The SPEAKER pro tempore. Under the Speaker's announced policy of January 7, 1997, the gentlewoman from California [Ms. Waters] is recognized for 60 minutes.
Ms. WATERS. Mr. Speaker, earlier today I started a presentation and a conversation about the Central Intelligence Agency. Recently I have become involved in taking a closer look at the Central Intelligence Agency. This was after the San Jose Mercury News series detailing allegations that the CIA operatives were involved in the trafficking of crack cocaine in south central Los Angeles.
What we have learned is quite disturbing. The CIA operatives, Oscar Danilo Blandon and Norwin Meneses were indeed connected with both the CIA and the DEA; that is, the Drug Enforcement Agency. Both Blandon and Meneses have long histories of involvement with drugs. Mr. Meneses in particular was well-known among the United States and Latin American law enforcement agencies as having trafficked drugs for years. These men were staunch supporters of the Nicaraguan contras and the FDN. That is the army of the contras.
There are those who question whether the CIA had any involvement with the distribution or trafficking of crack cocaine into south central Los Angeles. One need only look no further than current newspapers to find recent cases of CIA involvement with drugs.
Before I began to detail some more of the recent involvement, I would like to just share for a moment the fact that Mr. Danilo Blandon and Mr. Norwin Meneses both have been identified not only as having been involved with the CIA, but Mr. Danilo Blandon himself testified in Federal court that he was a CIA operative.
There are those who question whether or not this really could have happened, and did this fuel the explosion of crack cocaine in south central Los Angeles and across the Nation. There are some of us who are well aware that in the 1980's in south central Los Angeles, where I have served for a number of years prior to coming to Congress, there was indeed a huge infusion of drugs, and it was commonly referred to as drugs that were being brought in by the Colombians. Little did we know until the San Jose Mercury News did this extensive investigation that indeed these operatives were directly in south central Los Angeles and Mr. Meneses himself was connected with these drug cartels that were bringing in the drugs to Mr. Danilo Blandon.
Well, the newspapers have been full of a lot about what took place. Not only did the San Jose Mercury News describe this whole operation and a young man in south central Los Angeles that was connected to the trafficking of huge amounts of crack cocaine, but since that time we have discovered that Mr. Danilo Blandon is now in the witness protection program of the DEA and, despite the fact he had been a large drug dealer, bringing all of this cocaine into south central Los Angeles, he was now on the DEA payroll, having been paid over $160,000 by them last year.
Ricky Ross, the young man that connected with him in south central Los Angeles, is now in prison for life. Well, some people may say that perhaps happened and perhaps the CIA did not really involve itself in the trafficking of cocaine, it just kind of turned its back and allowed it to happen. And that was the CIA of the past. And perhaps they were so involved in trying to support the Contras, because they felt that they were the correct organization to confront the Sandinistas, even though they did not have the support of the Congress of the United States, that perhaps they made a mistake.
Well, for those who think they made a mistake, let us take a look at recent events. Let us take a look at Venezuela. Earlier this year, General Ramon Davila Venezuela's former drug czar, was indicted by Federal prosecutors in Miami for smuggling cocaine into the United States.
Now, according to the New York Times, November 20, 1993 article, the CIA antidrug program in Venezuela shipped a ton of nearly pure cocaine to the United States in 1990. The CIA acknowledged that the drugs were sold on the streets of the United States of America. The joint CIA-Venezuelan force was headed by General Davila and the ranking CIA officer was Mark McFarlin, who worked with antiguerrilla forces in El Salvador in the 1980's. Not one CIA official has ever been indicted or prosecuted for this abuse of authority.
You need to know and understand that when the CIA came up with this cockamamie scheme of bringing the drugs into the United States, they claimed that this was the only way that they could gain the confidence of the drug dealers in Venezuela and thus set them up so that they could bust them for a bigger deal later on. They went to the DEA and told the DEA about the scheme and the DEA, who supposedly has the authority to determine whether or not you can do these kinds of operations, said to them, no. You cannot do it.
The CIA defied the DEA. They did it anyway. And they broke the law because they allowed the drugs to hit the streets.
Well, let me just say that whether we are looking at south central Los Angeles or any of our other major urban areas or even areas that are not so urban, and we see this continuing influx of cocaine that is cooked into crack and we see all of this devastation and we wonder, where does it come from, and people in many of these communities will say, we have no airplanes, we do not have the wherewithal to bring the drugs in, so it must be coming from places as they would consider higher-ups.
We do not know where it comes from but we do know some things. We know that the ton of nearly pure cocaine that reached the streets in 1990 was cocaine that was brought in by the CIA. We know that. We do not care what they were attempting to do, we do not care that they thought they had a scheme that would help them to bust big dealers later on. The fact of the matter is, they brought the cocaine in and they defied the law. They broke the law. They allowed it to hit the streets.
Let us take a look at Haiti. In a March 8, 1997, Los Angeles Times article, it was reported that Lt. Col. Michel Francois, one of the CIA's reported Haitian agents, a former Army officer and a key leader in the military regime that ran Haiti between 1991 and 1994, was indicted in Miami and charged with smuggling 33 tons of cocaine into the United States.
The article detailed that Francois met face to face with the leaders of three Colombian cartels to arrange for drug shipments to pass through Haiti via a private air strip it helped to build and protect. Lt. Col. Francois was trained by the U.S. Army in military command training for foreign officers in Georgia. He was a senior member of the service intelligence agency, a Haitian intelligence organization, founded with the help of the CIA in 1986.
After the 1991 coup that put Francois in power, cocaine seizures in Haiti plummeted to near zero, according to DEA records. United States prosecutors have requested the extradition of Francois from Honduras where he has been living under a grant of political asylum.
What is important about this? We went through a very, very confrontational history right in this Congress in this House about Haiti. There were those of us who supported Aristide and there were those who did not support him but, rather, they supported Cedras and Francois and others who were involved in attempting to overthrow Aristide. These were the people we were fighting to get Aristide returned to Haiti. These were the people who were embraced by Members of this House who swore by them, who tried to make sure that Aristide never returned to power, who embraced Cedras and the head of Cedras's Army, Mr. Francois.
Members of this House literally had wrapped their arms around drug dealers. Members of this House not only swore by them and protected them, while they were protecting them, Francois was building an air strip in Haiti where he could receive the drugs flown in from Colombia on that air strip and the same air strip used to fly it right back out to the United States. This was a transshipment point.
This was the head of the army in Haiti working with Cedras, with Members of this House supporting them and working against the return of Aristide.
Well, we were able to get the support of the President of the United States and those who really began to understand what was going on down there. And we returned Aristide and, of course, Francois was helped out and given a grant of political asylum.
Now we find that he, too, is responsible for helping to put drugs on the streets of the United States of America, another instance where the CIA either knew or turned their backs and allowed it to happen. There are those who swear that the CIA was called when this large shipment of drugs was being prepared for entering into the United States, and the CIA did nothing.
Let us go a little bit further and try and discover who the CIA is and what they are doing and how they are viewed around the world.
In a Los Angeles Times article, we see a caption recently, just a day or so ago, that says, CIA finds itself out in the cold with U.S. allies. In this Los Angeles Times article, that was just Monday, March 17, our international allies' dislike of the CIA and their clandestine activities is stated, and I quote:
Around the world America's friends are sending a quiet but stern message to the Central Intelligence Agency. The Cold War is over. The rules of the spy game have changed, and it is time, they said, for the United States to curb its espionage operations on allies' turf.
At least four friendly nations, Germany, Italy, Switzerland and France, have halted secret CIA operations on their territory during the last 2 years. In Germany, a CIA officer was ordered to leave the country, apparently for trying to recruit a German official in 1995. There was a major intelligence
failure in Paris, when the French uncovered and put an end to an economic espionage operation run by the CIA.
Let us take a look at the Washington Post on the 18th. House panel affirms some allegations against the CIA. Just in today's Washington Post, there was a report that the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence report affirmed a previous conclusion that CIA contacts in Guatemala were involved in serious human rights violations with the agency's knowledge and their involvement was improperly kept from Congress in the early 1990s.
In fact, the article stated, and I quote, `The report represents a sharp criticism of the CIA from a Republican-controlled committee that has tended to be more sympathetic to CIA arguments that it must deal with unsavory individuals to get good intelligence.'
Mr. Speaker, what is the mission of the CIA in a post-cold war environment? Is it really necessary to continue allocating $30 billion to the CIA? Should we not use these funds for other purposes such as job development or school infrastructure rehabilitation?
We are pleased that the New York Times on the 3rd of March this year recently reported on scrubbing, they call it, by the CIA in an effort to sever ties with 100 foreign agents, about half of them in Latin America, whose value as informers was outweighed by their acts of murder, assassination, torture, terrorism and other crimes.
According to these articles, the Latin American division of the CIA's clandestine service proved to be the one most riddled with foreign agents who were killers and torturers and that the CIA also has had on its payroll people who are terrorists and drug dealers or who were terrorists and drug dealers.
It is not enough to cleanse some of the rogue agents employed by the CIA in their clandestine activities. We need to take another look at the CIA.
What I have just said to you is this: In addition to the drug trafficking and allegations of continued involvement, in addition to the south central Los Angeles drug trafficking with Danilo Blandon and Norwin Meneses, in addition to the event that I just described to you in Venezuela, in addition to the connection in Haiti, we find that we have a CIA who is being questioned by some of our closest allies and who are saying, we do not want them around here anymore.
The CIA, in this latest attempt to try and cleanse itself, tried to send a message, we are getting rid of the terrorists. We are getting rid of the murderers and the drug dealers. We are scrubbing the agency.
Well, that is not good enough. What indeed is the mission of the CIA? The Cold War is over. What do they do? What are we paying $30 billion for?
They are meeting, that is the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence of the House, is meeting this week in a little secret room upstairs with this not so secret organization anymore where they are talking about, I suppose, their mission and the funding of the CIA. But I think more than our allies who are questioning the mission of the CIA, many citizens in this country are discussing what is the mission of the CIA.
I think that that debate really needs to take place in this Congress. At a time when we are trying to balance the budget, when the resources are not so plentiful, where we are making serious and severe cuts in programs that have children and seniors, programs that provide housing, programs that are really basically safety nets for American citizens, many of them who have been taxpayers, many of them elderly, many of them who need a helping hand from their government, we continue to fund the CIA to the tune of $30 billion without understanding what their mission is.
What, indeed, is it that they do that cannot be done by the DIA, that is, the Defense Intelligence Agency? We know that there is an overlap. There has been some duplication in the past.
I would recommend that we turn whatever these responsibilities are over to the DIA, and I would recommend that we eliminate the CIA from the budget of this Nation.
I know there are some who will say that is a very, very harsh recommendation. It is no harsher than recommendations that came to this House from the other side of the aisle when they said get rid of the Department of Education. In addition to that, they said let us get rid of the Department of Commerce.
Not only did they question the value of the Department of Education, that has a responsibility for educating America's children, and the Department of Commerce, with the responsibility for trade, the same people are now coming forward to raise questions about outdated and outmoded operations such as the CIA.
I am very, very concerned about the CIA and this $30 billion. I am concerned that they have had a role in, that they have had operatives, that somehow too many times in too many ways their name and their operation and their business is connected to or identified with drug dealing.
I think it is time for us to have this debate. I am challenging this House to get involved in taking a real close look at who the CIA is and what do they do.
We have some investigations that are going on. When we brought the information to this House about drug trafficking in south central Los Angeles, with this drug ring in the 1980s that had dumped all of this cocaine into south central Los Angeles, we had enough information to convince the Speaker that there, indeed, should be investigations. And so our House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence is involved in an investigation. This is running parallel with an investigation by the Inspector General of the CIA that is supposed to be independent and the Inspector General of the Justice Department. They are supposedly culling through thousands of documents and interviewing many people who were perhaps involved.
There are a lot of people who do not trust that the Inspector Generals of the CIA and the Justice Department will come back with the kind of information that will help us to understand who knew what, when did they know it, and how high did it go. They are suspicious of these investigations.
I tell them it is important that we let the process go forward; that some of us are not simply relying on these investigations, even though we think it is important for them to go forward. Some of us are responding to the calls that we are getting with people who have information about drug trafficking and intelligence community involvement.
We have met with any number of people who have called, given us documents and information. We are doing this because we want to be able to compare what we are learning with the so-called investigations that are going on. If and when hearings take place as a result of the investigations that are being done, we will be able to ask questions about why certain people are not being subpoenaed, why they are not being called, why certain documents are not being entered.
I am very serious about wanting to know who knew what and when did they know it and how high did it go, and whether or not the CIA or the DEA or the DIA or any other intelligence agency has been involved in drug trafficking. I would consider that the most profound undermining of the American people of any action that could be taken by anybody.
We do not pay our intelligence community to protect and serve, to find out that they are indeed involved in the kind of devastation that has been caused by this explosion of crack cocaine in our communities. And so, in essence, we are kind of running our own parallel investigation because we are responding to the calls that we get.
I went to Nicaragua myself because I was contacted by someone in Managua who had information, who knew about the drug cartels and who had been connected with Norwin Meneses. I went to a place called Grenada, up outside of Managua, and I went to a prison and I interviewed Mr. Enrique Miranda Jaime, who not only indicated his willingness to cooperate with the investigations that are going on here but asked that I share this information with the investigators.
I have done that. I have shared this information with the Inspector General of the Justice Department. I have asked him to go and take a look and to talk with Enrique Miranda Jaime and to make sure nothing happens to Enrique Miranda Jaime. I am concerned that if we do not get to him and place him in a witness protection program so that he can make the information available to us, that we may not have him available to us sometime later on.
I am going back to Nicaragua. I am going back to Managua. I have been requested to come back by some legislators who now understand a lot about what perhaps has taken place, and they have new information and they are looking at some money laundering schemes.
We have identified that one of the persons now in the Nicaraguan government was connected to Danilo Blandon and was responsible for laundering money out of Miami during the 1980's when Mr. Danilo Blandon was trafficking in cocaine and crack cocaine in south central Los Angeles.
So I will be going back. There will be others going back. We have people there who are documenting some of the information that is going to be necessary for us to make sure our investigators have. This is the kind of work that must be done because the Congressional Black Caucus of the Congress of the United States have decided that they are going to make the eradication of drugs in our community our number one priority.
We are sick and tired of drug addiction. We are sick and tired of the violence that is associated with drug trafficking. We are sick and tired of the babies that are being born addicted to crack cocaine. We are sick and tired of the loss of lives, the loss of opportunities and the loss of a future for our children in our communities because of cocaine and drugs and crack cocaine in particular.
We find that crack cocaine is one of the most devastating drugs that has ever been known to man. We find that it is the most addictive, that it is very difficult for people to get off of. We find that people commit some of the most horrendous acts in pursuit of more crack cocaine to fuel their habits.
We are sick and tired of waiting on others to do. We do not care if there is a drug czar, we do not care if there is advertising and continuation of programs that say `Just say no.' We are in this now and we are going to provide leadership.
We have been working with the President of the United States to increase the drug budget. I have worked with the drug czar to support more prevention, more education and more rehabilitation, and we are going to fight for the budget that has been produced that would help us to deal with this securing in our communities.
But we are not going to stop there. We are going to do all of those things and we are going to work hard. We will be in the town meetings, we will be talking with the young people, we will do all we can do to help get rid of these drugs in our community. We are going to work to see that there is justice and fairness.
Just as the Justice Department has targeted small crack cocaine dealers, we are going after the big guys. We want to make sure that these dealers of large amounts of cocaine and crack cocaine are targeted and that they are apprehended and that they are brought to justice.
We want to make sure that the Justice Department does not have the American public believing that they are doing something about drugs simply by getting these small crack cocaine dealers, getting them into these mandatory minimum prison sentences in the Federal prisons, filling up the prisons all over America with these small-time crack dealers, 19 and 20 years old, who are stupid, who should not be involved, should not have been involved, but the sentencing that they are getting does not match the crime.
Big drug dealers are going free, and those in the intelligence community, who we pay to protect and serve, may still be involved in these covert operations where drugs are involved and causing tons of drugs to be dumped on our streets.
We are tired of waiting on law enforcement to do it job. We are sick and tired of those who tell us, oh, you cannot do anything about interdiction; as long as the appetite is what it is in America, we will have drugs coming in in huge numbers because of the profits of it. Well, we do not think that is true. We think we should be involved in interdiction, just as we should be involved in education and prevention and rehabilitation.
We think that we are going to have to look very carefully at our relationship and our relationships to other countries. We are going to have to look carefully at our relationship to anybody that we think is involved in bringing drugs into the United States of America.
We heard this big debate about certification. Who are we certifying? What do we know about them? Are we turning our backs and fighting for certification despite the fact we may know some of our allies and some of our friends right here in this hemisphere are involved in drug trafficking?
We have got to understand there is no threat from the Soviet Union. There is no more Soviet Union. There is no threat from Russia, some of the countries that made up the Soviet Union. Nobody wants to fight with the United States of America. That is not where the threat is to this country anymore.
The threat to this country is this influx of drugs, of cocaine that is causing addiction and crime and violence and murder. The threat to this Nation is this influx of huge amounts of drugs that is undermining the very social fabric of our country.
Our national security must be redefined. The need to take a look at what our threat is is urgent. This debate must take place and we must redefine what our national security interests are.
I submit to my colleagues that one of the greatest threats that we have in this country today is this influx of drugs, this influx of cocaine, this scourge of crack cocaine in our communities and all of the violence that goes along with it, and so we cannot afford to let anybody off the hook.
We should have no friends that we love so much that we will allow them to bring drugs into our country because we have some trade relationship with them. We should allow no one to bring drugs into this country because we want to expand our ability to do business with them.
We should let the shoe fall wherever it should fall. We should be willing to identify those who undermine us with drugs, no matter who they are.
I challenge those who somehow think the CIA and the DEA and the DIA are so important that we should have a hands-off policy, that we should not question what the intelligence community is all about, that somehow we should not be concerned about the $30 billion in that CIA budget. There are those who say to me, `Oh, Ms. Waters, you better be careful, you can't go around talking about the CIA. You can't challenge them. Don't you know what they do? Don't you know that they're very special, and that nobody talks about the CIA?'
I am here to say, I think the day for the CIA has come and gone. I think it has no mission that is worthy of the $30 billion that we are paying for its so-called operations. I think the CIA cannot scrub itself. This business of scrubbing, talking about they are getting rid of the terrorists and the drug traffickers and the murderers, is a day late and a dollar short. Not only have they involved themselves with the scum of the Earth, many of whom are responsible for horrendous crimes against our people, but it is no need to even try and make the American people believe that it is necessary to be involved with those kind of people anymore. For what?
And so this challenge that I bring right at the point that we are talking about funding the CIA one more time, at this time where their budgets supposedly are being looked at, at this moment in the debate of Congress about where we put our resources, where we make our priorities, there is no better time.
I would like all of those who embraced Mr. Francois, for example, down in Haiti, who swore by Mr. Cedras, who fought us day and night to try and make sure they were in control of Haiti, I ask them, this Mr. Francois that was trained right in Georgia by our people, who built an airstrip right when they were working with the CIA, who brought in the drugs from Colombia and sent them to the United States, I challenge those Members to make it right. They know who they are. They need but step forward and say, `We made a mistake. We should not have embraced Francois in Haiti. We should not have been involved with them at all.'
The CIA's involvement was deep in Haiti for a long time. They know who these people are. They know what they were doing. And the Members of this House who embraced them and who fought for them need to step forward and make it right and say, `I made a mistake. I should not have embraced them and I'm not going to support them any longer.'
We are going to not only take a look at what the CIA has done in the past, we are going to understand, or try to understand, what their mission is supposed to be and hopefully come to the conclusion that I would like them to come to, that they have no more mission. And if they conclude what I have concluded, we can find us $30 billion to help offset this deficit, $30 billion that we can place in our school systems in America.
Just think about it. The President of the United States has asked for $5 billion to help repair our infrastructure in our schools, to help rehabilitate our schools. The need is over $100 billion. The Congressional Black Caucus would at least like to have $20 billion so that we could leverage it up to about $80 billion, because our schools are crumbling down around us in many of our communities. We have schools where the air-conditioning does not work. We have schools that you cannot even put computers in because they are not wired for computers. We have schools that have no science labs. We have schools that have no place for the children to eat lunch. Thirty billion dollars could really help us rehabilitate these schools for our children, for our children's future. We need to get tough about stopping drugs and giving these children a chance. We need to get tough about redirecting our priorities to educate our young people, and to make them competitive, and to give them a chance to grow and to be and to realize their full potential as human beings. We cannot do that as long as we are allowing money to go out the window of something like the CIA.
I submit that it is time to totally eliminate the CIA. I understand exactly what I am saying. I am saying what I mean and I mean what I say. I am of the belief that they do not have a serious mission anymore, and I am further concerned and outraged by the fact that I have learned too much about them and their connection to drug trafficking. And when I go to parts of my district or to New York or Philadelphia, Missouri, St. Louis, and when I go into the South, places in Arkansas and Mississippi, and I see the scourge of crack cocaine and I think about the fact that the CIA or the DEA and others could have been involved in turning their backs or been involved in covert operations that have allowed these drugs to hit our street, then I am convinced that we are making a mistake to continue to fund the CIA.
If there is any mission at all, if there are any activities they should be involved in, I submit to you that the DIA can take over those activities. Why are we paying all of these different intelligence communities to kind of trip over each other in a post-cold-war era? What are they doing? What is their responsibility? Who are they spying on? What information are they bringing us? If they know so much, why did they not know that the drug czar in Mexico was a drug dealer? Here we were allied with the drug czar in Mexico who was supposed to be working closely with us, who was supposed to be the man who was helping us to identify the drug dealers there, and to help us get rid of this transshipment point that is dumping tons of cocaine and heroin into America. But we did not know. Where was our CIA? Where was our DEA? Where were those in the intelligence community who should have known that the drug czar was the drug dealer? They did not know. They did not even know that the Mexican authorities had arrested him until days after it had been done.
If they have a mission, of protecting us, of knowing what is being done in foreign countries that may be harmful to us, they missed the mark. They missed the point. They did not do their job. But, I suppose whether it is the case in Mexico that they did not know the drug czar was a drug dealer, I suppose they did not know in Venezuela where they were working with the so-called drug czar who ended up again being the dope dealer and not only dumping drugs into the United States on his own behalf but on behalf of the CIA. It is enough information here for people to be angry about, for people to be concerned about, that people should want to be able to get to the bottom of what is going on.
I think the American public is going to move faster than the Members of this House. I think that the articles that you now see popping up in the newspapers are going to multiply. In addition to that, I know about some documentaries that are going to be done about the CIA and its mission or lack of a mission. I know that there is going to be increasing discussion outside of this House about the CIA and its role, and the American citizens are going to rise up against the funding of an agency that should be extinct. They too will join with me in the final analysis and call for the elimination of the CIA.
This is not the first time that I have been on this floor talking about the CIA and drugs. This is not the first time that I have reminded the public of the San Jose Mercury series called `The Dark Alliance' that helped to document their involvement in the dumping of cocaine into south central Los Angeles, and this will not be the last time.
I do not usually come to the floor this late at night, but I am willing to do some extraordinary things to try and communicate this threat, to try and engage not only my colleagues but the American public on this issue of drugs.
This country deserves better. We do not deserve to have to suffer what we are suffering with drugs overrunning too many communities in America. Not just the inner cities. Certainly it shows up there. But also it is in little towns and in rural areas, and it is not confined to any one ethnic group. It is not confined to any one age group. Increasingly people are getting involved and children are getting involved at a younger and younger age.
American citizens, we deserve better, and we deserve our policymakers to get serious. We deserve the policymakers who supposedly come here to represent the people of the United States of America to take this issue on, to give it some time and some attention, to be involved in interdiction and prevention and rehabilitation. The people should not have to wonder, have we been abandoned? They should not have to suffer being told we cannot do anything about it, as long as there is an appetite for it.
I wish all American citizens and all Members of Congress were perfect human beings, but we are not. We are all vulnerable in many ways. There are many people who get involved and get addicted who wish they could get out of it, and we should help provide them with some opportunities to rehabilitate. I wish there was no appetite. But I suppose, until we do our job on the front end to educate and to discourage and to teach and to prevent, many people will fall prey to this menace.
We should not be involved in a situation where we are allowing young people to either be addicted or to end up thinking that somehow they can sell a little bit of rock cocaine, earn enough money to have a better life. We should not allow these things to happen. Those young people who are sitting in the prisons, falling prey to this business, I can get away with selling a little drugs, these are young people whose lives are cut short. And even though again they were silly enough to get involved, oftentimes the crimes do not fit the punishment and the big guys are getting away.
I am going to keep talking about this, I am going to keep challenging this House, I am going to keep challenging America to challenge its elected officials, to get involved, to learn more, to get to the root of this problem, to deal with the intelligence agencies, to deal with the law enforcement agencies, to deal with the families, the children, the communities, despite the fact I am oftentime discouraged and frustrated as I travel around this country and I see what is going on.
I suppose in the final analysis, I am the eternal optimist. I believe we can do something about it. I believe if we put our minds to it, we can turn this situation around. I believe if we are committed to a future for our young people, we can indeed make this our top priority. The Congressional Black Caucus decided we are going to make this our top priority. We extend our hand to those who would like to join with us to make this a top priority of this Nation. America, we can do better.