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Wednesday, December 17 2014 @ 03:24 PM CST

HR 1955: Violent radicalization and homegrown terrorism bill

News ArchiveViolent radicalization and homegrown terrorism: A bi-partisan attack on civil liberties.
As California burns to the ground, and S-CHIP goes on the defensive, the United States House of Representatives slipped one by us. The House passed a bill with dangerously vague language and eerie implications, not to mention it being a fundamental challenge to the First Amendment, supported by a majority of Democrats, and introduced by a Democrat. You remember that Party we elected to at least try to replenish our civil liberties and get the troops home, so at least to partly reverse the surly fatal course upon which the administration of George W. Bush has set the United States of America?

One of their “Blue Dogs,” Jane Harman of California, introduced H.R. 1955 with 14 co-sponsors, including only four Republicans. The bill raced through two committees in the House and was brought to a vote on Tuesday, October 23, passing 404 to six. Three Republicans and three Democrats, including Presidential Candidate Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, are the only Congresspersons to vote “nay.”

Why is this alarming? Well the bill, otherwise known as the “Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007,” includes some vague definitions that could be interpreted to define people, who are currently protected by the First Amendment, essentially as thought criminals so that they would no longer be protected by quite possibly the most popular of all Constitutional Amendments. The Act does not make certain forms of thought a crime itself, however, it does mean that a commission would be established, as well as a broad network of academics and researchers, specifically for the purpose of identifying ideologies that somehow can be considered to be a cause of terrorism, a premise accepted as fact by the language of the bill. This is “pre-crime” and “thoughtcrime” all packed into a predetermination set by this bill to bias any research done for and accepted by the commission created by the bill, which could logically lead to changes in interpretations of legalese and possibly more legislation that would directly criminalize ideologies that can be considered by whoever ends up doing the research as terrorism prone. It is a small but dangerous step toward a terrifying Orwellian scenario becoming reality.

The bill would amend the Homeland Security Act of 2002, Title VIII (6 U.S.A 361 et seq.) by adding “Subtitle J.” This would create a “National Commission on the Prevention of Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism” under section 899C, and a “Center of Excellence” under section 899D, which is anticipated to be based in universities around the U.S., utilizing the social sciences found on any university as well as other researchers to make data and research findings available to the commission, who will file a “Final Report” 18 months after the commission is created to the President and Congress. The report will provide “recommendations,” rooting whatever decisions are made to prevent this vaguely defined dissent in scientific research, in order that the President and Congress may have a clearer understanding of what “measures…can be taken to prevent” these forms of dissent. In other words, they are establishing a network of supposed experts to tell them how far they can make inroads on the First Amendment, amongst other legal protections more than likely. Another way of putting it; they want to know how much criminalizing of dissent they can get away with under the guise of Bush’s war on terrorism, presumably to mitigate the prospective challenges by civil liberties advocates.

The stated purpose of the ‘Center of Excellence’ is “to study the social, criminal, political, psychological, and economic roots of” these vaguely defined forms of dissent, “and methods that can be utilized by” all levels, including “tribal,” of “homeland security officials to mitigate” these forms of dissent. The ‘Center’s’ duties will include contributing “to the establishment of training, written materials, information, analytical assistance and professional resources to aid in combating” these forms of dissent. So, to be clear, this ‘Center’ is not to be established in order to identify and properly define these forms of dissent, rather these definitions have already been made in the minds of those supporting this legislation, and this ‘Center’ is to base these definitions in science, giving them a solid concrete position in public opinion, the science industry, the legal profession, etc., so that authorities can have the perceived full support of society when they attack domestic political dissidents. This is essentially the creation of a vast mystical supply of argumentative material for prosecutors who open cases against dissidents, simply for being dissidents. This is the type of phenomenon that will likely change American cultural norms regarding liberty to the extent that people can be politically persecuted without a hint of opposition. It would allow the government to cut a portion out of the population we think of as “us,” so they can create a “them” for ‘us’ to fear so much that we will instinctively condone their persecution. Deeply rooting such concepts in what appears to be science and law can add a great deal of credibility to them in the minds of many people.

You may think I’m overreacting, like many of the other critics of this bill with their “New World Order” conspiracy theories and exaggerations, and you may be thinking that I’m off the mark because the bill clearly protects civil liberties in section 899F. Well, why don’t you read section 899F and see if you can identify the flaw? Ok, I can only assume you’ve read it now, so let’s talk about the flaw. The protections of civil liberties included in this bill are extremely weak, and they don’t even take all those currently protected by the Constitution into consideration. Furthermore, the guarantee of protection is an “Auditing Mechanism” that is to be created and implemented by a Department of Homeland Security (D.H.S.) official, which is only required to provide audits annually (in 18 months it may end up being only once). So, we are supposed to trust an internal auditor that is not independent by definition to keep that person’s own employer in check in the name of civil liberties. As far as whose civil liberties would be protected by the language of this bill, and Immigrants’ Rights groups ought to be in a fury over this, only two categories of people are included in the bill’s language; “citizens” and “lawful permanent residents.” Those who know little about the United States immigration system may think those two categories cover everyone, but they don’t. These are both specifically defined legal categories, and they are only two of many categories defining people’s legal status in the United States. So, with those two groups being identified as the only ones protected, those who will be denied protection includes everyone but those two groups, such as people living in the U.S.A. on either work or student visas, certain indigenous groups, temporary workers, and logically all other “non-immigrants” (people living in, or visiting, the United States who are not “permanent residents,” which are green card holders, or “citizens”).

Keeping in mind whose civil liberties are not protected by this bill, now consider the real danger of the bill, which is not that it directly creates a definition of ‘thoughtcrime’ (as defined by George Orwell, in his famous book “1984,” in the first chapter), but that it lays the groundwork for such to be created more elaborately in the future. The bill sets up a commission and a network of academic researchers to define certain ideologies as ‘thoughtcrime’ essentially, and it encompasses the concept of ‘pre-crime’ (remember the movie “Minority Report?”) in that the point of the bill is to identify ‘thoughtcrime’ in order to take preemptive action against those the State deems criminal due to their ideology. The scientific research will provide the basis for certain ideologies to be considered criminal. So it should be clear that this bill does not make it a crime to believe in this or that ideology, however, it creates a research effort nationwide to provide the pretext for criminalizing ideologies. The social sciences already do research on the subjects of terrorism and political violence, and there are still debates over how to properly define terms like violence, terrorism, genocide, force, coercion, radical etc., and one can be sure they haven’t hammered out those definitions to the extent that we already have scientific proof that “Violent Radicalization” and “Homegrown Terrorism” are existing and identifiable phenomena. The bill thus biases any research done by the ‘Center of Excellence’ intellectuals by the stated task of providing material useful in fighting the overall phenomenon of terrorism, and by the accepted definitions of phenomena that social sciences have yet to acutely define.

Of course all of my criticism is toothless without acknowledging the ‘vaguely defined forms of dissent.’ At this point you may be wondering to what kinds of dissent I refer. Here is where it is important to look back at the frightening definitions about which so many are now talking. In section 899A the terms included in the bill’s title are defined. ‘Violent Radicalization’ is defined as “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.” This ‘process’ is based on a fallacy to begin with, considering that it makes no sense to adopt a belief system in order to facilitate violence based on that ideology, that one has yet to adopt. If you don’t believe in the ‘ideologically based violence’ your ‘belief system’ dictates then you can’t be said to have that as your motive to adopt the ‘belief system.’ You haven’t adopted the ‘belief system’ that guided you to commit the violence if the violence is the motive for ‘adopting’ the ‘belief system,’ it isn’t logically possible. This fallacy is implicit, in my opinion, in the phrase ‘for the purpose of.’ It is impossible for the violence to lead to the beliefs that lead to the violence without contradicting the premise that the beliefs lead to the violence. Fallacies aside, the real threat I noticed is in the way the bill then further defines ‘ideologically based violence.’ This type of violence, given its definition, may not always be what we traditionally think of as violence. It is defined not only as physically noticeable violence, but also thinking about and/or threatening to use not only violence, but whatever else they can interpret as a type of force as well. The vague language includes “planned use” and “threatened use, of force or violence.” This can semantically expand the legal understanding of the definition of ‘violence’ to include non-violent forms of civil disobedience or direct action because they are seen as forceful. The bill doesn’t say that force and violence must both be present in order to define it as ‘ideologically based violence,’ rather it uses the conjunction “or,” leaving open the possibility of defining either ‘force’ or actual ‘violence’ as ‘ideologically based violence,’ and “Homegrown Terrorism” if it is done by “a group or individual born, raised, or based and operating primarily within the United States,” including U.S. zones of jurisdiction outside the 50 states, “to intimidate or coerce,” according to the similarly vague definition of ‘homegrown terrorism’ on the same page.

Civil disobedience methods utilized by certain environmentalists, including “tree-sitting,” could be considered terrorism because of their minimally coercive essence. In fact, believing in an ideology or religion seen as too different, and too opposed to the one to which leaders of the U.S.A. adhere, could be defined as terrorism. Any belief system can be defined as an ‘extremist belief system.’ Don’t be alarmed, it is not as though your right to be a communist or a libertarian with radical leanings, or a devoutly religious Muslim, will be illegal as soon as Bush or the next President signs this bill into law, so don’t find this a reason to pack up guns, ammo and canned food, and start heading for the hills to hide out, but this should be alarming enough to motivate people to contact their Senators and voice their opposition to this fundamental attack on political freedom. The bill, as I have reiterated, is to establish a scientifically backed framework for creating further legislation that will amount to criminalizing thought. It is possible that intellectuals will ignore the stated purpose of the ‘Center of Excellence’ and actually conduct valid research, but not if their funding is tied to the biased goal of trying to identify certain ideologies as criminal. They would have to be able to change the definitions in the bill in order that they match the scientific definitions of those concepts. Clearly any scientist would recognize the semantic ploy in the language of the bill, and would be aware that research based on the premise set by the bill would be inherently biased. So, it is a matter of finding science researchers with poor ethics perhaps, however, that is no reason to assume the likelihood of the bill’s success is nil. Scientists can be greedy and egocentric like anyone else, however, there is still hope in the Senate and the Courts.

This bill may have been ignored by the mainstream corporate press, but those of us who use the Internet to contribute to what’s left of the independent media to inform the public of issues such as this one need to be more and more motivated by the explicit threat to our freedom of speech included in the bill under section 899B, and this is an even more alarming aspect of this legislation. Amongst the elements of the premise that I argue will bias any research at any ‘Center of Excellence’ is the “Findings” section. This section is where the broadly defined forms of dissent are accepted as identified existing phenomena, and it specifically blames the Internet for their existence. “The Internet has aided in facilitating violent radicalization, ideologically based violence, and the homegrown terrorism process…by providing access to broad and constant streams of terrorist-related propaganda to United States citizens,” says the third ‘finding’ in section 899B. This is a threat to freedom online in a nutshell, perhaps the most immediately threatened aspect of our freedom in this supposedly “free country” (these quotation marks are only for context and do not denote a specific remark) posed by this legislation. This means they will probably be looking for academic and intellectual research-based support for censoring the Internet without the elite-perceived roadblock of civil liberties getting in their way, first and foremost. At least that is the impression I get after reading this bill.

One may be wondering by now, after all of these long words you’ve just toiled through, how can they accept these definitions and these findings without some research on which to base it all. Well, this is true, but consider here the low standards of evidence held by most politicians when it comes to scientific and/or academic research. In order for a theory to be accepted as a fact by the science community, and this is also the case for social scientists, the theory must be not only replicable to some extent but it must also be accepted on consensus as such. If there is not a consensus on whether ‘violent radicalization’ exists then it is not fact, and thus should definitely not be included in legislative language and/or legalese. So where do they get these terms? Jane Harman, the conservative ‘Blue Dog’ Democrat that introduced the bill, cites the National Intelligence Estimate (N.I.E.) report released in July of 2007 as that which requires that they find links between various forms of thought and terrorism. The N.I.E. merely reinforces the notion of a threat from Al Qaeda, which is not a domestic terrorism threat per se, however, it is the ideology of that group (if that is what they are) that concerns our Representatives. They clearly fear that the supposed ideology of those who carried out the attacks in London, who were all English but their religion and ideology were seen as foreign by authorities, and that of those who almost carried out a similar attack in Toronto, may come popping up in the United States. That is why they are using the term ‘homegrown terrorism,’ which is a term taken from an issue government officials began discussing directly in response to those attacks according to the Boston Globe article; “Home-grown terrorism,” published in 2006.

Apparently Jane Harman, not a social scientist, doesn’t need a consensus to conclude that such phenomena exist in reality. All she needed was a government stamp of approval in the form of an N.I.E. report. This legislation clearly stems from the debate over radical Islamic beliefs immediately following the attacks described above, and this conclusion I make comes from the fact that the terms used in the bill are the same as those introduced to the public dialogue following those attacks (see “Getting to the root of ‘homegrown terrorism’” by Munira Mirza). Harman and friends may also be basing this rhetoric on what they see as scientifically valid, though I strongly beg to differ, in the 2007 report on the subject by an explicitly biased and definitively non-scientific institution, the New York City Police Department (see “New York City Police Report Explores Homegrown Terrorism” by Al Baker, NYTimes). Also it is possible they are basing this legislation on a similar Federal Bureau of Investigations (F.B.I.) report from 2006. Okay, so the rhetoric is not adequately backed by science, and thus should not be accepted as such by scientists at the proposed ‘Center of Excellence,’ however, these origins of such rhetoric are useful to us information consumers in that they are revealing not of the evidence to back up Harman’s semantic references, but of who her type has in mind when they are referring to ‘homegrown terrorism’ and ‘violent radicalization.’ There is evidence of the root of this rhetoric being Europe (see “Commission programme for the prevention of and response to violent radicalisation”), and they speak of certain groups in Europe and the United States that may fall under these vague definitions. As for the United States these definitions could include anyone the status quo doesn’t appear to accept. A USA Today article from 2004 lumps every perceived dissident into one group they call “domestic terrorists.”

Though past news publications can provide some insight on who may be the targets of this legislation, the identity of the obvious targets is implicit in the bills language on the requisite qualifications for gaining a position on the commission. Amongst the many fields of study mentioned as desired qualifications is “professional qualifications, achievements, public stature, experience, and expertise in…Islam and other world religions.” Why is the right-wing fringe making such a fuss about this bill, they are clearly not the targets, right? Well, who really knows? The language is so vague that it could include right-wing Christians as well, however, that word is not included in the language of the bill, and is merely implied by the phrase ‘…and other world religions.’ The lack of civil liberties protection and the naming of one religion only, “Islam,” makes it rather obvious who the initial targets are to be, however, the language is still ambiguous to the extent that it could be stretched to include blatant terrorist threats like Tim McVeigh, as well as those whose apparently violent acts could be construed as terrorism, such as the Earth Liberation Front’s vandalism of corporate property.

Perhaps the far right is alarmed because the bill was introduced by a Democrat, their old foe from the 1990s (Waco), but those who are confirmable extremists on the right-wing have enjoyed a disparity in treatment by mostly Republicans in power for many years. Even when Oklahoma City endured the terror of the bombing of a federal building Republicans immediately speculated and accused Osama bin Laden of being responsible, though it turned out to be a white male Christian. The only name of any religion included in the bill’s text is ‘Islam.’ According to a report from Radio Free Europe the United States still tends to ignore domestic terror threats like McVeigh to focus on foreign threats like bin Laden (see “U.S.: Ten Years After Oklahoma Bombing, Is Homegrown Terrorism Ignored?” by Andrew Tully). Thus this legislation could threaten the far right, far left, or really anyone at odds with the current regime, however, it is obvious who the first targets will be. They will be ‘non-immigrant’ Muslim youths on the Internet, possibly including those with a similar profile who sit in prison, which the bill and the F.B.I. report imply is some sort of terrorism breeding ground.

The likelihood that they will target young Muslims is an assumption based on logic, so I’ll willfully stand corrected if they target someone else first. Regardless of who is targeted, the bill intends to fundamentally undermine the principle of free association. My intention is not frighten people with creepy tales of a future absolutist America, however, I definitely seek a basic reaction of shock at not only the fact that so many Representatives voted for this bill but that a slim majority of them were Democrats. This type of legislation would be no surprise coming from Republicans, but from Democrats it is not only a surprise to those freedom-enduring social liberals who lay faith in the Democratic Party every election, specifically under the premise of a desire to protect these very liberties from being attacked by Republicans, but should come as a shock to any supporter of civil liberties that the bill received overwhelming bi-partisan support. This will someday, probably near the election, become another one of the Democratic Party’s dirty little secrets exposed too late. 219 Democrats voted for this bill in the House, and the only Democrats who voted “nay” were; Neil Abercrombie of the 1st District of Hawaii, Jerry Costello of the 12th District of Illinois, and Presidential Candidate Dennis Kucinich of the 10th District of Ohio. 22 Representatives skipped the vote, including Republican Presidential Candidate Ron Paul of the 14th District of Texas, whose supporters have been making the most noise about this issue in the blogosphere. Thus far the only Presidential Candidate to vote against this bill is Kucinich. The bill flew through the House, only passing through two subcommittees, neither of which were the Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties or the Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security, and International Law, both of which would have been more than relevant, and the bill was streamlined by Bennie Thompson’s (2nd District of Mississippi) motion to “suspend the rules” to cut the debate short.

As I am a registered Democrat, though hardly a Party loyal, in the State of Colorado I find it necessary to reveal that which ought to be a provocation of outrage on the part of Colorado voters, which is the fact that all of our Democrats voted for this bill. Ed Perlmutter of the 7th District not only supported the bill, he was also one of the 14 co-sponsors. Not only did Perlmutter support it, so did John Salazar (no surprise), and most alarmingly Diana DeGette of District One, and Mark Udall of District Two. Udall and DeGette, the two most prominent liberals! Every single Colorado Representative on both sides of the isle supported this legislation. Democrats, one might think, would hesitate to attack civil liberties in such a way in Colorado especially, given that Denver is the location chosen for the next Democratic National Convention. I’m not surprised because I have never had any real faith in the Democratic Party, however, there are those who share my sentiments in favor of civil liberties who do put their faith in this Party every election, and it is about time pro-Dem voters start paying attention to the Party’s disgraceful hypocrisy. If anything this is an opportunity for people to see this side of their praised Representatives. This bill’s bi-partisan support is a pretty clear depiction of this hypocrisy, which proves in my opinion that the Democrats are no solution to the Republicans. They are not a lesser evil than the Republican Party, as was the argument in previous elections.

What can we average folks do? Well, the bill may have passed the House but it has yet to pass the Senate, and has yet to land on the President’s desk. There is clearly no hope in the President, who will likely sign the bill into law without hesitation, however, there are several Democratic Presidential Candidates in the Senate, including the two latest superstars of the electoral spectacle: Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. The bill entered the Senate, was read a couple of times, and was sent to committee. It now sits in the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, Chaired by Connecticut Democrat Joe Lieberman. Obama is also a member of this committee. The bill is now S. 1959 according to the website “govtrack.us,” though I haven’t been able to find it in the Library of Congress website to confirm this. We do still have time to sway the Senate with letters and phone calls, if that ever works, and there is the chance that the Supreme Court will strike the bill down as unconstitutional. So don’t worry so much, but don’t ignore the issue. We need to tell our Senators to vote the bill down, and we have our work cut out for us there, but it is a chance that we should not pass up. So far critics of the bill include the more radical pundits and intellectuals, such as Alex Jones and Ward Churchill, but that alone is not enough to discredit legitimate concerns the population should logically have over any such legislation compromising such a fundamental freedom in any democracy. That means we all need to speak up on this issue, not only so as not to leave the only dissenting views as those anyone would expect to criticize such legislation, but to show the widespread opposition to this type of bill among the population of constituents in society. In a phrase: Spread the word as far and fast as you can. Senators are no more responsive to the will of voters than Representatives, in fact they are usually less so, thus we have to hound them as much as possible. The Parties have shown that they won’t protect us when they our free from our attention, so what we need to do is make them know that they will suffer in future elections if they don’t protect us now.

The same article with links to sources and further information is posted on my blog at the following web address:

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HR 1955: Violent radicalization and homegrown terrorism bill | 1 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
HR 1955: Violent radicalization and homegrown terrorism bill
Authored by: personman on Wednesday, November 28 2007 @ 11:03 AM CST
There are plenty of reasons to fear the bill as-is without even taking the "slippery-slope" in to account.

Personally, I have always thought of "violence" as an act of physical harm against another flesh and blood human being. It's important to keep in mind though, that this is considered an anti-capitalist view...

The accepted definition of violence includes property damage. This will probably be very useful for going after anti-capitalist, anti-globalization activists, and useful as an excuse to smash any protest if, god forbid, something should break, in the midst of a bunch of passionate, angry people who've lived their lives being consumed by what Johann Most called "the beast of property."

I think this illustrates as plainly as anything, the anti-humanism in capitalism. Equating property with human life. Preached as a gospel by the same religious hypocrites who speak of "sanctity of life," yet can't stop killing. (via nationalism and war, capitalism, lack of empathy or compassion and disregard for their fellow man)

(I find it particularly appalling that extremist-capitalists like Ron Paul use the rhetoric of the working class to gain their trust and fight their interests. Not that this sort of misrepresentation is unparalleled in history: both political parties do it to varying degrees, and Hitler's "National Socialism" certainly comes to mind. Anyway, I digress, back on topic...)

Another thing I think this illustrates, because of the way our society is structured, and how our values are based around private property, is that laws protecting private property will disproportionately have a negative affect on those who have the least...They mostly punish those who are already the most oppressed. It's pretty barbaric and elitist when you think about it...so we taught not to. Dangerous thoughts to some interests...

So yeah, anyway, when this societies equivalent of the "they" that came for the communists, democrats, unionists and jews, come for me and Chuck and I'd wager, some of you as well...will you folks write us in the hole, assuming we civilians get the privilege of knowing of the existence and location of whatever gulag they decide stick us in without trial or charge for as long as they like?

If you know of any good ointments for electrocuted genitals, history seems to indicate that might prove useful as well...

Not that this is at all a joke or laughing matter... My coping mechanism on this just seems to involve nihilistic gallows humor, because sometimes screaming every obscenity you can think of doesn't come close to telling it.

I dunno how the hell this got so wordy, this was going to be a short comment.