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Veterans Jobs Corps Act of 2012--Motion to Proceed--Continued

Floor Speech

Location: Washington DC


Mr. McCAIN. Madam President, before I go to the issue we want to discuss, I want to point out in this debate that has become so impassioned that the issue of cyber security is one of transcendent importance, and I want to again reiterate my respect, appreciation, and affection for both Senator Lieberman and Senator Collins.

I also point out to my colleagues that the people who are directly affected by this--and that is the business community of the United States of America--are unalterably opposed to the legislation in its present form. They are the ones who will be affected most dramatically by cyber security legislation. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which represents 3 million businesses and organizations of every size, sector, and region, has a strong letter which supports the legislation we have proposed.

I finally would just like to say that I have had hours and hours of meetings with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle trying to work this out. I believe we can work this out. We understand that cyber security is important and of transcendent importance. But to somehow allege that the business community, the 3 million businesses in America, should be left out of this discussion, of course, is not appropriate nor do I believe it will result in effective cyber security legislation.


I really came to the floor today to talk about the issue of the leaks, the leaks which have directly jeopardized America's national security. At the Aspen Security Forum, just in the last few days, the head of Special Operations Command, Admiral McRaven, observed that the recent national security leaks have put lives at risk and may ultimately cost America its lives unless there is an effective crackdown. Admiral McRaven, the head of our Special Operations Command said:

We need to do the best we can to clamp down because sooner or later it is going to cost people their lives or it is going to cost us our national security.

This is another national security issue, my friends, and I appreciate very much the fact that Governor Romney rightly referred to these leaks as contemptible and a betrayal of our national interests.

I wish to point out to my colleagues that, yes, there are supposedly investigations going on and, according to media, hundreds of people are being interviewed. Well, I am no lawyer. I am no prosecutor. Senator Graham may have some experience in that. But what about the 2009 G20 economic summit when, according to the New York Times journalist David Sanger, ``a senior official in the National Security Council'' tapped him on the shoulder and brought him to the Presidential suite in the Pittsburgh hotel where President Obama was staying and where ``most of the rest of the national security staff was present.'' There the journalist was allowed to review satellite images and other evidence that confirmed the existence of a secret nuclear site in Iran.

I wonder how many people have the key to the Presidential suite in that Pittsburgh, PA hotel? We might want to start there. Instead, we have two prosecutors, one of whom was a strong and great supporter of the President of the United States. And the same people--I am talking about the Vice President of the United States and others--who strongly supported a special counsel in the case of Valerie Plame and, of course, the Abramoff case. We need a special counsel to find out who was responsible for these leaks.

I ask my colleague Senator Graham if he has additional comments on this issue. It has receded somewhat in the media, but the damage that has been done to our national security is significant. It has put lives at risk, and it has betrayed our allies. This is an issue we cannot let go away until those who are responsible are held accountable for these actions.


Mr. McCAIN. Mr. President, before we turn to our friend from Illinois for his, I am sure, convincing explanation as to why a special counsel is not required, even though it was, in the opinion of his side, in a previous situation, I want to just, again--and the Senator from Georgia and the Senator from South Carolina will also corroborate the fact that we have been working and working, having meeting after meeting after meeting, on the issue of cyber security.

We believe we have narrowed it down to three or four differences that could be worked out over time. Among them is liability. Another one is information sharing. But I think it is also important for us to recognize in this debate the people who are most directly affected in many respects are the business communities, and it is important that we have the input and satisfy, at least to a significant degree, those concerns.

There are those who allege that a piece of legislation is better than no legislation. I have been around this town for a long time. I have seen bad legislation which is far worse than no legislation. So we understand certainly--I and members of the Armed Services Committee and others understand--the importance of this issue.

We also understand that those who are directly affected by it--those concerns need to be satisfied as well. I commit to my colleagues to continue nonstop rounds of meetings and discussions to try to get this issue resolved. To this moment, there are still significant differences.

I say to my friend from Illinois, I look forward to hearing his convincing discussion.

I thank the Senator and yield the floor.

Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the Senator from Illinois be involved in the colloquy.


Mr. McCAIN. I would be glad to respond to my friend.

First of all, obviously, he is in disagreement with the chairperson of the Intelligence Committee because she said these leaks were the worst in the 11 years she has been a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee. So, obviously, the Abramoff and the Valerie Plame investigations are not nearly as serious, and they certainly were not when we look at the incredible damage, according to Admiral McRaven, according to anyone who is an observer of the incredible damage these leaks have caused.

Again, the chairperson of the Intelligence Committee said it is the worst she has ever seen. Admiral McRaven, as I said, said these have put lives at risk and may ultimately cost Americans their lives.

I wonder if my colleague from Illinois is concerned when, according to his book, Mr. Sanger said: ``A senior official in the National Security Council'' tapped him on the shoulder and brought him to the Presidential suite in the Pittsburgh hotel where President Obama was staying, and--I am quoting from Mr. Sanger's book--where ``most of the rest of the national security staff was present.'' There, the journalist was apparently allowed to review satellite images and other ``evidence'' that confirmed the existence of a secret nuclear site in Iran.

When leaks take place around this town, the first question you have to ask is, Who benefits? Who benefits from them? Obviously someone who wants to take a journalist up to the presidential suite would make it pretty easy for us to narrow down whom we should interview first. Who had the key to the presidential suite? Who uses the presidential suite in a hotel in Pittsburgh? These leaks are the most damaging that have taken place in my time in the Senate and before that in the U.S. military. Yes, six people have been prosecuted. Do you know at what level? A private. The lowest level people have been prosecuted by this administration. And this administration says they have to interview hundreds of people in the bottom-up process.

I can guarantee you one thing, I will tell the Senator from Illinois now, there will not be any definitive conclusion in the investigation before the election in November. That does not mean to me that they are not doing their job, although it is clear that one of these prosecutors was active in the Obama campaign, was a contributor to the Obama campaign. I am not saying that individual is not of the highest caliber. I am saying that would lead people to ask a reasonable question, and that is whether that individual is entirely objective.

Americans need an objective investigation by someone they can trust, just as then-Senator Biden and then-Senator Obama asked for in these previous incidents, which, in my view, were far less serious and, in the view of the chairperson of the Intelligence Committee, are far more severe than those that were previously investigated. I would be glad to have my colleague respond to that.


Mr. DURBIN. First, let me say that whatever the rank of the individual--private, specialist, chief petty officer--if they are responsible for leaking classified information, they need to be investigated and prosecuted, if guilty.

Mr. McCAIN. Absolutely.

Mr. DURBIN. So the fact that a private is being investigated should not get him off the hook. I would----

Mr. McCAIN. I do not think it gets him off the hook. I think it has some significance as compared to this kind of egregious breach of security that has taken place at the highest level. We know that.

Mr. DURBIN. I would say to my friend from Arizona, if I am not mistaken, it was a noncommissioned officer at best and maybe not an officer in the Army who is being prosecuted for the Wiki leaks. So let's not say that the rank of anyone being prosecuted in any way makes them guilty or innocent. We need to go to the source of the leak.

Mr. McCAIN. No. But my friend would obviously acknowledge that if it is a private or a corporal or something, it has not nearly the gravity it does when a person with whom the Nation has placed much higher responsibilities commits this kind of breach.

Mr. DURBIN. Of course. It should be taken to where it leads, period. But let me also ask--I do not know if quoting from a book on the floor means what was written in that book is necessarily true. Perhaps the Senator has his own independent information on that.

Mr. McCAIN. But no one has challenged Mr. Sanger's depiction. No one in the administration has challenged his assertion that he was taken by ``a senior official in the National Security Council to the presidential suite.'' No one has challenged that.

Mr. DURBIN. I would say to the Senator, I do not know if that has to do with the information that was ultimately leaked about al-Qaida. It seems as though it is a separate matter. But it should be taken seriously, period. What more does this President need to do to convince you other than to have more prosecutions than any President in history of those who have been believed to have leaked classified information?

If you will come to the floor, as you said earlier--and I quote, the investigation is ``supposedly going on.'' I trust the administration that the investigation is going on. What evidence does the Senator have that it is not going on?

Mr. McCAIN. I say to my friend, it is not a matter of trust, it is a matter of credibility because if an administration has the same argument that then-Senator Biden used and Senator Obama used in opposition to the administration investigating the Abramoff case and the Valerie Plame case--they argued that it is not a matter of trust, it is a matter of credibility with the American people whether an administration can actually investigate itself or should there be a credible outside counsel who would conduct this investigation, which would then have the necessary credibility, I think, with the American people. I think that there is a certain logic to that, I hope my colleague would admit.

Mr. DURBIN. Let me say to the Senator that in that case, the Attorney General of the United States, John Ashcroft, recused himself--recused himself. He said there was such an appearance of a conflict, if not a conflict, he was stepping aside. It is very clear under those circumstances that a special counsel is needed. In this case, there is no suggestion that the President, the Vice President, or the Attorney General was complicit in any leak. So to suggest otherwise, I have to say to Senator McCain, show me what you are bringing as proof.

Mr. McCAIN. I am bringing you proof that this Attorney General has a significant credibility problem, and that problem is bred by a program called Fast and Furious where weapons were--under a program sponsored by the Justice Department----

Mr. DURBIN. When did the program begin?

Mr. McCAIN. Let me just finish my comment. A young American Border Patrol agent was murdered with weapons that were part of the Fast and Furious investigation. What has the Attorney General of the United States done? He has said that he will not come forward with any information that is requested by my colleagues in the House.

So I would have to say that, at least in the House of Representatives and with many Americans and certainly with the family of Brian Terry, who was murdered, there is a credibility problem with this Attorney General of the United States.

Mr. DURBIN. I say to my colleague and friend Senator McCain, I deeply regret the loss of any American life, particularly those in service of our country.

Mr. McCAIN. I am convinced of that.

Mr. DURBIN. And I feel exactly that about this individual and the loss to his family. But let's make sure the record is complete. The Fast and Furious program was not initiated by President Obama, it was started by President George W. Bush.

Mr. McCAIN. Which, in my view, does not in any way impact the need for a full and complete investigation.

Mr. DURBIN. Secondly, this Attorney General, Mr. Holder, has been brought before congressional committees time after time. I have been in the Senate Judiciary Committee when he has been questioned at length about Fast and Furious, and I am sure he has been called even more frequently before the House committees.

Third, he has produced around 9,000 pages of documents, and Chairman Issa keeps saying: Not enough. We need more. Well, at some point it becomes clear he will never produce enough documents for them. And the House decided to find him in contempt for that. That is their decision. I do not think that was necessarily proper.

But having said that, does that mean every decision from the Department of Justice from this point forward cannot be trusted?

Mr. McCAIN. No. But what I am saying is that there is a significant credibility problem that the Attorney General of the United States has, at least with a majority of the House of Representatives----

Mr. DURBIN. The Republican majority.

Mr. McCAIN. On this issue, which then lends more weight to the argument, as there was in the case of Valerie Plame and Jack Abramoff, for the need for a special counsel.

Mr. DURBIN. I do not see the connection. If the Attorney General and the President said: We are not going to investigate this matter, Senator McCain, I would be standing right next to the Senator on the floor calling for a special counsel. But they have said just the opposite. They have initiated an investigation and brought in two career criminal prosecutors whom we have trusted to take public corruption cases in the District of Columbia and leaks of classified information in other cases. And he said: Now you have the authority. Conduct the investigation.

They are not ignoring this.

Mr. McCAIN. Those two counsels report to whom? The Attorney General of the United States.

Mr. DURBIN. And ultimately report to the people.

Mr. McCAIN. So I would think, just for purposes of credibility with the American people, that a special counsel would be called for by almost everyone.

Look, I understand the position of the Senator from Illinois. We have our colleagues waiting. I appreciate the fact that he is willing to discuss this issue. I think we have pretty well exhausted it.

Mr. DURBIN. May I turn to one other issue the Senator raised, if he has a moment?

Mr. McCAIN. Sure.


Mr. McCAIN. First of all, could I say that is just unfair. They are not claiming to be experts on cyber attacks. They are claiming that there are issues of liability, issues of information sharing, and other issues that they believe will inhibit their ability to engage in business practices and grow and prosper. So to say that somehow they claim they are experts on cyber security, they are not, but they are experts on how their businesses can best cooperate, share information, resist these attacks, and come together with other people and other interests to bring about some legislation on which we can all agree.

There are 3 million businesses and organizations that are represented here, I say to my colleague, so it seems to me that we should continue this conversation with them, particularly on issues of information sharing and liability. But to somehow say ``well, we talked to them, but we did not agree with anything they wanted to do'' is not fair to those 3 million businesses. We are making some progress. But please don't say they portray themselves as experts.

By the way, they hacked into my Presidential campaign, which shows they really were pretty bored and did not have a hell of a lot to do. But, anyway, go ahead.

Mr. DURBIN. I am sure that wasn't the case. I am sure it was a fascinating treasure trove of great insights and information.

But let me just say to my friend from Arizona, I am asking only for a little humility on both sides, both in the public sector and the private sector, by first acknowledging, as our security advisers tell us, that this is one of the most serious threats to our country and its future, and we should be joining with some humility, particularly if you have been victimized, whether in your campaign or in your offices, to understand how far this has gone. The FBI, according to Senator Whitehouse when he came to the floor, found 50 different American businesses that had been compromised and hacked into by the same type of operation. Forty-eight were totally unaware of it. They did not even know it occurred. What we are trying to do is to get these businesses to cooperate with us so that we share information and keep one another safe.

At the end of the day, it is not just about the safety of the businesses--and I think it is important that they be safe--but the safety of the American people. This is really a serious issue.

Mr. McCAIN. Can I say to my colleague, first of all, to somehow infer that businesses in America are less interested in national security than they are in their own businesses is not, I think, a fair inference. But let me also say that what they want to do is be more efficient in the way they can do business.

For example, information sharing--as you know, there is a serious problem with liability if they are not given some kind of protections in the information sharing they would do with each other and with the Federal Government. So we want to make sure they have that security so that they will more cooperatively engage in the kind of information we need. That is a vital issue. That is still something on which we have a disagreement.

I have no doubt that the comments of the Senator from Illinois about how important this issue is are true. Nobody argues about that. But we have to get it right rather than get it wrong. The Senator from Illinois and I have been here a long time, and sometimes we have found out that we have passed legislation that has had adverse consequences rather than the positive ones we contemplated. By the way, I would throw Dodd-Frank in there. No company is too big to fail now. I would throw in some of the other legislation we have passed recently, which has not achieved the goals we sought.

That is why we need, in my view, more compromise and agreement. I believe we can reach it. I give great credit to both of our cosponsors of the bill, but please don't allege that this is ``bipartisan'' in any significant way. Most of the Republican Senators oppose the legislation in its present form. All Republican Senators understand the gravity of this situation and the necessity of acting.

Mr. DURBIN. I say to my friend from Arizona, I hope we get this done this week. I know it is a big lift, and it is a lot to do. But I believe the threat is imminent, and I believe it is continuous. If we don't find a way through our political differences to make this country safer, shame on us.

I believe Senator Collins is from the Senator's side of the aisle and is proud of that fact. So it is a bipartisan effort. She worked with----

Mr. McCAIN. It depends upon your definition of ``bipartisan.''

Mr. DURBIN. Well, it is clearly bipartisan with Senators Lieberman and Collins. I also say that to raise the question of Dodd-Frank and appropriate government oversight and regulation--I suggest that we reflect on three things: LIBOR, Peregrine Investments, and the Chase loss of $6 billion.

To say that we should not have government oversight of our financial institutions that dragged us into this recession we are still trying to recover from--I see it differently. We vote differently when it comes to that. I think there is a continuing need for government oversight of these financial institutions.

Mr. McCAIN. These institutions are not averse to government oversight. They are averse to legislation that harms their ability to share that information because if they face the threat of being taken into court for that, then obviously there is some reluctance. They also know how much has been lost because of the lack of cyber security to China and other countries. They are the ones who have been most directly affected. They are intelligent people, smart people, and they want this legislation to pass in a way that is the most effective way to enact legislation on this very serious issue.

I look forward to continuing the conversation with my friend from Illinois. I think both of us learn a bit from our conversations, and I thank him for his continued willingness to discuss the issue.

Mr. DURBIN. I thank my friend, the Senator from Arizona. I hope other colleagues will engage in this kind of exchange. I don't know if we convinced one another, but we certainly leave with the same level of respect with which we started. I hope those who have followed the debate have heard a little more about both sides of the issue in the process.

Mr. McCAIN. I yield the floor.

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