On March 21, 2017, the Brookings Institute set a panel to have a conversation with the Honorable Adam B. Schiff to discuss What can be done to protect liberal democracies domestically and internationally, as well as the role that Congress should play in repelling liberalism.

Panelists: The Hon. Adam B. Schiff (D. Calif) (Ranking Member, Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Susan Hennessey) (Fellow, Governance Studies, Managing Editor Lawfare) Benjamin Wittes (Senior Fellow, Governance Studies, Editor in Chief – Lawfare)

Benjamin Wittes states that as opposed to where the Bush administration was, trying to craft new laws, that “The military tribunal acts of 2002” were an effort to authorize the military commission and to provide guidelines to comply with international law. He states that continuity is seen in the way Schiff was acting in 2001 and today. He insists that legislature has a major role in investigating what strikes a lot of scholars and politicians. He further stresses that there is an ongoing threat to liberal democracy and that there is a need to think about the role of legislature and confrontation is in these situations.

The Hon. Adam B. Schiff states that when he was trying to deal with the challenges on how to handle enemy combats, terrorism charges, the tension in the parties, he was questioning whether they should be treated as an enemy or a criminal. He further stresses that there is a challenge in the criminal system regarding the need of advising people of their Miranda rights (the right to silence given by US police to individuals in custody before interrogation)  and presenting them in front of Magistrate.  He introduced a bill he hoped it would receive bipartisan support, where the good faith expression of the Miranda rights, should be brought to security regarding terrorism, although the only bipartisan agreement was that to disagree.

Since inauguration, the speaker has experienced things that he perceived as unthinkable and of unprecedented crises, a culpable disquiet, that crosses party lines. He states that there is an intelligence investigation regarding Russian active measure. There are two hearings in which the data direction stated that the accusation of wiretapping of the President upon his unprecedented was inaccurate.

The speakers remember that the tension was palpable after 9/11, a unity of purpose that together there was a will to confront and prevail. There was a lot of disagreement regarding how to defeat terrorism, although they were united and they wanted to fight. He states that today between the 17 entities that were established to defeat terrorism there is no unity to talk about Russian active measures and the extent to which they embedded their ideas in the national elections. Schiff remarks that it is a difficult test for Congress, although it is in the country’s interest, to arrive at a bipartisan solution.

The speaker argues that the Russian government has been long working to destabilize its neighbors through the same methods, accurately represented through the unprecedented Kremlin attack on US democracy. Russia has been devoting a significant number of resources to their enemies, which have had a big success in Eastern Europe where there are ties with Russia, and Russian speaking people. He is concerned with the situation Europe is faced with as high unemployment, the shared ideology between President Trump and candidate Le Pen, as well as affinities to Putin seen through the Bulgarian government wanting to diminish sanctions imposed on the Kremlin, nationalist candidates in Germany, Italy, Hungary, and Poland may lead to propelling populous ideas, which have been represented already through the Brexit vote.

He stressed that Russia’s goal regarding exploiting fractures of the European Economic society is done through the Weaponization of Information a.k.a. (encompassing economic relations, political influence, independent media, cover influence (accusation, Dumping, dumping email).

This has been identified as elements of Russia’s doctrine and a new measure of control by breaking the coherence of the enemies’ system. The objective is simple, to push NATO back from Russia border, break European integrity and insert Russia influence in Europe. It is expected for Russian active measures to continue. It is just for the people of Europe to realize what Russia is doing and act accordingly. The speaker stresses that Russian disinformation needs to be put at the top of the Foreign Policy agenda. He argues that democracies have a duty to protect the electoral process. There is a sentiment that Trump does not consider Russian disinformation as a priority for the US.

An important point the speaker makes is regarding the annual Munich security conference which focuses on the West, NATO, and democracy, in which the US did not take part this year. It was in many states opinions that America has abandoned its place and the world stage as a leader of democracy and the free world. Much of the commentary on both sides of the Atlantic echoed the same headline: “The leader of the Free World meets Donald Trump.”

The following suggestions for Improvement were outlined by the Hon. Adam B. Schiff:

  1. There is a need to promote human rights.
  2. There is a need for a coherent response to the manipulation of media and the creation of actual fake news and the armies of trolls.
  3. Must continue to work with international partners to share intelligence.
  4. Reaffirm the US commitment to reliances and the democracies around the world.
  5. Congress should reject cuts to UN and other IGO, NGO and reinstate US commitment.
  6. There is a need to look for ways to more actively engage the public.
  7. Harden US political infrastructure to mitigate intrusion.

Synthesis by: Patricia Besciu all opinions are those of panelists, no personal ideas included  

For more information visit: https://www.brookings.edu/events/the-role-of-congress-in-protecting-liberal-democracy/