the proposal, FinCEN noted that “[a]s long as investment advisers are not subject to AML program and suspicious activity reporting requirements, money launderers may see them as a low-risk way to enter the U.S. financial system.” The recent FBI assessment, press reports of potential sanctions evasion by Russian oligarchs, and FinCEN’s own alerts to financial institutions demonstrate that these concerns may have become more acute in the years since FinCEN proposed these rules. We are pleased that the Administration shares these concerns as described in the United States Strategy on Countering Corruption in December 2021, which commits Treasury to re-examining the proposed rules from 2015. President Biden has rightly proposed additional funding for FinCEN to address the growing regulatory and enforcement demands on the agency, and we look forward to working with our colleagues to provide expanded resources in the fight against financial crime.

Investment advisers have an important role to play in safeguarding the U.S. financial system from crime. They can be valuable partners for FinCEN as it seeks to meet our enormous challenges to combat not only money laundering, but also fraud and other financial crimes. Such a partnership is also important to ensure the effectiveness of U.S. sanctions programs, which have expanded significantly during the pendency of FinCEN’s rulemaking. Accordingly, it is critical that rigorous AML and sanctions compliance standards be extended to investment advisers.

For these reasons, we respectfully request that you move as quickly as practicable to address this weakness in the AML system. We appreciate FinCEN’s efforts this year on a variety of fronts and amid competing priorities, including drafting and publishing several new rules to implement the Anti-Money Laundering Act and Corporate Transparency Act of 2021. Thank you for your attention to this critical matter, and we look forward to your reply.

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 WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, released the following statement following Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s address to Congress:

“I was incredibly moved by President Zelenskyy’s words this morning and by the powerful images of the destruction inflicted on the Ukrainian people as a result of Russia’s indiscriminate attacks on civilian targets. As President Zelenskyy noted, the U.S. has already taken unprecedented steps to rally the world to isolate Russia economically and to support Ukraine’s efforts to defend itself. We should heed President Zelenskyy’s call for additional defensive aid including anti-tank weapons and anti-aircraft missiles and for new sanctions on those responsible for supporting the Russian government’s barbaric invasion of a peaceful and sovereign neighbor.”

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, released the following statement on President Biden’s decision to ban Russian oil imports amid Russia’s ongoing war on Ukraine:

“By banning Russian oil imports, President Biden has made clear once again that Vladimir Putin’s unprovoked war on Ukraine will not go unpunished. Right now, Ukrainians are fighting with their lives against authoritarian rule to preserve the same freedoms we hold sacred. While only three percent of U.S. crude imports come from Russia, we cannot stand with the Ukrainian people while also continuing to support Russia’s energy economy. As the conflict in Ukraine continues to contribute to rising gas prices worldwide, I am committed to working with the administration and my colleagues in Congress to do what we can to address the pain Americans are feeling at the gas pump.”

Last week, Sen. Warner joined Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) in introducing the Ban Russian Energy Imports Act – legislation to prohibit the importation of Russian crude oil, petroleum, petroleum products, liquefied natural gas (LNG) and coal into the United States.

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DENVERToday, Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet, a member of the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and U.S. Senator Mark Warner (D-Va.), chair of the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, met with leadership from the Department of Defense (DOD) and the Intelligence Community (IC) at Schriever Space Force Base and Buckley Space Force Base.

Russia’s aggression against Ukraine and violation of international rules and norms demonstrates the urgency of the U.S. maintaining a stable space domain. The senators’ meetings highlighted the defense and intelligence elements in Colorado key to U.S. space missions, including U.S Space Command, and underscored the central role Colorado maintains in both space and national security innovation. 

“Amid Russia’s aggression in Ukraine and an increasingly congested and contested space domain, it’s more important than ever that the Intelligence Community and the Department of Defense work together to protect and defend against threats to our nation’s space assets,” said Warner. “Today’s visit further demonstrates the need to keep Space Command in Colorado, where the IC and DoD are working in concert on a number of critical national security programs.”

“As Russian aggression threatens the international norms that have kept Americans safe, U.S. leadership and stability in space is more critical than ever, and I’m grateful Chairman Warner joined me today to see first-hand Colorado’s extensive space and national security assets,” said Bennet. “We should be spending money to build on investments that have already been made to our space mission, not on moving Space Command and starting from scratch. Our visits today, once again, reinforced that Colorado is the most strategic choice for the permanent home for USSPACECOM.”

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) joined Joe Manchin (D-WV), Chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and a bipartisan group of Senate and House members in introducing the Ban Russian Energy Imports Act, which would prohibit the importation of Russian crude oil, petroleum, petroleum products, liquefied natural gas (LNG) and coal into the United States.

In 2021, the United States imported an average of 670,000 barrels of oil and petroleum products daily, with a high of 848,000 barrels per day in June 2021. Total imports of Russian crude oil and petroleum products were up 24% in 2021 over 2020. The U.S. has also imported Russian LNG and coal despite having some of the largest reserves domestically. The continued importation of Russian energy commodities would only help support Vladimir Putin’s ongoing illegal invasion of Ukraine and his ability to stay in power.

“Since Vladimir Putin launched his unprovoked and illegal invasion of Ukraine, the Biden administration has pulled together an impressive international coalition to impose swift and severe sanctions on Russia. While these measures have already put intense pressure on Russia’s economy, it’s clear more must be done to punish Putin for the tragedies occurring in Ukraine. As Putin continues his vicious assault on the citizens of Ukraine, we should not continue to support Russia’s energy economy by importing these commodities. That’s why I’m proud to support this legislation that would strike at the heart of the Russian economy by banning the importation of Russian oil, natural gas, and coal into the United States,” said Senator Warner, Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

“The entire world is on edge as Vladimir Putin terrorizes the sovereign democratic nation of Ukraine. The U.S. cannot continue to purchase more than half a million barrels of oil per day because in doing so, we are emboldening Putin to continue using his greatest weapon of war – energy exports,” said Chairman Manchin. “The Ban Russian Energy Imports Act would declare a national emergency with respect to Russian aggression and immediately prohibit the importation of Russian energy products. Importantly, this bipartisan bill shows our strong commitment to stand behind the valiant efforts of the Ukrainian people and the measures our allies in Europe are taking to rebuke Putin and his continued aggression. I urge Leader Schumer to quickly bring this bipartisan bill to the floor and urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to support it.”

“The world is watching in shock as Russia wages an unprovoked war on Ukraine, killing innocents as it attempts to destroy a fragile democracy. While the Biden administration has taken noteworthy steps to try to convince Vladimir Putin and his regime to stand down, we need an all-encompassing approach that uses every viable tool at our disposal. By leaving Russia’s energy exports untouched, the United States is ignoring one of our most potent options to stop the bloodshed. We must ban Russia’s energy imports into the U.S. so that Americans aren’t forced to help finance their growing atrocities and halt the Russian aggression. I’m proud to sponsor this bill with Senator Manchin and urge the Senate to pass it immediately,” said Senator Murkowski.

Sens. Warner, Manchin and Murkowski were joined in introducing the legislation by U.S Sens. John Tester (D-MT), Susan Collins (R-ME), Angus King (I-ME), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Steve Daines (R-MT), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Mark Kelly (D-AZ), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), John Hickenlooper (D-CO), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Rob Portman (R-OH). U.S. Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA-1) and Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ-5) will introduce companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The Ban Russian Energy Imports Act would:

  • Declare a national emergency specifically with respect to the threat to our national security, foreign policy, and economy that exists as a result of Russian aggression against Ukraine and directs the President to prohibit imports of crude oil, petroleum, petroleum products, LNG, and coal from Russia.
  • The President has had the authority to take these actions since 1917; this legislation does not grant additional authority. This approach is modeled on the International Emergency Economic Powers Act.  
  • The ban would be in place during the national emergency and either the President or Congress would be able to terminate the emergency and the import ban. 
  • The bill exempts product that is already loaded or in transit at the time of enactment. 

Full text of the Ban Russian Energy Imports Act is available here. To learn more about the legislation click here.

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U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, sent a letter today urging the Ukrainian government to ensure that Africans in Ukraine are not blocked from evacuating the country or seeking safety amid Russia’s ongoing war on Ukraine.

 This letter comes on the heels of reports that individuals from Africa and Asia have been discriminated against while attempting to flee Ukraine. According to online videos and first-hand reporting, individuals from Morocco, Nigeria, Egypt and India, as well as other nations seeking to escape the war in Ukraine, have been physically abused, barred from boarding trains and buses, and denied entry into border nations, among other things.

 “Regarding the refugee crisis that President Putin has created through his violent invasion – which so far, according to the United Nations Refugee Agency, has seen more than one million men, women, and children flee their homes to safety in neighboring countries – I will continue supporting efforts to ensure that Ukraine and its neighboring countries are resourced appropriately to address this challenge,” wrote Sen Warner in a letter to Oksana Markarova, Ambassador of Ukraine to the United States.

 “In the meantime, I want to call attention to a growing body of disturbing reports along Ukraine’s western borders, which allege discriminatory treatment and processing of certain non-Ukrainian individuals – in particular, individuals from African nations,” he continued. “Many of these individuals are students studying in Ukraine. As you well know, at least 20 percent of the more than 80,000 international students studying in Ukraine come from an African nation, with sizable populations of Moroccan, Nigerian, and Egyptian students. These students and other individuals must be able to seek safety, and any discriminatory treatment or actions that deny them that ability are unacceptable. I echo the sentiments of the African Union, the US Department of State, and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, and highlight this right of all people who are fleeing conflict.”

Acknowledging the challenging circumstances being navigated by Ukrainian security personnel who are rapidly working to facilitate historic refugee flows, Sen. Warner stressed the importance of affording all individuals the ability to seek safety, regardless of race, religion, or nationality.

He further stated this point in letters to the ambassadors of neighboring nations – Poland, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, and Moldova – who are working with Ukraine to process and provide refuge in response to the mass migration spurred by Russia’s aggression. He also stated he will continue to monitor the conditions relating to the African diaspora and other forcibly displaced persons at the Ukrainian borders.

As Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Warner has been a vocal supporter of Ukraine and has repeatedly condemned Russia’s aggression and invasion of the sovereign nation. Last week, he urged major social media companies to prevent misuse of their platforms by Russia and Russia-linked entities.

A copy of the letter to Ambassador Markarova is available here and below.

Dear Ambassador Markarova:

I write to you today at a moment of great tragedy for your nation, as Russian President Vladimir Putin continues his violent, unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, in violation of your country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

The United States stands firmly with the people of Ukraine, and you have my commitment that, as the Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, I will continue pressing the United States Government to share as much intelligence support as possible with Ukraine. I will also continue advocating for punishing sanctions and economic costs against President Putin and Russia, security assistance for the Ukrainian military, and robust economic and humanitarian assistance for the Ukrainian people.

Regarding the refugee crisis that President Putin has created through his violent invasion – which so far, according to the United Nations Refugee Agency, has seen more than one million men, women, and children flee their homes to safety in neighboring countries – I will continue supporting efforts to ensure that Ukraine and its neighboring countries are resourced appropriately to address this challenge.

In the meantime, I want to call attention to a growing body of disturbing reports along Ukraine’s western borders, which allege discriminatory treatment and processing of certain non-Ukrainian individuals – in particular, individuals from African nations. Many of these individuals are students studying in Ukraine. As you well know, at least 20 percent of the more than 80,000 international students studying in Ukraine come from an African nation, with sizable populations of Moroccan, Nigerian, and Egyptian students. These students and other individuals must be able to seek safety, and any discriminatory treatment or actions that deny them that ability are unacceptable. I echo the sentiments of the African Union, the US Department of State, and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, and highlight this right of all people who are fleeing conflict.

I certainly acknowledge the incredibly challenging circumstances that Ukrainian security personnel are under as they work to quickly and effectively facilitate historic refugee flows in response to dire and urgent circumstances. I also recognize the stated commitments that Ukraine’s neighbors have made to take in people fleeing to safety. I urge all governments and authorities to ensure that all individuals – regardless of race, religion, or nationality – are afforded equal access to their right to seek safety. Please know that I am also writing to officials of neighboring countries to ensure that their authorities are not the cause of further allegations. I will continue to monitor conditions related to forcibly displaced persons at the borders – including the African diaspora – and I will continue to support resources for Ukraine to aid in these efforts.

I thank you for your government’s attention to this matter, and I reiterate my earnest support for the Ukrainian people in this conflict. The strength and resolve that they have shown in the face of this violent invasion has inspired and rallied so many in the international community to stand with Ukraine.

Sincerely,

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, today sent letters to Alphabet, Meta, Reddit, Telegram, TikTok, and Twitter urging the companies to prevent misuse of their platforms by Russia and Russia-linked entities.

“In addition to Russia’s established use of influence operations as a tool of strategic influence, information warfare constitutes an integral part of Russian military doctrine. As this conflict continues, we can expect to see an escalation in Russia’s use of both overt and covert means to sow confusion about the conflict and promote disinformation narratives that weaken the global response to these illegal acts. While social media can provide valuable information to civilians in conflict zones, and educate audiences far removed from those conflict zones, as well as a platform for some relatively independent media outlets – including in Russia – it can also serve as a vector for harmful misinformation and disinformation campaigns, and a wide range of scams and frauds that opportunistically exploit confusion, desperation, and grief,” the senator wrote.

Copies of the letter sent to Meta, Reddit, Telegram, TikTok, and Twitter are available for download.

In his letter to YouTube parent company Alphabet, Sen. Warner noted that just yesterday his staff observed YouTube ads monetizing content regarding the conflict in Ukraine from RT, Sputnik and TASS, malign actors affiliated with the Russian government.

“Unfortunately, your platforms continue to be key vectors for malign actors – including, notably, those affiliated with the Russian government – to not only spread disinformation, but to profit from it. YouTube, for instance, continues to monetize the content of prominent influence actors that have been publicly connected to Russian influence campaigns,” the senator wrote.

Sen. Warner urged the companies to – at a minimum – take the following steps:

  • Establish mechanisms by which Ukrainian public safety entities can disseminate emergency communications to your users in Ukraine;
  • Furnish additional account monitoring and security resources to Ukrainian government, humanitarian, and public safety institutions to prevent account takeovers;
  • Surge integrity teams, including those with language expertise in Ukrainian, Russian, Polish, Romanian, and German, to monitor your platform for malign influence activity related to the conflict;
  • Devote additional resources towards the identification of inauthentic accounts, and the removal or labeling of inauthentic content, associated with Russian influence operations; and
  • Establish dedicated reporting channels for qualified academic, public interest, and open source intelligence researchers to share credible information about inauthentic activity, disinformation, and other malign efforts utilizing your platforms.

Sen. Warner has released multiple statements harshly condemning Russia’s attack on Ukraine, which can be found here and 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 tonight:

“For more than 70 years, we have avoided large-scale war in Europe. With his illegal invasion of Ukraine, Vladimir Putin has tragically brought decades of general peace to an end. Now the U.S. and our NATO allies must stand united and resolute against Putin’s efforts to renew the Russian empire at the expense of the Ukrainian people.

“President Biden has already imposed an initial tranche of sanctions, and it is now time for us to up the pain level for the Russian government. We should also continue to bolster the defenses of our NATO allies while exploring how we can further help the Ukrainian people in their time of need.

“While there is still an opportunity for Russia to reverse course, we can no longer hold out hope that this standoff will be resolved peacefully. Therefore, we must all, on both sides of the aisle and both sides of the Atlantic, work together to demonstrate to Putin that this aggression will not be allowed to go unpunished.

“What is happening in Ukraine is a tragedy not only for Ukraine, but for the Russian people as well. They will pay a steep cost for Putin’s reckless ambition, in blood and in economic harm.”

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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 today after Russian President Vladimir Putin decided to formally recognize the independence of Moscow-backed breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine and ordered troops into those areas:

“I just returned to Washington after several days of meetings with our partners and allies in Munich and in London. My takeaway from those meetings is this: the West has never been as resolute or as unified in standing up to Putin’s brazen, reckless and illegal course of action. The United States and our partners stand with the cause of democracy and with the people of Ukraine at this perilous moment.

“Along with my colleagues in Congress, I support President Biden’s measures to impose significant costs on Russia and its autocratic government in response to its unjustified and unacceptable aggression. Those announced today by the President, taken in coordination with our allies, are a good first step, and we must be prepared to impose additional costs on Putin if he carries through on his threats to further invade Ukraine.

“I will also support measures to bolster the readiness and deterrence of the NATO alliance. While we do not want escalation between nuclear powers, there must be no mistake regarding NATO’s readiness to protect its members and deter Russia’s aggression. Putin’s misguided and dangerous actions will only act to further unify this decades-strong alliance of nations.”

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WASHINGTON – Members of the United States Senate and United States House of Representatives participating in the bipartisan Congressional Delegation to the Munich Security Conference today released this statement.

“It now appears increasingly likely that Russian forces will initiate hostilities against a free and peaceful Ukraine. We as a bipartisan delegation will bring home the same unity and resolve we have seen among our Atlantic allies against Russian aggression. We pledge to work toward whatever emergency supplemental legislation will best support our NATO allies and the people of Ukraine, and support freedom and safety around the world. No matter what happens in the coming days, we must assure that the dictator Putin and his corrupt oligarchs pay a devastating price for their decisions.”

The delegation was led by U.S. Senators Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island).  Congressional participants include Senator Ben Sasse (R-Nebraska), Senator Richard Durbin (D-Illinois), Senator Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota), Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-New Hampshire), Senator Mark Warner (D-Virginia), Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-Alabama), Senator Chris Coons (D-Delaware), Senator Chris Murphy (D-Connecticut), Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Maryland), Representative Mike Turner (R-Ohio), Representative James Langevin (D-Rhode Island), Representative Jim Banks (R-Indiana), Representative Jason Crow (D-Colorado), Representative Buddy Carter (R-Georgia), Representative Tom Malinowski (D-New Jersey), Representative Darrell Issa (R-California), and Representative Elissa Slotkin (D-Michigan).

The MSC is widely considered the world’s leading forum for international security policy. The conference is a “marketplace of ideas” where initiatives and solutions are developed and opinions are exchanged. It also provides a venue for diplomatic initiatives and ideas to cooperatively address the world’s most pressing security concerns.

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WASHINGTON – Today, as the Beijing Winter Olympic Games near their conclusion, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee focused on democracy and human rights, sent a letter urging the Biden Administration to press the Chinese government to halt the harassment of their constituents — Ziba Murat from Reston, Adalet Sabit from Alexandria, and Subi Yuksel from Manassas — and seek the release of their Uyghur family members who have been forcibly and wrongfully detained in China’s Xinjiang region. For years, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has forcibly detained more than 1 million ethnic Uyghurs and other minorities in internment camps in Xinjiang, a devastating assault on individual freedoms and basic human rights.

“We write to urge you to seek the immediate release of the Uyghur family members of our constituents, including Ziba Murat, Adalet Sabit, and Subi Yuksel, whose family members are detained forcibly or otherwise targeted by the CCP in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (Xinjiang), and who may be targets of harassment themselves,” wrote the Senators. “We also ask that the Department of State raise each of these cases at the highest levels of the Chinese government.

“Virginia is home to one of the largest Uyghur American diasporas in the United States, and we will continue to advocate on behalf of these named cases, as well as those of other constituents. These are citizens and residents who are our neighbors and friends,” concluded the Senators. “While China attempts to whitewash its horrific crimes against Uyghur Muslims, including presently during the Olympics in Beijing, we must ensure that the world does not forget that one of worst atrocities of our era remains ongoing.”

Last year, Kaine held a joint hearing, where Dr. Rushan Abbas of Herndon was a witness, to highlight China’s atrocities against the Uyghur Muslims in the Xinjiang province and discuss additional ways to pressure China to end this horrific genocide.

In June 2021, Kaine’s bipartisan amendment, co-sponsored by Senator Romney, to diplomatically boycott the Beijing Olympics as a way to highlight human rights issues in Hong Kong and with China’s Uyghur population passed as part of the bipartisan Endless Frontiers Act. Following Kaine and Romney’s urging, the Biden Administration announced a diplomatic boycott in November.

In March 2021, Kaine helped introduce a bipartisan Senate resolution condemning China’s human right abuses against the Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities in Xinjiang and calling for an international investigation into the abuses and crimes committed there. In January 2021, Warner and Kaine co-sponsored the bipartisan Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, legislation to ensure that goods made with Uyghur forced labor in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) do not enter the United States. A version of this legislation was ultimately passed through the Senate on a unanimous basis, and signed into law by the President in December 2021.

In December 2019, as a response to the Chinese Community Party (CCP)’s mass internments, Warner introduced the UIGHUR Protection Act, which would place export controls on critical technologies to China, such as facial recognition software, that can be used to facilitate mass surveillance and detention.

The full text of the letter can be found here and below:

Dear Secretary Blinken:

We write to urge you to seek the immediate release of the Uyghur family members of our constituents, including Ziba Murat, Adalet Sabit, and Subi Yuksel, whose family members are detained forcibly or otherwise targeted by the CCP in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (Xinjiang), and who may be targets of harassment themselves. We also ask that the Department of State raise each of these cases at the highest levels of the Chinese government.

For years, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has forcibly detained more than 1 million ethnic Uyghurs and minorities in internment camps in Xinjiang – a devastating assault on individual freedoms and basic human rights. The U.S. government and countless human rights organizations have documented the tools of oppression the Chinese government has deployed against Uyghur Muslims, including: abduction from third countries and forced disappearances within China, mass detentions, secret trials, forced labor, forced sterilization, separating families, banning the use of Uyghur language in schools, banning many religious practices, and political indoctrination.

The United States has rightly labeled the Chinese government’s attempts to essentially erase the Uyghur identity as genocide and has sanctioned various Chinese officials who have perpetrated these crimes. Even so, the CCP’s desire to punish those who speak against the crimes being committed in Xinjiang goes beyond the country’s borders. As a 2021 Freedom House report notes, “China conducts the most sophisticated, global, and comprehensive campaign of transnational repression in the world.” For our constituents here in Virginia, the CCP’s campaign of repression against Uyghur Muslims is personal and has often come as direct retaliation for their advocacy in support of the Uyghur community.

In September 2018, Ziba Murat’s mother, Dr. Gulshan Abbas, a medical doctor who had spent her career caring for patients in Xinjiang, was detained, secretly tried, and then sentenced to 20 years in prison on phony charges. Dr. Abbas’ detention occurred after Ms. Murat’s aunt, Rushan Abbas – a former Radio Free Asia journalist – publicly denounced China’s use of detention camps in Xinjiang. For more than three years after Dr. Abbas’ imprisonment, the Chinese government refused to answer any questions about her whereabouts. To this day, the CCP refuses to disclose details about her physical well-being. Dr. Abbas is unjustly suffering the consequences of her family’s public advocacy against the Chinese government’s brutal treatment of Uyghurs and other minorities in Xinjiang.                         

On April 29, 2017, Ms. Subi Yuksel’s father, Mamat Abdullah, was arbitrarily detained on the day of his expected departure to the U.S. to visit his newborn grandchild. Mr. Abdullah, who is nearly 80 years old and was the Chief of the Xinjiang Forestry Department, had retired in 2008. During his trial in 2019, Mr. Abdullah was convicted – without evidence – of “bribery, two-facedness, and separatism,” and was sentenced to life imprisonment. Ms. Yuksel notes that Chinese officials told her family that they are at fault for Mr. Abdullah’s detention because they live in the U.S. near “politically active communities.” Ms. Yuksel contends that in reality, in the eyes of the Chinese government, prominent and well-educated Uyghurs like her father are considered a threat to the regime.

The Chinese government has also targeted Ms. Adalet Sabit’s husband, Abulimiti Abuliz, who is a Uyghur living in Xinjiang. Although Mr. Abuliz is not in an internment camp, the CCP has effectively banned him from travel. Following their marriage in 2017, Ms. Sabit left for the United States, and Mr. Abuliz expected to follow soon after. However, Chinese authorities seized his passport before his departure and never returned it, essentially barring him from leaving China for the last four years. CCP officials have also threatened Mr. Abduliz and told him that he would never see his wife again and never meet his now four-year-old daughter. The Chinese government has even threatened Ms. Sabit’s family here in the U.S., signaling the CCP’s desire to once again reach beyond China’s borders to silence dissent.

The heartbreak these detentions and harassment have caused is immeasurable. We applaud the State Department’s efforts to raise the plight of Uyghurs both publicly and with Chinese government officials directly. Similarly, we recognize that the agency continues to engage with our constituents on their respective cases. Still, it is vital that the U.S. maintain strong pressure on China to ensure that our constituents’ family members are free and that their basic human rights are respected.

Virginia is home to one of the largest Uyghur American diasporas in the United States, and we will continue to advocate on behalf of these named cases, as well as those of other constituents. These are citizens and residents who are our neighbors and friends. While China attempts to whitewash its horrific crimes against Uyghur Muslims, including presently during the Olympics in Beijing, we must ensure that the world does not forget that one of worst atrocities of our era remains ongoing.

Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.

Sincerely,

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WASHINGTON– Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, Senate Republican Whip John Thune, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman and Ranking Member Jack Reed and Jim Inhofe, Senate Banking Committee Chairman and Ranking Member Sherrod Brown and Pat Toomey, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman and Ranking Member Robert Menendez and Jim Risch, and Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman and Vice Chairman Mark Warner and Marco Rubio today released the following joint statement that the U.S. Senate stands in solidarity with the people of Ukraine:

“In this dark hour, we are sending a bipartisan message of solidarity and resolve to the people of Ukraine, and an equally clear warning to Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin.

“Should Vladimir Putin further escalate his ongoing assault on Ukraine’s sovereignty, Russia must be made to pay a severe price. We are prepared to fully support the immediate imposition of strong, robust, and effective sanctions on Russia, as well as tough restrictions and controls on exports to Russia, and we will urge our allies and partners in Europe and around the world to join us.

“In the face of Russian escalation against Ukraine, we will continue to support robust security, economic, and humanitarian assistance for the people of Ukraine. The United States and our partners should also move quickly to ensure that the Government of Ukraine receives sustained emergency assistance to defend against an illegal Russian invasion.

“Make no mistake: the United States Senate stands with the people of Ukraine and our NATO allies and partners most threatened by Russian aggression. Our troops stand ready to reinforce the defenses of our Eastern European allies and we are prepared to respond decisively to Russian efforts to undermine the security of the United States at home and abroad.  We also call upon our allies to join us in bolstering NATO’s eastern flank.

“The international order established in the aftermath of World War II has not faced such a grave threat since the Cold War. This order, which protects the sovereignty and territorial integrity of nations, has enabled an unprecedented era of peace and prosperity for the United States and its allies. Unfortunately, Russia is threatening this system, and the United States is prepared to meet this challenge with bipartisan and unified resolve.”

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WASHINGTON – Today, as the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing begin, Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Rick Scott (R-FL) led their colleagues to introduce a bipartisan resolution calling on the Chinese Communist Party to guarantee the safety and freedom of tennis star Peng Shuai, and rebuking the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for its failure to clearly and forcefully challenge the Chinese Communist Party’s claims about Peng Shuai’s safety. The resolution was cosponsored by Senators Shelly Moore Capito, Sherrod Brown, John Hoeven, Ron Wyden, Ted Cruz, Jeff Merkley, Mike Braun, Chris Van Hollen, Marsha Blackburn, Bob Casey, Tom Cotton, Raphael Warnock, Ron Johnson and Jeanne Shaheen.

A companion resolution led by Congressman Michael Waltz and Congresswoman Jennifer Wexton unanimously passed the U.S. House of Representatives in December 2021.

Senator Mark Warner said, “The disappearance and silencing of Peng Shuai, following her allegations of sexual assault, serve as a disturbing reminder of the countless human rights abuses by the Chinese Communist Party. The International Olympic Committee’s unwillingness to clearly and forcefully stand up to the CCP and call for independent assurance into the safety and freedom of Peng Shuai strongly suggests that the committee is willing to prioritize a relationship with China over athlete well-being. As the Olympic Games get underway, we must not turn a blind eye towards the disturbing human rights abuses by the CCP, and the IOC must join the broader diplomatic push for the freedom and well-being of Peng Shuai.” 

Senator Rick Scott said, “The recent disappearance of Peng Shuai has shocked the world and exposed the disturbing lack of basic rights and human decency experienced by the Chinese people at the hand of General Secretary Xi’s ruthless communist regime. No one, especially the IOC, should ignore what happened to Peng Shuai or attempt to move past this horrifying incident simply to avoid confrontation with Communist China. This bipartisan resolution, which has already unanimously passed the House, makes clear that the United States will not tolerate these kind of gross abuses and continues to stand for freedom for all people. I’m thankful for all of my colleagues’ support on this resolution, and I look forward to its quick passage in the Senate.”

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