Do you know whether or not you are a home grown terrorist? You're probably pretty certain you're not. But wait a minute, there is this bill which already passed the House with bipartisan support and is expected to similarly pass the Senate which may define your thoughts a little more harshly then you think...harshly enough to qualify you for that terror thing.
Known sweetly as “Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007” many believe comes dangerously close to making having the wrong thoughts a crime of terror.
The Senate soon will be taking up the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007. Proposed by DEMOCRAT Rep. Jane Harman, of Los Angeles, Calif., the bill amends the existing Homeland Security Act to include individuals born, raised or based in the United States.
Like you and all right thinking Americans I've thought the Homeland Securities Act needed toughening up...not.
The primary objections to the Bill relate to its broad definitions of violent radicalization, homegrown terrorism and ideologically based violence. Sec. 899A defines:
"Violent radicalization" as promoting an "extremist belief system" aimed at facilitating violence "to advance political, religious, or social change"
Ideological violence as "use, or planned use, or threatened use of force or violence" to promote beliefs
Homegrown terrorism as use or planned use of force to "intimidate or coerce the United States government, the civilian population or any segment thereof in furtherance of political or social objectives"
This broad definition could be interpreted to include rallies, sit-ins, protest marches and other traditional forms of dissent.
In fact, the ACLU and others concerned with civil liberties believe that the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007's (I just love to keep saying that - its so 1984) quite vague definitions, broad mandate and minimal oversight could lead to ethnic profiling and censorship based on personal beliefs.
Least you right wingers think well that ACLU crowd is just a bunch of crazy commies anyway, so what do I care. Think again, abortion protesters and those who are not happy with, I don't know, say taxes or gun laws could find themselves in a wee bit of trouble, right along anti-war protesters and animal rights campaigners.
And remember, my American friends, that since the government has pretty well established its right to listen in on you, follow your Internet travels, point cameras your way, you might want to watch your mouth, fingertips, and your friends...if you know what I mean.
But never fear, Sec. 899F of the bill requires that Homeland Security "not violate the constitutional rights, civil rights, or civil liberties of United States citizens or lawful permanent residents." It also would require operations to be conducted with racial neutrality and to be audited by Homeland Security's Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Officer.
I know I feel better already.
Is this the America that you folks in the "Greatest Generation" fought for in World War II?
I don't think so.
This is more like the America that the likes of J. Edgar Hoover, Joe McCarthy (pictured above), and Dick Nixon longed for. The same one Bush and Cheney dream of at night.
Apparently they are not alone.
Only 6 members of the House opposed the original bill that passed there.
Has anyone heard mention of this in any Presidential debates?
The mainstream media has been mostly AWOL on the issue. However, a commentary printed in the Baltimore Sun state the Bill:
"... tramples constitutional rights by creating a commission with sweeping investigative power and a mandate to propose laws prohibiting whatever the commission labels “homegrown terrorism.”
The proposed commission is a menace through its power to hold hearings, take testimony and administer oaths, an authority granted to even individual members of the commission - little Joe McCarthys - who will tour the country to hold their own private hearings. An aura of authority will automatically accompany this congressionally authorized mandate to expose native terrorism."
Ms. Harman’s proposal includes an absurd attack on the Internet, criticizing it for providing Americans with “access to broad and constant streams of terrorist-related propaganda,” and legalizes an insidious infiltration of targeted organizations. The misnamed “Center of Excellence,” which would function after the commission is disbanded in 18 months, gives the semblance of intellectual research to what is otherwise the suppression of dissent."
While its purpose is to prevent terrorism, the bill doesn’t criminalize any specific conduct or contain penalties. But the commission’s findings will be cited by those who see a terrorist under every bed and who will demand enactment of criminal penalties that further restrict free speech and other civil liberties. Action contrary to the commission’s findings will be interpreted as a sign of treason at worst or a lack of patriotism at the least."
While Ms. Harman denies that her proposal creates “thought police,” it defines “homegrown terrorism” as “planned” or “threatened” use of force to coerce the government or the people in the promotion of “political or social objectives.” That means that no force need actually have occurred as long as the government charges that the individual or group thought about doing it."
Those of you who remember, as I well do, those grand jury conspiracy indictments of hippies, pinkos, and commie swine which spread across the country in the 60s and 70s chew on this one for a while. How would you like to be charged with conspiracy to have thought about doing something? I mean back then, at least in theory, you had to do one overt act, it didn't have to be much and it didn't have to be illegal, but still one actual something in the real world which supposedly furthered said conspiracy. This bill gets rid of even that small hurdle. I can see it now. The indictment reads:
Overt Act Number One - On or about March 15, 2009, (your name), thought something ought to be done about this lousy (substitute your issue)...
In the words of Paul Harvey..."Good Day"
The following guest commentary was printed in the Lawrence Journal World (Kansas).
Bill a threat to civil liberties
By Mike Hoeflich
January 2, 2008
As the media daily reports government abuses of individual civil and constitutional rights in the name of the “war against terrorism,” and as the now Democratic-controlled Congress continues to hold public hearings on the worst of these abuses, a new threat to the civil liberties of Americans quietly wends its way through the halls of Congress.
On April 19, 2007, Rep. Jane Harmon, Democrat of California, introduced H.R. 1955 onto the floor of the House of Representatives. On Oct. 24, 2007, this bill, named the “Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007” was passed by a bipartisan majority by the House. Its Senate counterpart, S.1959, introduced by Sen. Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, is now in committee awaiting action. While it is good to see that Congress is still capable of bipartisan activity, one might have hoped that this cooperation would not have extended to this bill.
H.R. 1955 and S. 1959 are designed to establish a new “National Commission on the Prevention of Violent Radicalization and Ideologically Based Violence.” This commission is given broad powers to investigate “homegrown terrorism, ideologically based violence, and violent radicalization” anywhere in the United States. The definitions provided for these activities are frighteningly broad and include both violence against individuals and property as well as coming quite close to creating what some in the media have referred to as “thought crimes.”
Section 899A(2), for instance, defines “violent radicalization” as “the process of adopting or promoting an extremist belief system for the purpose of facilitating ideologically base violence to advance political, religious, or social change.” Sec. 899A(4) includes the “planned use” of “force or violence” within the scope of the commission’s charge. Thus, a group that wishes to promote political, religious, or social change, even though it takes no actions at all, would still be deemed “homegrown terrorists” by this proposed law.
As I read the broad language of this proposed legislation it could easily result in the serious violation of Americans’ First Amendment rights. For instance, would a church group that contemplated a anti-abortion protest that might involve property damage, such as painting graffiti on a clinic’s walls, be deemed a “homegrown terrorist” group? Would an animal rights group that proposed spilling paint on fur coats equally be a “terrorist group?”
What about a student anti-war protest that led to a fistfight between protesters and anti-protest groups? Would these groups also be terrorist groups? This legislation is frighteningly close to that which established the House Un-American Activities Committee, the committee that became the vehicle for Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s reign of terror against freedom of speech and association.
The legislation also calls for establishing “centers of excellence” at universities in the United States, places where the Homeland Security and the new commission could hire faculty experts in such fields as law, sociology, anthropology and other social sciences to work to identify those ideologies that should be considered terroristic. Is this what we want academia to be spending its time doing?
H.R. 1955 passed the House by an overwhelming bipartisan majority. It is very likely to have a similar fate in the Senate and become law unless the American people rise up in protest and tell their senators that they will not tolerate a new era of “McCarthyism.” The time to act is now before it is too late.
— Mike Hoeflich, a distinguished professor in the Kansas University School of Law, writes a regular column for the Journal-World.