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Your Presidential Candidates on Homeland and National Security

With the presidential election just days away, the last of the undecided voters are in search of any (credible) information to assist them in choosing a candidate to support before heading to the polls.  Since homeland and national security are a growing concern for all citizens and politicians alike, outlining the strengths and weaknesses are essential for voters to have an indication as to how a candidate might react in the future, should he become president.

President Barack Obama

  • Executive Order 13491, issued in 2009, banned the use of enhanced interrogation techniques such as the waterboarding of terrorism suspects, and ordered the CIA to close secret “black site” prisons.
  • Executive Order 13492, issued in 2009, called for the closure of Guantanamo Bay, the Cuba detention facility. Due to political resistance, the facility remains open to date; however, President Obama signed an additional Executive Order in 2011 in an effort to maintain a lawful regime in the facility until it can shut down.
  • In 2011, the President approved an extension of provisions of the Patriot Act, which includes court-approved wiretaps.
  • The Obama administration has expanded on the controversial practice of targeted killings – often through drone strikes.
  • President Obama authorized the U.S. Navy SEAL raid that killed Osama Bin Laden in May 2011. He did so without permission from Pakistani officials.
  • The Obama administration’s “guiding principles” include defeating terrorism, strengthening nuclear security, improving intelligence capacities and ensuring cybersecurity, promoting infrastructures and ensuring transborder security, and ensuring effective incident management.

Mitt Romney

  • As governor, Romney supported a national network of intelligence fusion centers and established two in Massachusetts. The fusion centers were designed to support information sharing across local, state, and federal agencies.
  • In 2004, Romney stressed the importance of intelligence gathering in order to catch “bad guys” before they act. He specifically stated, “The eyes and ears which gather intelligence need to be as developed in our country as they were in foreign countries during the Cold War.”
  • In 2005, Romney called for an increase in domestic intelligence gathering and brought up the possibility of wiretapping mosques and tracking students from foreign nations. Both strategies drew criticism from faith groups who claimed the governor saw certain groups as guilty by association.
  • If elected, Romney has said his security priorities would be cybersecurity and counter-radicalization in Muslim countries. He also supports the Obama administration’s use of drones to remove threats.

While there are a few issues both candidates have expressed a desire to focus on (cybersecurity and counterterrosim to name two), voters are able to use President Obama’s past actions to determine how he might react to a future threat. Since Romney doesn’t have direct international experience with national security decision-making, voters need to focus on his speeches from the campaign trail and during his time as governor.  Voters need to ask themselves if they want a president whose values have called for the end to torture and unlawful imprisonment, while still being aggressive enough to eradicate a major threat to U.S. ideals, or a president who would see the U.S. go back to intelligence gathering strategies reminiscent of the Cold War, targeting individuals and faith groups to acquire information.


About Robin Schwartz

Robin Schwartz completed her MA in National Security Studies with an emphasis in Asian Studies from American Military University in 2011. She also holds a BA in Sociology/Criminal Justice from McDaniel College.

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