Barack Obama sits on the Senate Homeland Security Committee, which is presently hearing S. 1959, the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007. This bill is as dangerous to Civil Liberties as the Patriot Act. How will he vote?
The Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act(s) of 2007
S. 1959 (Collins, R-Maine), the “Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007” was introduced into the Senate on August 2, 2007, calling for (1) a short-term National Commission on the Prevention of Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism, and for other purposes, and (2) a long-term university-based Center of Excellence for the Study of Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism in the United States.
S. 1959 is presently in the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, which includes no California Senators, but does include Barack Obama, who first indicated support to some constituents but now is undecided.
A companion bill with the same name and provisions, HR 1955 (Harman, D-CA), passed the US House on Oct 23, 2007 by a 404 to 6 margin, under a suspension of the rules to shorten debate.
The bills define “homegrown terrorism” as “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”
The bills define “ideologically based violence” as “the use, planned use, or threatened use of force or violence by a group or individual to promote the group or individual’s political, religious, or social beliefs,”
These provisions would allow participants in strikes, demonstrations, boycotts, and civil disobedience to be charged with homegrown terrorism, along with those who planned, promoted, and worked on such events.
The bills define “violent radicalization” as “adopting or promoting an extremist belief system,”
The University-based Center will “conduct research on the motivational factors that lead to violent radicalization and homegrown terrorism” and
“use theories, methods and data from the social and behavioral sciences to better understand the origins, dynamics, and social and psychological aspects of violent radicalization and homegrown terrorism”
The Commission will “... hold hearings and sit and act at such times and places, take such testimony, receive such evidence, and administer such oaths as the Commission considers advisable to carry out its duties.”
These provisions would allow thought itself to be legally subject to federal investigation and potentially punishable as violent.
The Commission will make recommendations on “measures that can be taken to prevent violent radicalization, homegrown terrorism, and ideologically based violence from developing and spreading within the United States” and
“the feasibility of a Homeland Security grant program for “preventing, disrupting, and mitigating effects of violent radicalization, homegrown terrorism, and ideologically based violence,”
The University-based Center will “assist homeland security officials of Federal, State, local, and tribal governments through training, education, and research in preventing violent radicalization and homegrown terrorism in the United States”
These provisions would allow government agencies to infiltrate and disrupt social justice advocacy organizations, in effect recreating the FBI’s COINTELPRO programs with new legal justification as well as academic power and prestige.
The University-based Center’s power to infiltrate suspected organizations would allow the government to compile lists of homegrown terrorism suspects that could be kept secret and used years later. In 1950 FBI planned to suspend habeas corpus and indefinitely detain 12,000 radicals from a list the FBI had been compiling since 1948 with the Attorney General’s permission.
Government infiltration, spying, interference, and disruption of social justice movements have a long history, such as the 1880s local police using Pinkerton agents as labor spies, the 1920s Palmer raids and deportation of Syndicalists, the 1950s McCarthy period, and more recently the Black Panthers , anti-Vietnam War efforts, the civil rights movement, Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), the American Indian Movement, and Puerto Rican independence groups.
Government attempts to intimidate workers by declaring their strikes to be forceful coercion against national security occurred as recently as the Oakland dockworker’s strike for health benefits in 2002.
Formation of the Commission and the university-based Center as a Homeland Security operation with strong legal expertise, and the bills’ mandate to make Homeland Security and the Constitution compatible runs the risk of bending the Constitution to meet the needs of Homeland Security rather than the other way around.
Several national organizations have expressed concern about H.R. 1955/S. 1959, including the National Lawyers Guild, the Society of American Law Teachers, the Center for Constitutional Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Bill of Rights Defense Committee.
These laws are being deceptively packaged as progressive in both the House and Senate, with references to respecting the Constitution and civil liberties, not targeting particular races or ethnicities, and referring to dangers of white supremacists, while at the same time conflating anti-globalization and environmental activists with jihadists, and by these means have gained support of liberal legislators like Sheila Jackson Lee, Barbara Lee, Jerry McNerney, and many others.
For all of these reasons, it is essential that S. 1959, The “Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007,” be defeated. It is currently in the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, which has Senators from Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois (BARACK OBAMA), Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Minnisota, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Virginia. Contact them and let them know we will not stand for being criminalized for political activity.