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Why Sen. Carl Levin backs military's position on sexual-assault cases

Sen. Carl Levin (D), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, believes military sexual-assault cases should remain under the control of the chain of command. Many in his party disagree. What's his rationale?

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Sen. Carl Levin (D) of Michigan speaks at a Monitor Breakfast at the St. Regis Hotel on July 16, 2013 in Washington, D.C.

Michael Bonfigli /The Christian Science Monitor

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Sen. Carl Levin (D) of Michigan is chairman of the US Senate Armed Services Committee and a member of the intelligence panel. He was the guest at the July 16 Monitor Breakfast.

Why he opposes taking military sexual-assault cases out of the chain of command's control:

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"[I]f you remove the chain of command, you are taking away ... the club that they need to change the culture, which is ... being able to prosecute someone."

The need to challenge the defense budget:

"We ought to look at the budget much more specifically than to start with an assumption that the current shares [for individual services] ... should continue."

National Security Agency technology that allows it to keep a record of all calls Americans make or receive:

"There are pluses to it in terms of catching bad guys, and there are some minuses to it in terms of abuses.... If this technology were in the hands of [former FBI Director] J. Edgar Hoover, would I feel comfortable? No."

US policy toward rebels fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad:

"I urged the president to convene a group of countries that want Assad to be removed.... It is a plan [aimed at] increasing the military pressure by helping the Syrian opposition to become stronger."

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How he rates the performance of Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel:

"He is doing great.... He has won the support of my Republican colleagues who voted against him."