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House Armed Services Committee Ranking Member, Congressman Adam Smith, recently concluded an official trip to Uganda to assess international efforts to root out Joseph Kony and the Lords Resistant Army (LRA), a destructive and ruthless rebel group responsible for widespread human rights abuses in the region.
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House Armed Services Committee Ranking Member, Congressman Adam Smith, recently concluded an official trip to Uganda to assess international efforts to root out Joseph Kony and the Lords Resistant Army (LRA), a destructive and ruthless rebel group responsible for widespread human rights abuses in the region.

“I applaud the Ugandans for their efforts to bring Joseph Kony and the LRA to justice and I am encouraged by the progress being made by the international coalition that is committed to restoring peace and stability in the region,” said Ranking Member Adam Smith. “Kony and the LRA have killed thousands, and destroyed the lives of thousands more and the efforts to advise, train and assist local forces have helped our partners in Central Africa make real progress in ridding themselves of this murderous group. While the LRA is just one part of a larger problem in the region, eliminating it would prove to be a powerful step in the right direction for Uganda, and the entire region.”

The Lords Resistance Army, led by Joseph Kony, an internationally wanted terrorist, originated in Uganda in the 1980s with the goal of overthrowing the Ugandan government, but has since expanded its deadly reach to a number of African countries, such as the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic. The LRA has committed widespread human rights violations, including torture, slavery, rape, the abduction of civilians, the use of child soldiers, and other brutal abuses, resulting in a severe humanitarian crisis.

Eliminating the LRA would be a positive step in the right direction and would allow our work with the Ugandan people to grow and serve as a template to reduce ungoverned areas and promote stability, security and prosperity in the region. In particular, the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic and South Sudan continue to be victimized by the LRA and similar groups that rape, kill, pillage and displace people from their homes.  The LRA is one piece of a larger problem in central Africa, and success in Uganda could provide a model to support similar efforts throughout the region.

To address this problem, in the Fiscal Year 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, Ranking Member Adam Smith authored a provision that requires the President to improve strategic planning and more effectively integrate efforts to deny safe havens to terrorist organizations and strengthen at-risk states as they seek to confront challenges posed by al-Qaeda and its violent extremist affiliates (Section 1032, pg. 275). 

Additionally, in October of last year President Obama sent a small number of U.S. troops to Central Africa tasked with assisting in removing Joseph Kony and other senior leaders of the LRA from the battlefield. Ranking Member Smith’s trip was designed to assess the progress made in this effort, and meet with local leaders, stakeholders and citizens to gain a stronger understand of the situation on the ground.

As co-chair of the effective foreign assistance caucus, part of Smith’s trip also focused on USAID and development projects.  For example, Smith visited with the Northern Uganda Development of Enhanced Local Governance, Infrastructure, and Livelihoods (NUDEIL) program and CARE's Village Savings and Loan Program.

The two day trip to Uganda included meetings with the President, Yoweri Museveni, U.S. AFRICOM Commander General Ham, U.S. Ambassador to Uganda, Jerry Lanier, and other senior U.S. and international officials.  The trip also included stops at development project sites, health centers, meetings with business and university leaders and local civic and political leaders.

Congressman Adam Smith (WA-09), made the following statement today in celebration of LGBT Pride month, which is celebrated during the month of June:

“This June, we celebrate our lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender communities and recognize their resilience in the pursuit of complete equality under the law. This is an important time in the history of our country’s LGBT community. While we’ve made great strides toward full marriage equality, the awareness and protection of bullied teens, and aggressive prosecution of bias-based crimes, there is still much more to do to ensure every individual is granted equal and fair treatment within their community.

“The LGBT community’s pursuit of liberty reminds us that we all have a stake in protecting the equal rights and freedom of every person in our nation.  While we celebrate our diversity this June,   I hope we also take time to think about how we continue moving forward in making all parts of the American dream everyone’s reality.”

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Congressman Adam Smith (WA-09), released the following statement clarifying the intent and impact of the Thornberry-Smith amendment in the NDAA.
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Congressman Adam Smith (WA-09), released the following statement clarifying the intent and impact of the Thornberry-Smith amendment in the NDAA: 

“Unfortunately, recent articles have misinterpreted the intent and impact of the Thornberry-Smith amendment in the NDAA. This amendment is intended to ensure that the US government can get factual information out in a timely manner to counter extremist misinformation and propaganda. It does not and is not in any way intended to ‘legalize the use of propaganda on American audiences’ and, in fact, specifically ensures that the content to be rebroadcast or republished domestically by the Department of State and the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) shall not influence public opinion in the US. It clearly states, no funds authorized to be appropriated to State Department or BBG for any activity shall be used to influence public opinion.

“The language of the legislation states very clearly that no funds authorized to be appropriated to the Department of State or the BBG shall be used to influence public opinion in the United States.  Rather, this law allows for timely release of accurate and unbiased information that has been produced by the Department of State and BBG and developed for foreign audiences to be rebroadcast or republished, upon request, here in the US. “

Read the full amendment text

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Congressman Adam Smith (WA-09), Ranking Member of the House Armed Services Committee, made the following statement after the House passed the Fiscal Year 2013 National Defense Authorization Act.
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Washington D.C. – Congressman Adam Smith (WA-09), Ranking Member of the House Armed Services Committee, made the following statement after the House passed the Fiscal Year 2013 National Defense Authorization Act:

“I want to thank Chairman McKeon, all members of the House of Representatives and staff for their hard work on this important piece of legislation.

“Overall, this bill prioritizes our troops deployed in Afghanistan and around the world by ensuring that they have the tools and resources they need to do their job and protect national security.  It also provides our troops and their families with the benefits and support that they deserve, including a 1.6 percent pay increase.

“It continues to make counterterrorism a priority and makes significant investments in all branches of our Armed Services, ensuring that our military is prepared to meet the threats of today as well as the future.  It supports our troops as they continue to fight overseas, invests in new technologies for the future, and protects vital military equipment production capacity here at home.

“However, I am troubled by the language throughout the bill that either relies too much on a large and extended combat mission in the case of Afghanistan or, simply, overly confrontational language in the cases of Russia, North Korea, Iran, and China, to name a few.

“In many cases, the only thing preventing me from voting against this bill is the qualifying language.  For example, on Afghanistan, the bill requires 68,000 troops through the end of 2014 but then says “if necessary.”  On Iran, it calls for all avenues to be used including military force, but again, only "if necessary."

“The language on Russia is particularly troubling.  Much of the rhetoric during debate on this bill echoed sentiments from 1982, when we were at the height of the Cold War. We are no longer in the Cold War, and we should not be treating Russia like an enemy.

“On North Korea, the confrontational language went so far as to include a study that suggests deploying tactical nuclear weapons to the region.  This would be dangerous and reckless and could destabilize the entire region.

“If this were binding language, I would have to vote against this bill.  Luckily, it is simply a statement of policy by the majority -- policies that I strongly disagree with. 

“Additionally, given the size of our debt and deficit and growing budgetary pressures, I am concerned the bill supports an overall defense budget that is roughly $8 billion over the Budget Control Act.  Congress made a commitment to get our budget under control, and I fully expect that the Senate will honor the Budget Control Act number.

“The bill also includes provisions that discriminate against gay and lesbian service members.  For years, many members of our Armed Services had to hide who they were to fight for the country they love, and I am strongly opposed to efforts that seek to turn back the clock on the progress we have made in the name of equality.

“The bill also takes a big step back on energy, by ending support for many kinds of alternative fuels which undermine our national security policy.  Our nation must decrease, if not eliminate, its reliance on imported fuels and maintain our leadership in this area.  China and many other nations are seeking to become leaders in this area, and the committee’s actions will set us back and risk our leadership in this arena.

 “Again, I supported his bill in its current form because we must support our troops while they are in harm’s way.  We must ensure that they have the tools and resources they need to ensure national security and accomplish missions we ask of them.  However, there is still much more work to be done to address many of the issues with this bill.  I look forward to reviewing the Senate’s version of this bill and working with my colleagues here in the House to make sure we send the President a final bill that meets the high standards of the United States Armed Services.”

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Congressman Smith (WA-09) made the following statement regarding the letter sent to President Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua asking for improved detainee conditions and an independent investigation of Jason Puracal's case:

“Jason Puracal, an American citizen, is being held in a Nicaraguan prison in deplorable conditions. He shares a cell with eight other men where there is no running water and a hole in the ground serves as a sink, shower, dishwashing area, and disturbingly, a toilet.  

“After nearly 9 months of being detained and a drawn out trial, Mr. Puracal was convicted and sentenced to 22 years in prison. From information I’ve received from his lawyers, Mr. Puracal's conviction was based on a trial that was clearly flawed and conducted in what the State Department has referred to as a corrupt Nicaraguan judicial system. Tellingly, the California Innocence Project has adopted his case – they pick just ten each year – and conclude “there is strong evidence of factual innocence.”

“Given these circumstances, I am urging President Ortega to immediately provide Mr. Puracal improved detention conditions and I'm asking him to request his prosecutors conduct an independent review of Mr. Puracal’s case as it is currently on appeal.  Based on the assessment we have received from Mr. Puracal’s legal team and independent international legal experts that have reviewed the case, there is a compelling need for a thorough and objective prosecutorial review of Mr. Puracal’s case to determine his innocence under Nicaraguan law.

"The manner in which Mr. Puracal's case has been handled is incredibly unsettling. My hope is that this letter and our efforts will lead to a thorough independent investigation and will ensure the conditions under which Mr. Puracal is currently being held are improved to come into full accordance with standards set by international law."