ACTION ALERT: Senate Bill 1959 Would Define Dissent as 'Homegrown Terrorism'
December 16, 2007
Editorial / Workers World & Steven Yates / News With Views & Chris Strohm / CongressDaily
Earlier this fall Congress passed the “Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act” ostensibly to study what “radicalizes” people and how to prevent it. The Senate version, S.B. 1959 would criminalize thoughts, blogs, and books, spelling an end to free speech across America. It could allow the US government to arrest and jail any individual who speaks out against the Bush Administration, the Iraq war, or any government agency. The ACLU is opposing the bill.
A Rotten New Bill
Editorial / Workers World
WASHINGTON (December 13, 2007) — Earlier this fall the House of Representatives passed, by a ridiculous vote of 404-6, a thoroughly reactionary bill known as the “Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act.” Introduced by California Democrat Jane Harman, HR 1955 would set up commissions called “Centers of Excellence” to study what “radicalizes” people and how to prevent it. The Senate has yet to produce its version of the legislation.
While HR 1955 is supposed to be directed against “terrorism,” its language is so vague and broad that civil liberties activists rightly note that these “Centers of Excellence” could be turned against any direct action and even against dissenting speech or writing on the Internet. HR 1955 is a preliminary step for more state repression.
To keep its threat in perspective, and to see how to fight it, it’s useful to recall the history of the House Un-American Activities Committee or HUAC. Created in 1934, allegedly to fight the KKK and German Nazis, HUAC quickly became an instrument to investigate communists.
When the Cold War peaked, from about 1948 to 1960, it had the weight of a modern Inquisition. If you were called before it, you could lose your job, be outlawed from your profession, and find your reputation ruined with neighbors and friends. If you stood strong and defied HUAC, you might do jail time for contempt of Congress.
By the early 1960s, young people by the thousands protested against HUAC when it started to investigate the anti-war movement. Its power was already beginning to wane. By the late 1960s, radicals looked forward to being called before HUAC. The more flamboyant protesters like Jerry Rubin and Abbie Hoffman ridiculed the committee. People laughed at it. Everyone had contempt of HUAC.
It was not any change in laws that altered the threat of HUAC but a change in the level of struggle and of mass consciousness.
In a similar way today, HR 1955 threatens dissent not just because of its wording but because it signals the intention of the capitalist state to find ways to crack down on opponents. It is important to try to stop it in the Senate, but also to prepare a popular struggle against it, should it pass.
Imagine this scenario. A “Center of Excellence” (it’s hard to write that phrase without quotes) hearing is held to investigate why people become “radicalized.” Protesters are there with picket signs: “I was radicalized when my job was outsourced after 20 years on the production line.” “I became a radical when my home was repossessed.” “I turned left when I was ethnically cleansed from New Orleans.” “I found myself considering violence when I was sent to Iraq to kill civilians.”
It’s a rotten bill. But if it passes—don’t moan, organize.
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SWEEPING NEW BILL (S. 1959) SEEKS TO MAKE ANYONE WHO QUESTIONS THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION OR ITS POLICIES A CRIMINAL
Senate Bill 1959 to Criminalize Thoughts, Blogs, Books and Free Speech Across America The end of Free Speech in America has arrived at our doorstep. It's a new law called the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act, and it is worded in a clever way that could allow the US government to arrest and incarcerate any individual who speaks out against the Bush Administration, the war on Iraq, the Department of Homeland Security or any government agency (including the FDA)
The law has already passed the House on a traitorous vote of 405 to 6, and it is now being considered in the Senate where a vote is imminent.
All over the internet, intelligent people who care about freedom are speaking out against this extremely dangerous law:
• Philip Giraldi at the Huffington Post,
• Declan McCullagh at CNET's News. com,
• Kathryn Smith at OpEdNews. com, and of course
• Alex Jones at PrisonPlanet. com. . .
Continued on NewsTarget.com
DISSENT IN AMERICA TO BE RELABELED 'HOMEGROWN TERRORISM'
Steven Yates / News With Views
On October 23, 2007, the House of Representatives passed what may be the most dangerous bill ever to come down the pike. This bill, like many of its predecessors on our steady march toward totalitarianism, sailed under the radar. There was virtually no publicity or fanfare. Now, the bill has gone to the Senate, and is in committee
The bill is called the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007 (H. R. 1955/S. 1959). The language in this bill is so maddeningly vague it could mean anything. It could therefore be tailored to attack any group opposing national and international policies that have the backing of the corporatist-governmental power system
Consider the definition offered of “violent radicalization ”(from Sec. 899A of the bill being referred to the Senate):
“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 definition alone ought to raise your hackles! What counts as an “extremist belief system‚”?
What constitutes “violence‚”? Either one is anyone’s guess, because nowhere in the bill is the word “extremist‚”defined, nor is “violence‚”defined.
In practice, they will mean whatever federal bureaucrats or others calling the shots want them to mean. What about “facilitating‚”? This is a favorite word in today’s mushy political-correctese. Does it mean “causing‚”? Or merely “encouraging‚”? How much “encouragement‚”?
Consider the definition offered for “homegrown terrorism”: “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.
No examples of “homegrown terrorism‚”are offered.
One could understand a federal proscription against “the use ...of force or violence‚”assuming we know what these amount to. But “planned‚”use? What does this mean? “Planning‚”involves thought, not action. In such ways this bill kicks open the door to the officially sanctioned creation of thought crimes that can be smuggled in under “homegrown terrorism‚”and treated accordingly.
Some critics have therefore dubbed H. R. 1955/S. 1959 as the Thought Crimes Act of 2007. They have spoken of the potential criminalization of dissent in America
There is plenty more in this insidious bill that ought to scare the living daylights out of anyone defending basic freedoms recognized by our Constitution. Sec. 899B of the bill is entitled “Findings‚”and consists of nine numbered paragraphs — all of them legislative land mines. There is no need to look at them all.
“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. “
Again, the bill offers no definition or examples of “terrorist-related propaganda‚”available over the Internet. The phrase could therefore again mean anything those in power want it to mean
Or consider (6): “The potential rise of self radicalized, unaffiliated terrorists domestically cannot be easily prevented through traditional Federal intelligence or law enforcement efforts, and requires the incorporation of State and local solutions.
Read between the lines. H. R. 1955/S. 1959 would accelerate the federalization and militarization of state and local police departments. If this bill becomes law, expect more Taser attacks on ordinary people who haven’t been charged with any crime, but refuse absolute obedience to cops acting like common bullies.
Those paying attention know that there has been an epidemic of such attacks this year, the most recent being on a driver in Utah who declined to sign a traffic ticket and wanted proof that he had been speeding (innocent until proven guilty, correct?).
If this bill becomes law, police militancy will increase, but with incidents sufficiently widely dispersed that few residents will detect the pattern, organize, and demand a stop to it
Sec. 899C of the H. R. 1955/S. 1959 would establish a National Commission on the Prevention of Violent Radicalization and Ideologically Based Violence within the legislative branch. The Commission will consist of ten members appointed by federal officials including the president and the Secretary of Homeland Security.
The bill commands the Commission in mind-numbingly repetitious language:
Examine and report upon the facts and causes of violent radicalization, homegrown terrorism, and ideologically based violence in the United States, including United States connections to non-United States persons and networks, violent radicalization, homegrown terrorism, and ideologically based violence in prison, individual or “lone wolf‚”violent radicalization, homegrown terrorism, and ideologically based violence, and other faces of the phenomena of violent radicalization, homegrown terrorism, and ideologically based violence that the Commission considers important.
The Commission would convene and conduct “studies‚ for 18 months. Very possibly it will rely on such biased sources as the Marxist Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Project, which bills itself as the gold standard for monitoring “hate groups‚ and “extremist‚ activity on U. S. soil.
During this period, grassroots political groups could find themselves compelled for their own protection to do the equivalent of background checks on new members and recruits. Some would doubtless be spies sent by the SPLC or the federal government itself. They would also have to watch what they send out via email, or place on their websites.
Big Brother would be watching‚ especially anything sent to or received from persons based overseas
• http://aftermathnews. wordpress. com/2007/12/05/dissent-in-america-to-be- relabeled-homegrown-terrorism/
• http://us-constitutionalist. blogspot. com/2007/12/dissent-in-america-to- be-relabeled. html
Rights Advocates Target Domestic Terrorism Bill in Senate
Chris Strohm / CongressDaily
WASHINGTON (November 29, 2007) — Several privacy and civil liberties groups are taking aim at legislation targeted at preventing violent radicalization and homegrown terrorism inside the United States.
They fear that it could lead to the criminalization of beliefs, unconstitutional restrictions on speech, racial or religious profiling, and Internet censorship.
On the surface, the House-passed bill, H.R. 1955, may appear innocuous. It would create a commission to examine the causes of violent radicalization, homegrown terrorism and ideologically based violence in the United States, and would make legislative recommendations.
But groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union and National Lawyers Guild argue that the bill's language is too broad and could lead to dangerous recommendations. They also say the language could set the stage for censoring the Internet.
"We are unable to envision a reformulation of this bill that would allow an organization dedicated to the principles of freedom of speech to offer its unqualified support," the ACLU said in a Nov. 21 letter to House Homeland Security Intelligence Subcommittee Chairwoman Jane Harman, D-Calif., the bill's sponsor.
The National Lawyer's Guild and the Society of American Law Teachers also issued a joint statement Tuesday, saying they "strongly oppose this legislation because it will likely lead to the criminalization of beliefs, dissent and protest, and invite more draconian surveillance of Internet communications."
Caroline Fredrickson, the ACLU's top Washington lobbyist, said in an interview that the bill should be geared toward targeted violent behavior, not speech or beliefs. Harman fired back late Wednesday by publicly releasing a letter she wrote to Fredrickson. Harman called the ACLU's position "confusing" because it is unlikely the group would support the bill even if changes were made to it.
"This makes me wonder why you took the time to suggest changes ... and, frankly, whether anything I and committee members have been saying for months is being heard," Harman wrote.
She added: "Because the House has passed [the bill], the focus now shifts to the Senate. But regardless of which chamber is involved, it seems counterproductive to invest more time in further meetings or negotiations when you have announced your steadfast opposition in advance."
Fredrickson said the ACLU worked with Harman and other House lawmakers over several months to make changes to the bill, but not all of them were incorporated. She added that the ACLU would want to see individuals with backgrounds in civil liberties, human rights, privacy and technology serve on the commission.
"I think Democrats need to understand that the ACLU is a nonpartisan organization," Fredrickson said. "We are going to be just as skeptical of Democratic proposals that infringe on civil liberties as we are with Republican proposals. We're an equal opportunity critic."
The ACLU is now focusing its strategy on the Senate, where Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee ranking Republican Susan Collins of Maine has introduced companion legislation, S. 1959. That bill has been referred to the committee.
ACLU Statement on the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007
WASHINGTON, D.C. (November 28, 2007) — The ACLU continues to have serious concerns regarding the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007 (H.R. 1955). Caroline Fredrickson, Director of the Washington Legislative Office of the ACLU said, "Law enforcement should focus on action, not thought. We need to worry about the people who are committing crimes rather than those who harbor beliefs that the government may consider to be extreme."
The framework established by the measure will unavoidably make the focus of the commission the bill creates more likely to lead to unconstitutional restrictions on speech and belief — in addition to more appropriate restrictions on actions.
Experience has demonstrated that the results of such a study will likely be used to recommend the use of racial, ethnic and religious profiling, in the event of a terrorist attack. We believe this approach to be counter-productive, and it will only heighten, rather than decrease, the spread of radicalization.
The ACLU has raised multiple concerns with H.R. 1955 at different points during the last 13 months. We appreciate the steps that have been made to improve the legislation, but we still have reservations.
As an organization dedicated to the principles of freedom of speech, we cannot in good conscience support this or any measure that might lead to censorship and persecution based solely on one’s personal beliefs. Fredrickson explained that during hearings on the legislation called, "Using the Web as a Weapon: the Internet as a Tool for Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism," the focus on the internet was problematic.
"If Congress finds the Internet is dangerous, then the ACLU will have to worry about censorship and limitations on First Amendment activities. Why go down that road?"
The ACLU is working with senators to improve First Amendment and civil liberties protections in the Senate version of the legislation.
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