Congressional Record: August 3, 1999 (Extensions)
HON. BERNARD SANDERS of vermont in the house of representatives Tuesday, August 3, 1999 Mr. SANDERS. Mr. Speaker, I submit for printing in the Record statements by high school students from my home State of Vermont, who were speaking at my recent town meeting on issues facing young people today. I believe that the views of these young persons will benefit my colleagues. [...] U.S. Intelligence Issues (On behalf of Bethany Heywood and Laura Freeman) Bethany Heywood: How would you feel if a total stranger demanded your money and wouldn't tell you what it was being used for, but assured you it wouldn't be misused? Would you trust this person? Of course not. But this is essentially what the CIA does to the American taxpayer, and with their track record, we certainly shouldn't trust them to use our money properly. Taxpayers don't even know how much money the CIA receives, although a rough estimate is $3.1 billion per year. In the past, the CIA has used a substantial part of its budget to finance covert operations, many of which we are just finding out about. Details of covert operations aren't declassified until decades after the actual event. Conveniently, by the time a covert operation is disclosed, any public outrage that might have erupted will have been squelched by the time lapse. Whether they're in the past or not, some of the CIA's actions have been inexcusable: Assassinations, attempted assassinations, massive propaganda efforts to prevent undesirable people from winning foreign elections, operations to topple democratically elected foreign leaders from power, internal spying on American citizens, extensive mind control experiments conducted at universities, prisons and hospitals. The list goes on and on. Are these activities the government should be spending money on? Although the CIA is prohibited from engaging in assassinations, attempts have been made to assassinate quite a few foreign leaders. Some of the targets have been Castro, DeGaulle, Khadafy, Khomeini and Hussein, just to name a few. One of the CIA's supposed restrictions is that its limited to intelligence operations on foreign soil only. Apparently, the CIA has trouble discerning foreign soil from American soil, because, in the 1970s, 300,000 Americans considered potentially dangerous to national security were indexed in the CIA computer. Citizens considered particularly dangerous were place under surveillance, with bugs in their phones, microphones in their bedrooms, or warrantless break-ins into their homes. One way to stop the CIA's activities would be to cut CIA funding so there isn't enough for covert operations. Right now, the president can direct the CIA to undertake a covert operation, and is advised to do so by the National Security Counsel, or NSC. Members of the NSC are appointed by the president. This does not represent a diversity of people and ideas, because the president is going to pick people who will agree with him. If the members of the NSC were democratically elected, the abuse of power by a small group of like-minded individuals could be stopped. Another way to make the decision of whether or not to go ahead with the covert operation more democratically decided would be to have congressional oversight. This might be seen by some as too great a threat to CIA authority, but would prevent unethical abuse of power. The problems with CIA covert operations and abuse of power won't go away overnight, but steps can and should be taken to limit and hopefully eliminate covert operations. Laura Freeman: I am speaking on the School of the Americas. Would you willingly arm a murderer? Would you support the education of some of the worst human rights violators in this hemisphere? Would you finance a school which trained its graduates in the most effective ways to interrogate, including torture, blackmail and execution? Whatever the answer of American citizens, every year, $20 million go from the taxpayers to a school that does exactly these things. The School of the Americas, or SOA, was started in Panama in 1946. Its original purpose was to train Latin Americans in military techniques, which would allow them to create stable democratic governments in Latin America, as well as repress communist activities and revolutions. SOA students learn combat skills, military intelligence, commando tactics, sniper training, torture techniques, and psychological warfare. Most of the courses resolve around what they call counterinsurgency, states Father Roy Bourgeois, a priest who has dedicated his time to protesting the SOA. Who are the insurgents? They are the poor. They are the people in Latin America who call for reform. They are the landless peasants who are hungry. They are healthcare workers, human rights activists, labor organizers. They become the insurgents. How do the graduates of the School of the Americas use their skills? They murder priests and archbishops, missionaries, and, perhaps worst of all, civilians, their own people. With the advent of the SOA's move to Fort Benning, Georgia, the school has become something we are less and less able to disassociate from. As Father Bourgeois said: "We are talking about a school of assassins right here in our backyard, being supported by our tax money. It's being done in our name." What can we do to clear our name of this stain? The answer is simple: Close the School of the Americas. We must act to save the lives of people all over Latin America. To quote Salvadorian Archbishop Oscar Romero, "We who have a voice, we have to speak for the voiceless."