Joe Biden on Homeland Security

Vice President; previously Democratic Senator (DE)


Boston Marathon bombers were jihadis, but keep Constitution

Q: After the Boston Marathon bombings, your language was typically direct. At a memorial service for the slain MIT campus policeman Sean Collier, you called the bombers "two twisted, perverted, cowardly, knock-off jihadis," which, of course, is exactly what everyone in America was thinking. Are these kind of remarks spontaneous?

A: No, I actually wrote that speech. I wanted to communicate two things: first, to make it clear that there is not this sort of gigantic, coordinated network run by Al Qaeda that has cells all around the country and, second, that the republic is not in jeopardy and there's no reason for us to jettison the Constitution and erect a police state in order to protect people. The moment we change, they win. That's the only way they win. It was a terrible tragedy, but we found the guys; we'll make rational adjustments in plugging holes within our law that could have been plugged. But do not, do not, do not yield in any way to the intimidation.

Source: Douglas Brinkley in Rolling Stone Magazine , May 9, 2013

Invest $275M in Israel's "Iron Dome" & future joint systems

Under this administration, we've invested $275 million in Iron Dome, including $70 million to increase the production of Iron Dome batteries and interceptors.

Not long ago, I would have had to describe to an audience what Iron Dome was, how it would work, why funding it mattered. I don't have to explain to anybody anymore. Everybody gets it. Last year, Iron Dome made a difference. When Hamas rockets rained on Israel, Iron Dome shot them out of the sky, intercepting nearly 400 rockets in November alone. It was our unique partnership--Israel and the US--that pioneered this technology and funded it.

And it is in that same spirit that we're working with Israel to jointly develop new systems, called Arrow and David's Sling, interceptors that can defeat long-range threats from Iran, Syria and Hezbollah. And we are working to deploy a powerful new radar, networked with American early warning satellites, that could buy Israel valuable time in the event of an attack.

Source: Speech at the AIPAC Policy Conference , Mar 4, 2013

Political process to restore a democratic government in Mali

[French President Hollande and I] discussed an array of issues including Mali and North Africa more broadly. On behalf of the President & the people of the United States, we applaud your decisiveness and the incredible competence and capability of your French military forces [in military action in Mali].

We support the political process that France is leading to restore a democratic government in Mali. We discussed the importance of working with our regional partners to counter terrorism across North Africa and beyond. We spent time discussing how terrorist organizations metastasized and why additional strategies will be necessary going into the future to deal with this new threat.

I emphasized the importance of working with the new government of Libya and building effective security institutions. On Syria, we both fully support the Syrian opposition coalition, the legitimate representative of the Syrian people.

Source: Press Conference with V.P. Biden & French President Hollande , Feb 4, 2013

We should not cut embassy security funding

Q: One month ago, on the anniversary of 9/11, Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other brave Americans were killed in a terrorist attack in Benghazi. Wasn't this a massive intelligence failure?

RYAN: It took the president two weeks to acknowledge that this was a terrorist attack. Our ambassador in Paris has a Marine detachment guarding him. Shouldn't we have a Marine detachment guarding our ambassador in Benghazi?

BIDEN: With all due respect, that's a bunch of malarkey. The congressman here cut embassy security in his budget by $300 million below what we asked for.

Q: What were you first told about the attack? Why were people talking about protests?

BIDEN: Because that's exactly what we were told by the intelligence community. You know, usually when there's a crisis, we pull together as a nation. But even before we knew what happened to the ambassador, the governor was holding a press conference. That's not presidential leadership.

Source: 2012 Vice Presidential debate , Oct 11, 2012

National debt comes from putting two wars on a credit card

BIDEN: They talk about this Great Recession as if it fell out of the sky, like, "oh my goodness, where did it come from?" It came from [Paul Ryan and Republicans] voting to put two wars in a credit card, and at the same time put a prescription drug benefit on the credit card, a trillion- dollar tax cut for the very wealthy. I was there. I voted against him. I said, no, we can't afford that. And now all of a sudden these guys are so seized with a concern about the debt that they created.

RYAN: Let's not forget that they came in with one-party control. When Barack Obama was elected, his party controlled everything. They had the ability to do everything of their choosing, and look at where we are right now. They passed a stimulus, the idea that we could borrow $831 billion, spend it on all these special interest groups and that it would work out just fine, that unemployment would never get to 8 percent. It went up above 8 percent for 43 months.

Source: 2012 Vice Presidential debate , Oct 11, 2012

Special Forces instead of M1 tanks

Q: How you do the budget math and have this increase in defense spending?

RYAN: You don't cut defense by a trillion dollars.

BIDEN: Who's cutting it by a trillion?

RYAN: We're going to cut 80,000 soldiers, 20,000 Marines, 120 cargo planes. We're going to push the Joint Strike Fighter out. We're cutting missile defense. If these cuts go through, our Navy will be the smallest it has been since before World War I. This invites weakness.

BIDEN: Look, we don't cut it. The military says, we need a smaller, leaner Army. We need more special forces. We don't need more M1 tanks. What we need is more UAVs [unmanned aerial vehicles, commonly called "drones"]. That was the decision of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, recommended to us and agreed to by the president.

Source: 2012 Vice Presidential debate , Oct 11, 2012

Caring for veterans is our only sacred obligation

BIDEN: We only have one truly sacred obligation as a government. That's to equip those we send into harm's way and care for those who come home. That's the only sacred obligation we have. Everything else falls behind that. [Veterans] should be honored; not be thrown into a category of the 47% who don't pay their taxes.
Source: 2012 Vice Presidential debate , Oct 11, 2012

1970s: control CIA from outside; 1980s: time to lay off

Presidents of both parties chafed at and sought to circumvent post-Vietnam restrictions on their authority such as the ban on assassinations imposed in 1976 or the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978. By the end of the 1970s, however, the mood in Congress had begun to shift and the reform era came to an end.

[For example], in the mid-70s Biden participated in the congressional efforts to investigate the CIA and get it under outside control. A few years later, however, as the country was shifting to the right, he served notice at a Senate hearing that it was time to lay off. "The momentum is moving the other way," Biden told representatives of the ACLU. Yes, he agreed with their views, Biden said, but the issue of writing rules for the CIA did not have [much] popular appeal.

"Let me tell you something," Biden declared. "The folks don't care. The average American could care less right now about any of this. You keep talking about public concern. There ain't none."

Source: The Obamians, by James Mann, p. 18 , Jun 14, 2012

1979: Met with Soviet leaders about SALT II Treaty

conditions adopted by the Senate. For three hours in the Kremlin, he matched wits with Brezhnev and Premier Alexei Kosygin. In the long exchange, Biden wrote, "I did manage to get an unspoken assurance from him that the Soviets would likely accede to In the summer of 1979, with Senate ratification of the SALT II Treaty signed by Carter and Brezhnev in peril, the president asked Biden to lead a delegation of six young senators to Moscow seeking assurances that the Soviet leaders would abide by new the treaty modifications the Senate had under consideration. The Soviets wanted the treaty passed, too." In the end, however, after Biden's best efforts to sell ratification, it fell short in the Senate. Nevertheless, when Ronald Reagan won the White House in 1980, his administration informally complied with the SALT II limits. When in 1986, he threatened to abandon them, Biden along with Republican Senator William Cohen of Maine proposed legislation to prevent him from doing so.
Source: A Life of Trial & Redemption, by Jules Witcover, p.318-319 , Oct 5, 2010

Revealed location of top-secret bunker beneath VP residence

Biden sabotages his own security by insisting on having only two vehicles instead of eight in his Secret Service motorcade, especially when visiting Delaware. Nor does he want the usual police escort. "He doesn't understand protection," an agent says. "Our bosses have no backbone. Instead of folding, they should explain why protection is needed and insist that he have it."

Biden's lack of regard for security was evident when, chatting with journalists at the head table at the 2009 Gridiron Dinner, he revealed the location of a top-secret bunker beneath the vice president's residence. Biden later tried to claim that he was talking about a study used by his predecessor Dick Cheney at the upper level of the residence. But the Secret Service emailed agents to warn them that Biden had compromised the location of the vice president's secret underground bunker. "It was a shock to all of us that the vice president did that," says an agent. "If we had done that, we would have been prosecuted."

Source: In the President`s Secret Service, by R. Kessler, p.231-232 , Jun 29, 2009

We spend same in 3 weeks in Iraq as 7 years in Afghanistan

PALIN: The counterinsurgency strategy--clearing, holding, rebuilding, the civil society and the infrastructure--can work in Afghanistan.

BIDEN: While Barack & I have been calling for more money & more troops in Afghanistan, McCain was saying two years ago, ďThe reason we donít read about Afghanistan anymore in the paper, itís succeeded.Ē We spend in three weeks on combat missions in Iraq, more than we spent in the entire time we have been in Afghanistan. That will change in an Obama administration.

Source: 2008 Vice Presidential debate against Gov. Sarah Palin , Oct 2, 2008

Obama worked with Republicans to reduce nuclear weapons

BIDEN: John McCain voted against a Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty that every Republican has supported. John McCain has opposed amending the Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty with an amendment to allow for inspections. Barack Obama, first thing he did when he came to the United States Senate, reached across the aisle to my colleague, Dick Lugar, a Republican, and said, ďWeíve got to do something about keeping nuclear weapons out of the hands of terrorists.Ē
Source: 2008 Vice Presidential debate against Sarah Palin , Oct 2, 2008

Greatest security threat is from al Qaeda in Pakistan

Q: Whatís the greater threat, a nuclear Iran or an unstable Pakistan?

BIDEN: Pakistan already has nuclear weapons. Iran getting a nuclear weapon would be destabilizing, but they are not close to getting a nuclear weapon thatís able to be deployed. John continues to tell us that the central war on terror is in Iraq. I promise you, if an attack comes in the homeland, itís going to come from al Qaeda in the hills of Pakistan. We need to support that democracy by helping them with their economic well-being.

PALIN: Both are extremely dangerous. And as for who coined that central war on terror being in Iraq, it was the Gen. Petraeus and al Qaeda, and itís probably the only thing that theyíre ever going to agree on. An armed, nuclear Iran is so extremely dangerous. Israel is in jeopardy when weíre dealing with Iran. Others who are dangerous dictators are ones that Barack Obama has said he would be willing to meet with without preconditions. And that goes beyond naivete and poor judgment.

Source: 2008 Vice Presidential debate against Sarah Palin , Oct 2, 2008

Cut $350B in military programs, from Star Wars to F-22ís

[We should] cut somewhere in the order of $20 billion a year out of the military for special programs, from Star Wars, to a new atomic weapon, to the F-22, to the Nimitz-Class Destroyer. You can save $350 billion. That would allow me to do everything I want to do -- my priorities on education, health care and the environment -- and still bring down the deficit by $150 billion.
Source: 2007 Des Moines Register Democratic debate , Dec 13, 2007

Universal national service, in military or Peace Corps

Q: Teenage boys must register for selective service at age 18, but not girls. Iím wondering whether this sends the right message about national service, & whether we ought to re-examine how we go about asking young people for their service to the country

A: The answer is yes. In 1988, [we in Congress] not only introduced a bill for mandatory universal service, but you get to pick one of three things: if you chose the army, itís six months; if you chose a domestic Peace Corps, itís two years; if you chose foreign Peace Corps, you only have to do it a year. Everyone man and woman when they get to be eighteen they can chose what they want, but there should be universal service unless there is an extreme physical disability.

Source: 2007 Iowa Brown & Black Presidential Forum , Dec 1, 2007

Talks about nations acquiring uranium are more complicated

Q: Would you pledge that Iran will not develop a nuclear bomb while you are president?

A: I would pledge to keep us safe. This is complicated stuff. We talk about this in isolation. The Iranians may get 2.6 kilograms of highly-enriched uranium. But the Pakistanis have thousands of kilograms of highly-enriched uranium. If by attacking Iran to stop them from getting 2.6 kilograms of highly-enriched uranium, the government in Pakistan falls, who has missiles already deployed with nuclear weapons on them that can already reach Israel, already reach India, then thatís a bad bargain. Presidents make wise decisions informed not by a vacuum in which they operate, by the situation they find themselves in the world. I will do all in my power to stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, but I will never take my eye off the ball. What is the greatest threat to the US: 2.6 kilograms of highly enriched uranium in Tehran or an out-of-control Pakistan? Itís not close.

Source: 2007 Democratic debate at Drexel University , Oct 30, 2007

Commitment to never use torture; no part of our policy, ever

Q: Would you allow a presidential exception to allow torture if we captured a high-ranking Al Qaeda operative who knew about an impending attack?

A: No, I would not. I met 17 three- and four-star generals who, after my making a speech pointing out I would not under any circumstances sanction torture, I thought they were about to read me the riot act. The generals said, Biden, will you make a commitment you will never use torture? It does not work. It is part of the reason why we got the faulty information on Iraq in the first place is because it was engaged in by one person who gave whatever answer they thought they were going to give in order to stop being tortured. It doesnít work. It should be no part of our policy ever--ever.

Source: 2007 Democratic primary debate at Dartmouth College , Sep 6, 2007

Missile defense is perfect metaphor for neo-isolationism

In 2001, Bushís new foreign affairs team were so intent on going ahead with Reaganís Star Wars missile defense shield that they were willing to pull out of earlier arms control treaties to get there, inviting, in my view, another arms race. The missile defense system seemed to be the perfect metaphor for the neoisolationist policy. Letís arm the heavens, they were saying, and protect the US, the rest of the world be damned.

The administration had said they were willing to walk away from the decades-old ABM Treaty in order to unilaterally develop and deploy the missile defense system, and now they were putting real money behind it. They were willing to put tens of billions of dollars into the Maginot line in the sky that could quite likely set off another arms race, while cutting funding for a program to help Russia destroy its nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons before they got into the hands of terrorists.

Source: Promises to Keep, by Joe Biden, p.291-292&298 , Jul 31, 2007

Urged Pres. Bush to return to Washington on 9/11

After I finished an interview on the morning of 9/11, my cell phone rang. President Bush was on the line. ďI just watched you, and Iím really proud of you. You were saying the right things.Ē

When I asked him when he was heading to Washington, he said the intelligence community told him he shouldnít. I recalled a story about the leader of the French resistance, Charles de Gaulle, near the close of World War II. When France was liberated, there was a parade down the Champs-Elysees in Paris, led by de Gaulle. As they walked, shots rang out, and everyone hit the ground except de Gaulle. He continued to walk ramrod straight. With that one defiant action he lifted France off its knees.

ďMr. President, come back to Washington,Ē I said. [Pres. Bush famously did].

Source: Promises to Keep, by Joe Biden, p.303-304 , Jul 31, 2007

1992: No Pax Americana

In 1992, "Defense Planning Guidance" had been prepared by Wolfowitz and Scooter Libby, for Secretary Richard Cheney. The Wolfowitz memo called for permanent US military presence on 6 continents. Containment and deterrence to defend the West were to yield to a new offensive strategy to "establish and protect a new order."

Under the Wolfowitz Doctrine, US military supremacy was to remain sufficiently dominant to deter all "potential competitors from even aspiring to a larger regional or global role."

Reaction was sharp. Sen. Joe Biden denounced the memo as the blueprints for "a Pax Americana." Sen. Edward Kennedy said the Pentagon plans "appear to be aimed primarily at finding new ways to justify Cold War levels of military spending." Disowned by the Bush I White House, the memo was seemingly forgotten. But in Sep. 2002, with Cheney, Wolfowitz, and Libby restored to power, the Wolfowitz memo reappeared in an official document released by the White House, titled The National Security Strategy.

Source: Where the Right Went Wrong, by Pat Buchanan, p. 42-44 , Aug 12, 2004

Joe Biden on Voting Record

Donít Ask Donít Tell is antiquated & unworkable

Q: Would you support a repeal of the ďDonít Ask, Donít TellĒ policy which would allow gay, lesbian, and bisexual soldiers the right to serve openly in the military?

A: Sen. Biden supports ending the Donít Ask, Donít Tell policy. It is antiquated and unworkable. According to recent polls, 3/4 of veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan said that they had no problem serving with openly gay people. 24 of the nations serving alongside US forces in Iraq permit open service which has had no negative impact on these forces or the morale of our brave soldiers. Finally, the US does not have enough troops to fulfill our current missions--it is ridiculous to turn away brave and patriotic Americans who volunteer to serve solely because of their sexual orientation--especially in light of the Defense Departmentís recent decision to extend tours of duty in Iraq. Sen. Biden believes that we should treat everyone serving in the military by the same standards regardless of orientation.

Source: 2007 HRC/LOGO debate--written questionnaire , Aug 9, 2007

Voted NO on cutting $221M in benefits to Filipinos who served in WWII US Army.

Opponents argument for voting NAY:Sen. INOUYE. From the Spanish-American War in 1898, until the end of World War II, we exercised jurisdiction over the Philippines like a colonial power. In July 1941, we called upon the Filipinos to volunteer to serve the US under American command, and 470,000 Filipinos volunteered. An Executive Order in 1941 promised Filipinos if they fought for us, they could become citizens of the US and get all of the veterans' benefits. But in 1946, the Congress rescinded the 1941 act. Well, this veterans bill has a provision in it--a provision of honor--in which, finally, after six decades, we will restore our honor and tell the Filipinos: It is late, but please forgive us. Proponents argument for voting YEA:Sen. BURR. This bill is so much more than just a pension for Philippine veterans. It is $332 million in Philippine benefits, of which $221 million is devoted to a new special pension that does not exist [previously. Only that $221M would be cut]. Regardless of the outcome of my amendment, I support final passage of this bill. But we do have a difference as it relates to the pensions. I believe that there was not a promise made. We did not imply it. Those who made the decision on the 1946 Rescissions Act, they looked at the history very well.

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.

Reference: Burr Amendment; Bill S.Amdt. 4572 to S. 1315 ; vote number 2008-111 on Apr 24, 2008

Voted YES on requiring FISA court warrant to monitor US-to-foreign calls.

SUPPORTER'S ARGUMENT FOR VOTING YES:Sen. FEINGOLD: The Protect America Act (PAA) we passed last year was sold repeatedly as a way to allow the Government to collect foreign-to-foreign communications without needing the approval of the FISA Court. Now, this is something all of us support, every one of us. But the PAA actually went much further. It authorized new sweeping intrusions into the privacy of countless Americans. The bill the Senate is considering to replace the PAA does not do nearly enough to safeguard against Government abuse. So this amendment would provide those safeguards.

[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

Reference: Amendment to Protect America Act; Bill S.Amdt.3913 to S.2248 ; vote number 08-S012 on Feb 7, 2008

Voted NO on removing need for FISA warrant for wiretapping abroad.

Vote on passage of S.1927, the Protect America Act: Amends the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) to state that nothing under its definition of "electronic surveillance" should encompass surveillance directed at any person reasonably believed to be located outside the US.

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.

Reference: Protect America Act; Bill S.1927 ; vote number 2007-309 on Aug 3, 2007

Voted YES on limiting soldiers' deployment to 12 months.

Vote on an amendment, SA2032, which amends HR1585, the Defense Authorization bill: To limit the deployment of a unit or individual of the Armed Forces for Operation Iraqi Freedom to no more than 12 consecutive months; and to limit Marine Corps deployment to no more than 7 consecutive months; except in time of national emergency.

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.

Reference: Hagel Amendment to Defense Authorization Bill; Bill SA2032 to HR1585 ; vote number 2007-243 on Jul 11, 2007

Voted YES on implementing the 9/11 Commission report.

Vote on passage of a bill to implement unfinished recommendations of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (9/11 Commission) to fight the war on terror more effectively:

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.

Reference: Improving America's Security Act; Bill S. 4 ; vote number 2007-073 on Mar 13, 2007

Voted YES on preserving habeas corpus for Guantanamo detainees.

Sen. Specter's amendment would strike the provision regarding habeas review. The underlying bill authorizes trial by military commission for violations of the law of war. Excerpts from the Senate floor debate:

Sen. GRAHAM [recommending NO]: The fundamental question for the Senate to answer when it comes to determining enemy combatant status is, Who should make that determination? Should that be a military decision or should it be a judicial decision? That is something our military should do.

Sen. SPECTER [recommending YES]: My amendment would retain the constitutional right of habeas corpus for people detained at Guantanamo. The right of habeas corpus was established in the Magna Carta in 1215 when, in England, there was action taken against King John to establish a procedure to prevent illegal detention. What the bill seeks to do is to set back basic rights by some 900 years. This amendment would strike that provision and make certain that the constitutional right of habeas corpus is maintained.

GRAHAM: Do we really want enemy prisoners to bring every lawsuit known to man against the people fighting the war and protecting us? No enemy prisoner should have access to Federal courts--a noncitizen, enemy combatant terrorist--to bring a lawsuit against those fighting on our behalf. No judge should have the ability to make a decision that has been historically reserved to the military. That does not make us safer.

SPECTER: The US Constitution states that "Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it." We do not have either rebellion or invasion, so it is a little hard for me to see, as a basic principle of constitutional law, how the Congress can suspend the writ of habeas corpus.

GRAHAM: If the Supreme Court does say in the next round of legal appeals there is a constitutional right to habeas corpus by those detained at Guantanamo Bay, then Sen. Specter is absolutely right.

Reference: Specter Amendment; Bill S.AMDT.5087 to S.3930 ; vote number 2006-255 on Sep 28, 2006

Voted YES on requiring CIA reports on detainees & interrogation methods.

Amendment to provide for congressional oversight of certain Central Intelligence Agency programs. The underlying bill S. 3930 authorizes trial by military commission for violations of the law of war. The amendment requires quarterly reports describing all CIA detention facilities; the name of each detainee; their suspected activities; & each interrogation technique authorized for use and guidelines on the use of each such technique.

Opponents recommend voting NO because:

I question the need for a very lengthy, detailed report every 3 months. We will probably see those reports leaked to the press.

This amendment would spread out for the world--and especially for al-Qaida and its related organizations--precisely what interrogation techniques are going to be used.

If we lay out, in an unclassified version, a description of the techniques by the Attorney General, that description will be in al-Qaida and Hezbollah and all of the other terrorist organizations' playbook. They will train their assets that: This is what you must be expected to do, and Allah wants you to resist these techniques.

We are passing this bill so that we can detain people. If we catch someone like Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, we have no way to hold him, no way to ask him the questions and get the information we need, because the uncertainty has brought the program to a close. It is vitally important to our security, and unfortunately this amendment would imperil it.

Reference: Rockefeller Amendment; Bill S.AMDT.5095 to S.3930 ; vote number 2006-256 on Sep 28, 2006

Voted YES on reauthorizing the PATRIOT Act.

This vote reauthorizes the PATRIOT Act with some modifications (amendments). Voting YEA extends the PATRIOT Act, and voting NAY would phase it out. The official summary of the bill is:
A bill to clarify that individuals who receive FISA orders can challenge nondisclosure requirements, that individuals who receive national security letters are not required to disclose the name of their attorney, that libraries are not wire or electronic communication service providers unless they provide specific services, and for other purposes.
Reference: USA PATRIOT Act Additional Reauthorizing Amendments; Bill S. 2271 ; vote number 2006-025 on Mar 1, 2006

Voted NO on extending the PATRIOT Act's wiretap provision.

Vote to invoke cloture on a conference report that extends the authority of the FBI to conduct "roving wiretaps" and access business records. Voting YES would recommend, in effect, that the PATRIOT Act be extended through December 31, 2009, and would makes the provisions of the PATRIOT Act permanent. Voting NO would extend debate further, which would have the effect of NOT extending the PATRIOT Act's wiretap provision.
Reference: Motion for Cloture of PATRIOT Act; Bill HR 3199 ; vote number 2005-358 on Dec 16, 2005

Voted YES on restricting business with entities linked to terrorism.

Vote to adopt an amendment that makes US businesses and their subsidiaries liable to prosecution for dealing with foreign businesses which have links to terrorism or whose parent country supports terrorism. Voting YES would:
Reference: Stop Business with Terrorists Act of 2005; Bill S AMDT 1351 to S 1042 ; vote number 2005-203 on Jul 26, 2005

Voted YES on restoring $565M for states' and ports' first responders.

Amendment intended to protect the American people from terrorist attacks by restoring $565 million in cuts to vital first-responder programs in the Department of Homeland Security, including the State Homeland Security Grant program, by providing $150 million for port security grants and by providing $140 million for 1,000 new border patrol agents.
Reference: State Homeland Security Grant Program Amendment; Bill S AMDT 220 to S Con Res 18 ; vote number 2005-64 on Mar 17, 2005

Voted YES on adopting the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.

Adoption of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty would ban nuclear weapons testing six months after ratification by the 44 nations that have nuclear power plants or nucelar research reactors.
Status: Resolution of Ratification Rejected Y)48; N)51; P)1
Reference: Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty; Bill Treaty Document #105-28 ; vote number 1999-325 on Oct 13, 1999

Voted YES on allowing another round of military base closures.

Vote on an amendment to allow one round of military base closures beginning in 2001 as determined by an independent panel.
Reference: Bill S.1059 ; vote number 1999-147 on May 26, 1999

Voted NO on cutting nuclear weapons below START levels.

The Kerrey (D-NE) amdt would strike bill language requiring that U.S. strategic nuclear forces remain at START I levels through the end of fiscal 2000 unless Russia ratified START II.
Status: Motion to Table Agreed to Y)56; N)44
Reference: Motion to table Kerrey Amdt #395; Bill S. 1059 ; vote number 1999-149 on May 26, 1999

Voted YES on deploying National Missile Defense ASAP.

Vote that the policy of the US is to deploy a National Missile Defense system capable of defending against limited ballistic missile attack as soon as it is technologically possible, and to seek continued negotiated reductions in Russian nuclear forces.
Reference: Bill S 257 ; vote number 1999-51 on Mar 17, 1999

Voted YES on military pay raise of 4.8%.

Vote to pass a bill to authorize a military pay raise of 4.8% in 2000 and annual pay increases through 2006 of 0.5% above the inflation rate. The bill would also provide additional incentives to certain enlisted personnel who remain on active duty.
Reference: Bill S.4 ; vote number 1999-26 on Feb 24, 1999

Voted NO on prohibiting same-sex basic training.

Byrd Amdt (D-WV) that would prohibit same-sex military barracks and basic training.
Status: Amdt Rejected Y)39; N)53; NV)8
Reference: Byrd Amdt #3011; Bill S. 2057 ; vote number 1998-180 on Jun 25, 1998

Voted YES on favoring 36 vetoed military projects.

Overturning line-item vetoes of 36 military projects vetoed by President Clinton.
Status: Bill Passed Y)69; N)30; NV)1
Reference: Line Item Veto Cancellation bill; Bill S. 1292 ; vote number 1997-287 on Oct 30, 1997

Voted YES on banning chemical weapons.

Approval of the chemical weapons ban.
Status: Resolution of Ratification Agreed to Y)74; N)26
Reference: Resolution of ratification of the Chemical (Comprehensive) Weapons (Convention) Ban; Bill S. Res. 75 ; vote number 1997-51 on Apr 24, 1997

Voted NO on considering deploying NMD, and amending ABM Treaty.

Vote to consider establishing a policy requiring the deployment of a national missile defense system by the end of 2003. The bill would also urge discussions with Russia to amend the ABM Treaty to allow deployment of the system.
Reference: Bill S 1635 ; vote number 1996-157 on Jun 4, 1996

Voted NO on 1996 Defense Appropriations.

Approval of the 1996 Defense Appropriations bill.
Status: Bill Passed Y)62; N)35; NV)3
Reference: Defense Approps Bill FY 96; Bill S. 1087 ; vote number 1995-397 on Sep 5, 1995

Rated 80% by SANE, indicating a pro-peace voting record.

Biden scores 80% by SANE on peace issues

Peace Action, the merger of The Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy (SANE) and The Freeze, has effectively mobilized for peace and disarmament for over forty years. As the nation's largest grassroots peace group we get results: from the 1963 treaty to ban above ground nuclear testing, to the 1996 signing of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, from ending the war in Vietnam, to blocking weapons sales to human rights abusing countries. We are proof that ordinary people can change the world. At Peace Action we believe...

As the Pentagonís budget soars to $400 billion, 17% of American children live in poverty. For what the US will spend on Missile Defense in one year we could: put over a million children through Head Start OR provide healthcare for over 3.5 million children OR create over 100,000 units of affordable housing OR hire over 160,000 elementary school teachers. At Peace Action our priorities are clear.

The ratings are based on the votes the organization considered most important; the numbers reflect the percentage of time the representative voted the organization's preferred position.

Source: SANE website 03n-SANE on Dec 31, 2003

Give higher priority to rail security.

Biden co-sponsored giving higher priority to rail security

OFFICIAL CONGRESSIONAL SUMMARY: A bill to provide increased rail transportation security.

SPONSOR'S INTRODUCTORY REMARKS: Sen. McCAIN: We must do what is possible to protect Americans at home. Our Nation's transit system, Amtrak, and the freight railroads, I am sad to say, remain vulnerable to terrorist attacks. Though we have increased dramatically our security capabilities since 9/11, we have more to do. In fact, the Department of Homeland Security has not yet completed a vulnerability assessment for the rail system, nor is there an integrated security plan that reflects the unique characteristics of passenger and freight rail operations.

This legislation would authorize resources to ensure rail transportation security receives a high priority in our efforts to secure our country from terrorism. The legislation directs DHS to complete a vulnerability assessment for the rail system and make recommendations for addressing security weaknesses within 180 days of enactment.

LEGISLATIVE OUTCOME:Referred to Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation; never came to a vote.

Source: Rail Security Act (S.1379/H.R.153) 05-S1379 on Jul 11, 2005

Apply habeas corpus to Guantanamo detainees.

Biden introduced applying habeas corpus to Guantanamo detainees

Sponsor's introductory remarks: Sen. Biden: Our counterterrorism authorities should not only thwart attacks; these authorities should also strengthen international coalitions, draw Muslim populations around the world closer to us, and deprive terrorists of a recruitment narrative. In our long term effort to stem the tide of international terrorism, our commitments to the rule of law and to individual rights and civil liberties are among our most formidable weapons. They are what unite foreign governments behind us in effective counterterrorism coalitions.

This bill maintains rendition as a robust and agile tool in our fight against international terrorism, but it brings that tool within the rule of law, and prohibits rendering individuals to countries that will torture or mistreat them or to secret, extra-territorial prisons.

This bill also closes a hole intentionally left open by the President's recent Executive Order on the treatment of detainees. The President's order is notably silent on some of the more controversial techniques the CIA has allegedly used in the past, such as waterboarding, extreme sleep deprivation, extreme sensory deprivation, and extremes of heat and cold.

Congressional Summary: Prohibitsa US agent from:

  1. engaging in the extraterritorial detention of any individual; or
  2. rendering (transferring to another legal jurisdiction) of any individual.
Provides for uniform standards for the interrogation; monitoring and reporting regarding the treatment, conditions of confinement, and status of legal proceedings of individuals rendered to foreign governments.
    Extends statutory habeas corpus to persons detained by the United States who have been:
  1. determined to have been properly detained as an enemy combatant; or
  2. detained for more than 90 days without such a determination.
Source: National Security with Justice Act (S.01876) 07-S1876 on Jul 25, 2007

Restore habeas corpus for detainees in the War on Terror.

Biden co-sponsored restoring habeas corpus for detainees in the War on Terror

A bill to restore habeas corpus for those detained by the United States; to the Committee on the Judiciary.

Sen. SPECTER. "I introduce this legislation, denominated the Habeas Corpus Restoration Act. Last year, in the Military Commissions Act, the constitutional right of habeas corpus was attempted to be abrogated. I say "attempted to be abrogated" because, in my legal judgment, that provision in the Act is unconstitutional.

"It is hard to see how there can be legislation to eliminate the constitutional right to habeas corpus when the Constitution is explicit that habeas corpus may not be suspended except in time of invasion or rebellion, and we do not have either of those circumstances present, as was conceded by the advocates of the legislation last year to take away the right of habeas corpus.

"We have had Supreme Court decisions which have made it plain that habeas corpus is available to non-citizens and that habeas corpus applies to territory controlled by the US, specifically, including Guantanamo. More recently, however, we had a decision in the US District Court applying the habeas corpus jurisdiction stripping provision of the Military Commissions Act, but I believe we will see the appellate courts strike down this legislative provision.

"The New York Times had an extensive article on this subject, starting on the front page, last Sunday, and continuing on a full page on the back page about what is happening at Guantanamo. It is hard to see how in America, or in a jurisdiction controlled by the United States, these proceedings could substitute for even rudimentary due process of law."

Source: Habeas Corpus Restoration Act (S.185/H.R.2826) 2007-S185 on Jun 22, 2007

School assistance to survivors of injured federal police.

Biden co-sponsored the Federal Law Enforcement Dependents Assistance Act

A bill to provide educational assistance to the dependents of Federal law enforcement officials who are killed or disabled in the performance of their duties.

Corresponding House bill is H.R.4111. Became Public Law No: 104-238.
Source: Bill sponsored by 12 Senators and 11 Reps 96-S2101 on Sep 20, 1996

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