Campaign 2012

GOP National Security Debate Roundup

By Sonia McNeil
Wednesday, November 23, 2011, 12:01 PM

The Republican presidential candidates debated national security and foreign policy issues last night in Washington. Ritika teed up the debate here with links to the Post’s preview of issues to watch and a synopsis of the candidates’ positions from CNN’s Security Clearance blog. CNN’s liveblog of the debate is here, a transcript is here, and a video is here (short clips that include Santorum on profiling, Romney on defense spending, and a compilation of “memorable moments” are here). CBS offers fact-checking here.

CNN reports that the debate “exposed deep fault lines within the GOP over how to grapple with the nation’s challenges overseas.” Here are the candidates on a few topics of interest to Lawfare readers:

The Patriot Act – in short, all except Ron Paul want the Act extended. In detail:

  • Herman Cain: "[I]f there are some areas of the Patriot Act that we need to refine, I'm all for that. But I do not believe we ought to throw out the baby with the bathwater for the following reason. The terrorists have one objective that some people don't seem to get. They want to kill all of us. So we should use every mean possible to kill them first or identify them first."
  • Newt Gingrich: “[T]he key distinction for the American people to recognize is the difference between national security requirements and criminal law requirements. I think it's desperately important that we preserve your right to be innocent until proven guilty, if it's a matter of criminal law. But if you're trying to find somebody who may have a nuclear weapon that they are trying to bring into an American city, I think you want to use every tool that you can possibly use to gather the intelligence. The Patriot Act has clearly been a key part of that. And I think looking at it carefully and extending it and building an honest understanding that all of us will be in danger for the rest of our lives. This is not going to end in the short run. And we need to be prepared to protect ourselves from those who, if they could, would not just kill us individually, but would take out entire cities. . . . I would not change [The Patriot Act]. I'm not aware of any specific change it needs. And I'd look at strengthening it, because I think the dangers are literally that great."
  • Jon Huntsman: "[W]e'll try to find that balancing act between our individual liberties and security. But we also have to remember. . . . that we have partnerships with governors and mayors, that this is a national effort. No longer can we compartmentalize intelligence. Those are the old days. Today we've got to share."
  • Ron Paul: "I think the Patriot Act is unpatriotic because it undermines our liberty. I'm concerned, as everybody is, about the terrorist attack. . . . But why I really fear it is we have drifted into a condition that we were warned against because our early founders were very clear. They said, don't be willing to sacrifice liberty for security. Today it seems too easy that our government and our congresses are so willing to give up our liberties for our security. I have a personal belief that you never have to give up liberty for security. You can still provide security without sacrificing our Bill of Rights."
  • Rick Perry: ". . . I agree with most of my colleagues here on the stage when we talk about the Patriot Act. And we need to keep it in place. We need to have -- strengthen it if that's what's required, to update it with new technologies as they come along, Newt. But here's the other issue that I think we've really failed at, and that is in our ability to collect intelligence around the world. And this administration in particular has been an absolute failure when it comes to expending the dollars and supporting the CIA and the military intelligence around the world, to be able to draw in that intelligence that is going to truly be able to allow us to keep the next terrorist attack from happening on American soil."
  • Mitt Romney: "There are different categories here. There's crime and there are rights that are afforded to American citizens under our Constitution and those that are accused of crime. Then there's war. And the tool of war being used today in America and around the world is terror. There's a different body of law that relates to war. And for those that understand the difference between the two, they recognize that we need tools when war is waged domestically to ensure that, as president of the United States, you can fulfill your first responsibility, which is to protect the life, liberty and property of American citizens and defend them from foes domestic and foreign. And that means, yes, we'll use the Constitution and criminal law for those people who commit crimes, but those who commit war and attack the United States and pursue treason of various kinds, we will use instead a very different form of law, which is the law afforded to those who are fighting America.”
  • Rick Santorum: "We are at war. The last time we had a -- we had a threat at home like this -- obviously, it was much more of a threat at home -- was during the Civil War. And, of course, Abraham Lincoln ran right over civil rights. Why? Because we had a present domestic threat. In the previous wars that we've had, we haven't had this type of threat that we have here in the homeland. And we have to deal with it differently."
  • Michele Bachmann: ". . . We have to realize we're in a very different war, with very different techniques that are used for that war, and very different bad actors than we've had before in the terrorists and their motivations are very different. We can't forget that technology is completely different. . . . And we have to completely change the way that we go about investigating. . . . When the bomber -- or the attempted bomber over Detroit, the underwear bomber was intercepted, he was given Miranda warnings within 45 minutes. He was not an American citizen. We don't give Miranda warnings to terrorists, and we don't read them their rights. They don't have any.”

AfPak, Drones & Targeted Killing:

  • Michele Bachmann: “Pakistan has been the epicenter of dealing with terrorism. They are, as Governor Huntsman said, there are al-Qaeda training grounds there. There's also the Haqqani network that can be trained there as well. And they also are one of the most violent, unstable nations that there is. We have to recognize that 15 of the sites, nuclear sites are available or are potentially penetrable by jihadists. Six attempts have already been made on nuclear sites. This is more than an existential threat. We have to take this very seriously. The United States has to be engaged. It is complicated. We have to recognize that the Chinese are doing everything that they can to be an influential party in Pakistan. We don't want to lose influence.”
  • Newt Gingrich: ". . . I think this is the heart of the American dilemma. We were told . . . that our killing bin Laden in Pakistan drove U.S.-Pakistan relations to a new low. To which my answer is, well, it should have because we should be furious. Now, and that's where this has got to start. You want to keep American troops in Afghanistan, you accept hot pursuit, you say no sanctuaries, you change the rules of engagement, you put the military in charge of the military side, you overhaul the State Department and AID so they get the job done, and you do it for real and you do it intensely, and you tell the Pakistanis, help us or get out of the way, but don't complain if we kill people you're not willing to go after on your territory where you have been protecting them."
  • Jon Huntsman: “You've got a nation-state that is a candidate for failure. And I say it's a haven for bad behavior. It's a haven -- it's -- it's a haven for training the people who seek to do us harm. And an expanded drone program is something that would serve our national interest. I think it must be done. And I think it must be consistent with recognizing the reality on the ground of what we need out of Afghanistan -- we don't need 100,000 troops in Afghanistan.”
Racial Profiling:
  • Herman Cain: " . . .  I called it, targeted identification. . . . [W]e can do -- targeted identification. If you take a look at the people who are trying to kill us, it would be easy to figure out exactly what that identification profile looks like." [Wolf Blitzer asks, "Is it OK for Muslim Americans to get more intensive pat downs or security when they go through airports than Christian Americans or Jewish Americans?" Cain responds, "That's oversimplifying it. . . .  [W]hat I'm saying is let's ask the professionals to give us an approach of how we can increase the identification of people that might be a danger to civilians as well as a danger to this nation."]
  • Ron Paul: ". . . That's digging a hole for ourselves. What if they look like Timothy McVeigh? You know, he was a pretty tough criminal. I think we're using too much carelessness in the use of words that we're at war. I don't remember voting on -- on a declared -- declaration of war. Oh, we're against terrorism. And terrorism is a tactic. It isn't a person. It isn't a people. So this is a very careless use of words. What about this? Sacrifice liberties because there are terrorists? You're the judge and the jury? No, they're suspects. And they have changed the -- in the -- in DOD budget they have changed the wording on the definition of al-Qaeda and Taliban. It's anybody associated with organizations, which means almost anybody can be loosely associated so that makes all Americans vulnerable. And now we know that American citizens are vulnerable to assassination. So I would be very cautious about protecting the rule of law. It will be a sacrifice that you'll be sorry for."
  • Rick Santorum: ". . . We should be trying to find the bomber, not the bomb. Other countries have done it. Israel is probably the best example of that . . . . [T]he folks who [would be profiled] are most likely to be committing these crimes. If you look at -- I mean, obviously, it was -- obviously, Muslims would be -- would be someone you'd look at, absolutely. Those are the folks who are -- the radical Muslims are the people that are committing these crimes, as we've -- by and large, as well as younger males. I mean, these are things that -- not exclusively -- but these are things that you profile to -- to find your best -- the most likely candidate."

"TSA pat-downs: violation of civil liberty or a necessity to ensure national security?":

  • Herman Cain: "I believe we can do a whole lot better with TSA."
  • Mitt Romney: "Well, we can do a lot better than the TSA system. It's going to get get better over time. We can use better technology. We can also identify people who are lower risk and allow them to go through the process more quickly than the current process."
  • Rick Perry: [Confirms that he proposed legislation that would criminalize TSA pat-downs in some circumstances.] “Well, here's what I would do with the TSA; I would privatize it as soon as I could and get rid of those unions. . . . [T]he airlines and other private-sector groups work together to do the security in our airports. And it makes abundant good sense.”

"What national security issue do you worry about that nobody is asking about, either here or in any of the debates so far?":

  • Michele Bachmann: “ . . . Al-Shabaab is real. In my home state of Minnesota, we've just had two convictions of two women that are financing terror with Al-Shabaab. This threat, I believe, now is in the United States and now the threat has come home and that's what we have to deal with.”
  • Herman Cain: “Having been -- having been a ballistics analyst and a computer scientist early in my career, cyber attacks: that's something that we do not talk enough about, and I happen to believe that that is a national security area that we do need to be concerned about.”
  • Newt Gingrich: “. . . I helped create the Hart-Rudman Commission with President Clinton, and they came back after three years and said the greatest threat to the United States was the weapon of mass destruction in an American city, probably from a terrorist. That was before 9/11. That's one of the three great threats. The second is an electromagnetic pulse attack which would literally destroy the country's capacity to function. And the third, as Herman just said, is a cyber attack. All three of those are outside the current capacity of our system to deal with."
  • Jon Huntsman: “I guess I could say China because I know a little bit about the subject matter, but they're in for real trouble ahead. So I have to say that our biggest problem is right here at home. And you can see it on every street corner. It's called joblessness. It's called lack of opportunity. It's called debt, that has become a national security problem in this country. And it's also called a trust deficit, a Congress that nobody believes in anymore, an executive branch that has no leadership, institutions of power that we no longer believe in. How can we have any effect on foreign policy abroad when we are so weak at home? We have no choice. We've got to get on our feet here domestically.”
  • Ron Paul: “I worry most about overreaction on our part, getting involved in another war when we don't need to, when we have been attacked, and our national security has not been at threat. And I worry a lot about people never have come around to understanding who the Taliban is and why they are motivated. Taliban doesn't mean they want to come here and kill us. The Taliban means they want to kill us over there because all they want to do is get people who occupy their country out of their country, just like we would if anybody tried to occupy us.”
  • Rick Perry: “[I]t's China and how we're going to deal with China. . . . I happen to think that Communist China is destined for the ash heap of history because they are not a country of virtues. When you have 35,000 forced abortions a day in that country; when you have the cybersecurity that the PLA has been involved with, those are great and -- and major issues, both morally and security-wise that we've got to deal with now.”
  • Mitt Romney: “Rick [Perry], in my view, is right with regards to long-term security interests, and that's -- and that's China, although that's very much on our agenda. Immediately, the most significant threat is, of course, Iran becoming nuclear. But I happen to think Senator Santorum is right with regards to the issue that doesn't get enough attention. That's the one that may come up that we haven't thought about, which is Latin America. Because, in fact, Congressman, we have been attacked. We were attacked on 9/11. There have been dozens of attacks that have been thwarted by our -- by our security forces. And we have, right now, Hezbollah, which is working throughout Latin America, in Venezuela, in Mexico, throughout Latin America, which poses a very significant and imminent threat to the United States of America."
  • Rick Santorum: "Well, I've spent a lot of time and concern . . . about what's going on in Central and South America. I'm very concerned about the militant socialists and there -- and the radical Islamists joining together, bonding together."