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Policy Solution

Liberty & National Security: An Election Agenda for Candidates, Activists, and Legislators

Summary: How can we fix American government? How can we make sure it works for all? In the wake of the convulsive 2016 election, there may be no more pressing question. This volume sets out proposals to protect constitutional freedoms, vulnerable communities, and the integrity of our democracy amid new threats.

Published: April 23, 2018

How can we fix Amer­ican govern­ment? How can we make sure it works for all? In the wake of the convuls­ive 2016 elec­tion, there may be no more press­ing ques­tion. This volume sets out propos­als to protect consti­tu­tional freedoms, vulner­able communit­ies, and the integ­rity of our demo­cracy amid new threats. 


Fore­word by Bren­nan Center Pres­id­ent Michael Wald­man

How can we fix Amer­ican govern­ment? How can we make sure it works for all?
 
In the wake of the convuls­ive 2016 elec­tion, there may be no more press­ing ques­tion.
 
Nor will 2016 likely be the last such erup­tion. Amer­ican polit­ics has stag­nated for years, locked in arid debate on old ideas. Polit­ical parties have become increas­ingly tribal. Elec­tions are drenched in money and marked by intense polar­iz­a­tion. Govern­ment dysfunc­tion has created an open­ing for racially divis­ive back­lash polit­ics, while ignor­ing long-range economic, social, and envir­on­mental chal­lenges.
 
Until we reckon with that public discon­tent, we’ll continue to be entangled in the same battles we’ve been fight­ing for decades.
 
It is time for fresh think­ing, which is why the Bren­nan Center for Justice is produ­cing Solu­tions 2018, a series of three reports setting out demo­cracy and justice reforms that are inten­ded to help break the grip of destruct­ive polar­iz­a­tion.
 
This volume sets out propos­als to protect consti­tu­tional freedoms, vulner­able communit­ies, and the integ­rity of our demo­cracy amid new threats. Others will show how we can ensure free and fair elec­tions, curb the role of big money in Amer­ican polit­ics, and end mass incar­cer­a­tion.
 
We hope these propos­als are useful to candid­ates, office­hold­ers, activ­ists, and citizens. The 2018 elec­tion should be more than a chance to send a message. It should be an oppor­tun­ity to demand a focus on real change.
 
What counts is not what we are against, but what we are for.

Exec­ut­ive Summary

Amer­ic­ans need not choose between secur­ity and free­dom. But the polit­ics of fear and racial bias have too often supplanted sound policies. Instead of narrowly target­ing actual threats to our safety and secur­ity, some law enforce­ment and intel­li­gence policies broadly target entire communit­ies, comprom­ising the rights of law-abid­ing citizens and immig­rants.

Prac­tices such as racial profil­ing, warrant­less spying, and callous immig­ra­tion enforce­ment are key examples. They do noth­ing to keep us safe. Yet they erode the nation’s values and sow divi­sion. National secur­ity is used as a flimsy pretext to keep import­ant details about such policies secret. In the mean­time, efforts to thwart real threats to our secur­ity — such as Russi­a’s inter­fer­ence in our demo­cratic process — are fall­ing victim to polit­ics.

As Amer­ic­ans, we can, and must, do better. This report offers five solu­tions to reform corros­ive national secur­ity and law enforce­ment prac­tices that fail to address actual threats to public safety. These propos­als will rebuild public trust to enhance secur­ity, a goal that all lawmakers should support. A common­sense frame­work for national secur­ity for the 21st century would consist of the follow­ing actions:

  • End target­ing of minor­ity communit­ies. Congress should pass the End Racial Profil­ing Act which would prohibit profil­ing based on race, reli­gion, national origin, reli­gion, gender, gender iden­tity, or sexual orient­a­tion.

  • Stop fund­ing the “Muslim ban” and “extreme vetting.” Congress should cut all fund­ing asso­ci­ated with Pres­id­ent’s Trump’s “Muslim ban” and “extreme vetting” policies, includ­ing the National Vetting Center.

  • End warrant­less spying on Amer­ic­ans. Congress should refresh privacy rules enacted before the World Wide Web to ensure Amer­ic­ans’ most private commu­nic­a­tions are protec­ted. It should also enact reforms to ensure that warrant­less surveil­lance ostens­ibly direc­ted at foreign­ers isn’t used to spy on Amer­ic­ans.

  • Protect whis­tleblowers and the press. Robust legal protec­tion is espe­cially import­ant in an era when the pres­id­ent has dubbed broad­cast networks “the enemy of the Amer­ican people.” Congress should pass a “reporter shield law” to protect journ­al­ists, along with mean­ing­ful safe­guards for national secur­ity whis­tleblowers.

  • Protect invest­ig­a­tions into Russian meddling in the 2016 elec­tion. Congress should pass legis­la­tion to ensure that special coun­sel Robert Mueller cannot be red without cause and judi­cial review. Lawmakers should also conduct robust fact-find­ing inquires to adequately address the threat of foreign inter­fer­ence in U.S. elec­tions.