The Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act 2007
The bill's language hides its true intent
The Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act 2007
The U.S. House of Representatives has quietly passed the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism (read Thought Crime) Prevention Act of 2007. The bill, passed on October 23 by a landslide vote of 404 to 6, has been referred to the Senate where it awaits scrutiny from the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. Interestingly, of the fifteen sponsors for this bill, eleven of them are Democrats.
The bill's language hides its true intent
The bill's vague and open-ended language hides its true intent as to what "violent radicalization" and "homegrown terrorism" are? It will be whatever the administration says they are. Violent radicalization is defined as "adopting or promoting an extremist belief system (to facilitate) ideologically based violence to advance political, religious or social change."
Homegrown terrorism is used to mean "the use, planned use, or threatened use, of force or violence by a group or individual born, raised, or based and operating primarily with the United States or any (US) possession to intimidate or coerce the (US) government, the civilian population....or any segment thereof (to further) political or social objectives."
Along with other repressive laws enacted after 9/11, the new law may be used against any individual or group with unpopular views - those that differ from established state policies. Prosecutors henceforth will be able to target believers in Islam, anti-war protesters, web editors, internet bloggers and radio and TV show hosts and commentators with views the bill calls "terrorist-related propaganda."
Unfortunately this bill is likely to pass and be signed into law as it purports to be part of the response to 9/11 and the global war on terror. If this legislation becomes law, which is virtually certain, any dissenting anti-government action or opinion may henceforth be called "violent radicalization and homegrown terrorism" with stiff penalties for anyone convicted.
This bill now joins the ranks of other repressive post-9/11 laws like Patriot I and II, Military Commissions, Protect America Acts and Presidential Executive Orders pursuant to which the government has engaged in massive surveillance of its own citizens, as well as detentions, extraordinary renditions and torture.
Surprisingly, there is a criminal silence in the mainstream media about the bill.
Muslims likely to be its first target
It is apprehended that just like the Patriot Act, that abridged the civil rights of all Americans but Muslims became its immediately target, the new bill's immediate focus may also be the Muslims. In a speech on the House floor advocating passage of the bill, Representative Jane Harman (D-Calif.) -- the coauthor and initial sponsor of the measure- insisted: "A chief problem is radical forms of Islam, but we're not only studying radical Islam... We're studying the phenomenon of people with radical beliefs who turn into people who would use violence."
Despite what Harman says it seems likely that most of the focus will be Muslims and Islam. Rep. Dave Reichert, a Republican cosponsor of the bill, was quoted by the Congress Quarterly as saying: "We know that all these intelligence elements are looking at [American homegrown Islamic terrorism]."
Jeff Stein, National Security Editor of the Congress Quarterly says that the bill doesn't actually single out Islamic radicalism as a target, although a reasonable interpretation of the bill leads to that conclusion. The CQ also quoted a Senate staffer, who has examined the legislation, as saying that if a new commission is really necessary to look at the extremist groups it should at least be specific about its target: radical Islamic extremists.
Harman also said that it is important to learn from experiences in other countries like Britain and Canada, where citizens have been inspired to commit terrorism at home by Islamic propagandists reaching out over the Internet.
However, contrary to what has been found in Europe, the scattered cases exposed in the United States have involved individuals with no clear ties to international extremist groups. In this respect the PEW survey of last May is illuminating. The survey found that Muslim Americans reject extremism by larger margins than do Muslim minorities in western European countries. The Muslims are overwhelmingly satisfied with their lives in the United States, and most say their communities are excellent or good places to live.
"It's clear that Europe has much more of a problem," says Michael Jacobson, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, who focused on domestic intelligence issues on the 9-11 Commission. "We don't have the same kind of terrorist threat here in the U.S."
Tellingly, the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act follows the last August report of the New York Police Department (NYPD) titled "Radicalization in the West and the Homegrown Threat." The report warned of "radicalization" among otherwise unremarkable young Muslim men in the United States who grow disillusioned with life and sign on with jihadis.
The NYPD report also listed sites that were likely to be visited by any American Muslim as radicalization 'incubators.' The sites listed include mosques, cafes, cab driver hangouts, student associations, nongovernmental organizations, butcher shops, and book stores. The report also claimed that signs of radicalization include positive changes in personal behavior such as giving up smoking, drinking and gambling. It also made similar claims about those who wear Islamic attire or a religiously-recommended beard.
Muslim civil right groups were obviously concerned that the NYPD study contained sweeping generalizations which were likely to reinforce negative stereotypes and unwarranted suspicions about the seven-million strong American Muslim community. The report may also serve to further marginalize the community by labeling almost every American Muslim as a potential threat.
This discussion leads us to conclude that the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act may prove a helping hand for the pro-Israeli Islamophobist David Yerushalmi's efforts to banish Islam from the US by proving that Islam promotes violent change of government. Hence "adherence to Islam" should be punishable by 20 years in prison.
Vague and open-ended language
As we said earlier, the bill's language hides its true intent. The bill begins with an all embracing line: "An Act to prevent homegrown terrorism, and for other purposes." Under the guise of preventing "homegrown terrorism" the bill allows the government to call virtually any crime and any thought "radical" and consider it "terrorism." The terms used will mean whatever the administration says they are.
The definitions for the phrases "violent radicalization," "homegrown terrorism," as well as "ideologically based violence" are almost as interesting as the terminology "... for other purposes."
First let's take a look at the definitions of violent radicalization and homegrown terrorism as defined in Section 899A of the bill.
The definition of violent radicalization uses vague language to define this term of promoting any belief system that the government considers to be an extremist agenda. Since the bill doesn't specifically define what an extremist belief system is, it is entirely up to the interpretation of the government. Literally, the government according to this definition can define whatever they want as an extremist belief system. Essentially they have defined violent radicalization as thought crime. Violent Radicalization is defined in the bill as:
"The term 'violent radicalization' means the process of adopting or promoting an extremist belief system for the purpose of facilitating ideologically based violence to advance political, religious, or social change."
The definition of homegrown terrorism uses equally vague language to further define thought crime. The bill includes the planned use of force or violence as homegrown terrorism which could be interpreted as thinking about using force or violence. Not only that but the definition is so vaguely defined, that petty crimes could even fall into the category of homegrown terrorism. The definition as defined in the bill is:
"The term 'homegrown terrorism' means the use, planned use, or threatened use, of force or violence by a group or individual born, raised, or based and operating primarily within the United States or any possession of the United States to intimidate or coerce the United States government, the civilian population of the United States, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives."
Chilling effect on both free speech and thought
The Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act will have a substantial chilling effect on both free speech and free thought. At base, Jane Harman's proposal seems to be a direct attack on free speech. No where is this more clear than in the third introductory paragraph (the "where as" section) that provides the context for the action desired. Specifically, this legislation aims at the unregulated nature of the Internet:
"The Internet has aided in facilitating violent radicalization, ideologically based violence, and the homegrown terrorism process in the United States by providing access to broad and constant streams of terrorist-related propaganda to United States citizens."
One of the most useful tools for political campaigns today is the use of the internet. Certainly we can see how this has been used over the last few months as Congressmen Paul, as well as other candidates, has used the internet to spread their messages and appeal to new voters.
With this piece of legislation in congress, people will no longer be able to use the internet in a peaceful manner. All activity will certainly be logged, and every letter typed will be scrutinized by the state.
On November 6, CSPAN aired a hearing of the Homeland Security Subcommittee's "Terrorism and the Internet" which stated purpose was to attempt to identify and focus on the use of the internet by "home grown terrorist recruiters." The hearing was chaired by California democrat Jane Harman, sponsor of the infamous "Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007" and ranking Republican, Rep. Dave Reichert.
The hearing featured presentations from several groups, including the Rand Corporation, and Mark Weitzman of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. This event generated quite an uproar in the 9/11 Truth and civil liberties communities because of testimony by panelists conflating two very distinct and unconnected groups -- the 9/11 truth movement with "jihadi terrorists." What generated the most buzz was a PowerPoint presentation - titled "Internet: Incubator of 9/11 Conspiracies and Disinformation" - from Mark Weitzman of the Simon Weisenthal Center.
Later on in the hearing, former RAND corporation director Bruce Hoffman re-iterated Weitzman's presentation, stating "These falsehoods and conspiracy theories have now become so ubiquitous and so pervasive that they are believed, so you have almost a parallel truth, and it has become a very effective tool for recruiting people."
National Commission to examine causes of violent radicalization
The "Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007" creates a ten member new commission which will study how to prohibit ". . . . .the process of adopting or promoting an extremist belief system . . . . .to advance political, religious, or social change.. . . ." Spreading these beliefs to "advance political, religious, or social change" is defined as "radicalization." If you are trying to educate your fellow countrymen, to democratically influence popular opinion, then you may find yourself accused of "facilitating ideologically-based violence."
It also establishes a Center of Excellence for the Prevention of Radicalization and Home Grown Terrorism that will study the social, criminal, political, psychological and economic roots of the problem to provide further suggestions for action to address these dangers.
This Commission is also going to look toward governments in other countries that have knowledge and significant experience in dealing with such behavior, such as the UK, Canada and Australia. The bill says:
"Certain governments, including the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia have significant experience with homegrown terrorism and the United States can benefit from lessons learned by those nations."
The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the bill will cost approximately $22 million over four years. Interestingly, Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) voted against the bill because he objected to the government spending new money on this project when the House just passed a $37 billion appropriations bill for Homeland Security.Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) issued a statement saying that the money could be better spend funding preexisting law-enforcement efforts, rather than funding another commission.
The FBI already has a domestic terrorism unit. The U.S. intelligence community also monitors the homegrown terrorists and overseas networks that might be reaching out to US residents. The July 2007 National Intelligence Estimate included a section headed, "The Terrorist Threat to the U.S. Homeland."
Moreover, the U.S. already has extensive laws on the books related to criminal conspiracy, which the Justice Department has been applying far too broadly in the so-called war on terror.
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