James Webb on Homeland Security
Democratic Sr Senator
I came up as a committee counsel in the Congress, used to put dozens of bills through the House floor every year as a committee counsel on the Veterans Committee.
A: I would leave his judgment to the legal system. We have a serious problem in terms of the collection of personal information in this country. One of the things I did was co-introduce two amendments saying, "We understand the realities of how you have to collect this broad information in the Internet age, but after a certain period, you need to destroy the personal information that you have if criminal justice proceedings have not been brought against them."
A: If you look at my record as a government official, when I was secretary of the Navy, I opened up more billets to women than any secretary of the Navy in history. And I am totally comfortable now with the military being able to make these decisions in a way that it goes to performance and I am very proud to see these two women who are West Point graduates. And the military should be able to decide how they will be used.
WEBB: Obviously everyone should be happy that our soldier is out of harm's way. But about the exercise of presidential authority: When the President, on his own initiative, without coming to the congress--
Q: You see questions about an overreach of administration that did not seek out congress?
WEBB: That's what I'm saying. We're going to have to see a much more vigorous discussion from the Congress on presidential authority. What we've seen in the past is that Republicans don't particularly want this discussion because they're more aggressive in terms of this use of force in that part of the world. The Democrats don't want it because they don't want to be disloyal to the presidency, but we have to have that discussion.
WEBB: I don’t believe that right now this country needs a draft. I’ve proposed a 5% tax break for all people who serve honorably in the military.
Q: How much would that cost?
WEBB: If you go to the typical income of a veteran, it’s about $30-something-thousand, so it’s not a high-cost program. And it’s targeted to people who’ve served. And one of the things that that would do is to bring more people from across class lines into the military.
WEBB: I’m with Senator Warner on this, and I think in terms of what Colin Powell is saying, that’s a very important piece of how we deal long-term with the Islamic world particularly, that we have to stay on the moral high ground.
Q: But you would not end interrogation?
WEBB: No. Obviously we have to protect ourselves, and we have to be able to get information out. But if you abrogate the standards of the Geneva Accords, you give other nations who have less fair standards than ours the moral justification to do that. We saw that during the Vietnam War when the North Vietnamese refused to call our prisoners of war “prisoners of war.” They simply called them war criminals, and they didn’t respect the Geneva Accords.
“No benefit can come to anyone from women serving in combat. I have never met a woman, including the dozens of female midshipmen I encountered during my recent semester as a professor at the Naval Academy, whom I would trust to provide those men with combat leadership.”Was the content of that article wrong?
WEBB: This article was written from the perspective of a Marine company commander, and was way too narrowly based.
Q: But was it wrong?
WEBB: I don’t think it was wrong to participate in the debate at that time. It’s been 27 years, and I am fully comfortable with the roles of women in the military today. When I was secretary of the Navy, I opened up more operational billets to women than any other secretary of the Navy in history.
Q: Bottom line, do you now believe that women can, in fact, provide men with combat leadership?
WEBB: Well, I do regret that. There’s many pieces in this article that if I were a more mature individual, I wouldn’t have written, as I’ve tried to show by my conduct when I had positions in government.
You followed up with an article in 1997, [entitled] “The War on the Military Culture.” You write:
“Political and military leaders must have the courage to ask clearly in what areas our current policies toward women in the military are hurting, rather than helping, the task of defending the US.“Where are our current policies towards women hurting the defense of the US?
WEBB: I was pointing out in that article where the political process interferes with the military being able to make its own decision on those matters. And one of the things that I did when I was secretary of the Navy was I turned this over to the military side.
WEBB: I support the don’t ask, don’t tell rule. I think that the military is a different environment. It’s one where we’ve always had gays in the military, we always will.
Q: So you should keep your orientation to yourself if it is homosexual?
WEBB: At this point, yes. I just think it’s a practicality issue.
Q: Mr. Miller, should we keep don’t ask, don’t tell?
MILLER: No, it needs to be modified. It is costing us $200 million or more a year, it’s costing us the ability to recruit and retain very capable people. We need to come up with a more practical way.
Q: Do you think people should be able to be openly gay in the military?
Proponent's Argument for voting Yes:
[Rep. Smith, R-TX]: America is safe today not because terrorists and spies have given up their goal to destroy our freedoms and our way of life. We are safe today because the men and women of our Armed Forces, our intelligence community, and our law enforcement agencies work every single day to protect us. And Congress must ensure that they are equipped with the resources they need to counteract continuing terrorist threats. On Feb. 28, three important provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act will expire. These provisions give investigators in national security cases the authority to conduct "roving" wiretaps, to seek certain business records, and to gather intelligence on lone terrorists who are not affiliated with a known terrorist group. The Patriot Act works. It has proved effective in preventing terrorist attacks and protecting Americans. To let these provisions expire would leave every American less safe.
Opponent's Argument for voting No:
[Rep. Conyers, D-MI]: Section 215 of the Patriot Act allows a secret FISA court to authorize our government to collect business records or anything else, requiring that a person or business produce virtually any type record. We didn't think that that was right then. We don't think it's right now. This provision is contrary to traditional notions of search and seizure which require the government to show reasonable suspicion or probable cause before undertaking an investigation that infringes upon a person's privacy. And so I urge a "no" vote on the extension of these expiring provisions.
Status: Passed 86-12
Sen. CORNYN. The problem I have with this bill is that the US Treasury is not bottomless, and the funding that is being provided to create this new pension would literally be at the expense of US veterans. The $221 million that is addressed by Sen. Burr's amendment would actually go back in to supplement benefits for US veterans. And while we appreciate and honor all of our allies who fought alongside of us in WWII, certainly that doesn't mean we are going to grant pension benefits to all of our allies, [like] the British or the Australians. Vote for the Burr Amendment because certainly our American veterans should be our priority.
[The PAA allows] acquiring all the calls and e-mails between employees of a US company and a foreign company, with no requirement to get a warrant and no requirement that there be some link to terrorism. So any American who works at a company that does business overseas should think about that.
OPPONENT'S ARGUMENT FOR VOTING NO: Sen. BOND: The purpose of this bill is, and always has been, to enable the intelligence community to act to target foreign terrorists and spies overseas.
The amendment, as it is drafted, will have a totally unexpected impact. It is difficult to explain, in an unclassified session, why this amendment is unworkable. There are only certain communications which the intelligence community is lawfully permitted to acquire, and which it has any desire to acquire, because to acquire all the communications from all foreigners is an absolutely impossible task.
I cannot describe in a public setting how they go about ascertaining which collections are important. But to say that if Osama bin Laden calls somebody in the US, we cannot listen in to that communication, unless we have an independent means of verifying it has some impact or a terrorist threat--That is the most important communication we need to intercept.
LEGISLATIVE OUTCOME:Amendment Rejected, 38-57
A modified version, S.2011, failed; it called for amending FISA to provide that a court order is not required for the electronic surveillance of communication between foreign persons who are not located within the US for collecting foreign intelligence information, without respect to whether the communication passes through the US or the surveillance device is located within the US.
Opponents recommend voting NO because:
Sen. LEVIN: Both bills cure the problem that exists: Our intelligence agencies must obtain a court order to monitor the communications of foreigners suspected of terrorist activities who are physically located in foreign countries. Now, what are the major differences? Our bill (S2011) is limited to foreign targets limited overseas, unlike the Bond bill (S1927), which does not have that key limitation and which very clearly applies to US citizens overseas. Our bill does not. Now, if there is an incidental access to US citizens, we obviously will permit that. But the Bond bill goes beyond that, citing "any person." It does not say a "foreign person." We avoid getting to the communications of Americans. There you have to go for a warrant.
Proponents support voting YES because:
Sen. LIEBERMAN: I will vote for the Bond proposal (S1927) because we are at war, & there is increased terrorist activity. We have a crisis. This proposal will allow us to gather intelligence information on that enemy we otherwise would not gather. This is not the time for striving for legislative perfection. Let us not strive for perfection. Let us put national security first. We are going to have 6 months to reason together to find something better.
Proponents support voting YES because:
Sen. HAGEL: The war in Iraq has pushed the US Army to the breaking point. When we deploy our military, we have an obligation to ensure that our troops are rested, ready, prepared, fully trained, and fully equipped. Today's Armed Forces are being deployed repeatedly for increasing periods of time. This is quickly wearing down the troops and their families, impacting the mental and physical health of our troops. Further, these deployments are affecting the recruiting and retention rates of the military. For example, the Army reached only a little over 80% of its recruiting goal for June. This is the second month in a row that the Army has failed to recruit the number of new soldiers needed to fill the ranks. And this is with $1 billion in large cash bonus incentives.
Opponents recommend voting NO because:
Sen. KYL: Time in theater and dwell times should be a goal, rather than an absolute fixed requirement that becomes the policy of the US military determined by congressional action. By mandating a certain policy for deployment time or dwell time, the Congress is engaged in the most explicit micromanaging of what is obviously a function for the Commander in Chief and military commanders to perform. This is not something Members of Congress are knowledgeable about or would have the ability to dictate in any responsible fashion. It also would be unconstitutional. Clearly, the dwell times of troops or the amount of time in theater is an obligation of the Commander in Chief, not something for the Congress to determine.
Opponents recommend voting NO because:
One of the authors of the 9/11 Commission report said, the President's announced strategy should be given a chance to succeed. That is what I think we should do, give this plan a chance to succeed. Our troops in theater, our commanders, and the Iraqi leaders all believe they can see early signs of success in this program, even though it has just begun, and they are cautiously optimistic that it can succeed. I think it would be unconscionable for the Congress, seeing the beginnings of success here, to then act in any way that would pull the rug out from under our troops and make it impossible for them to achieve their mission.
Repeals current Department of Defense policy [popularly known as "Don't-Ask-Don't-Tell"] concerning homosexuality in the Armed Forces. Prohibits the Secretary of Defense, and the Secretary of Homeland Security with respect to the Coast Guard, from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation against any member of the Armed Forces or any person seeking to become a member. Authorizes the re-accession into the Armed Forces of otherwise qualified individuals previously separated for homosexuality, bisexuality, or homosexual conduct.
Nothing in this Act shall be construed to require the furnishing of dependent benefits in violation of section 7 of title 1, United States Code (relating to the definitions of 'marriage' and 'spouse' and referred to as the 'Defense of Marriage Act').
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