Senate Moves Forward on Orwellian “Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act”

In the wake of Senator Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) and Susan Collins’ (R-ME) alarmist report, “Violent Islamist Extremism, the Internet, and the Homegrown Terrorism Threat,” the Senate may be moving towards passage of the Orwellian “Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007” (S. 1959).

A companion piece of legislative flotsam to the House bill, “The Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007” (H.R. 1955), the Democrat-controlled Congress seems ready to jettison Constitutional guarantees of free speech and assembly. The bill passed the House by a 404-6 vote in October. Twenty-three congress members abstained, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers.

Under cover of studying “violent radicalization,” both bills would broaden the already-fluid definition of “terrorism” to encompass political activity and protest by dissident groups, effectively criminalizing civil disobedience and non-violent direct action by developing policies for “prevention, disruption and mitigation.”

Call it COINTELPRO 2.0.

Crafted by former House Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Jane Harman (D-CA), the legislation would create a domestic commission, a university-based “Center of Excellence” that would study and then, target domestic “radicalization” as a “threat” to the “homeland.”

David Price, a professor of anthropology at St. Martin’s University who studies state surveillance and the harassment of dissident scholars, told Jessica Lee of New York’s Indypendent newspaper last year that Harman’s bill “is a shot over the bow of environmental activists, animal-rights activists, anti-globalization activists and scholars who are working in the Middle East who have views that go against the administration.”

Evoking disquieting memories of political witchhunters ensconced in the House Committee on Un-American Activities and Senator Joseph McCarthy’s Senate Subcommittee on Investigations, the anti-radicalization commission would be empowered to “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.”

With the power to subpoena and compel testimony from anyone, the commission would create the (intended) impression that a person forced to publicly testify before a congressionally mandated star chamber must be involved in “subversive” or illegal activities.

According to Naomi Spencer,

The commission would be composed of appointees, one chosen each respectively by Bush, Homeland Security secretary Michael Chertoff, the Senate and House majority and minority leaders, and by the ranking majority and minority members of the two congressional homeland security committees. Such a selection process would certainly result in an extremely right-wing panel.US House passes Democrat-crafted ‘homegrown terrorism prevention’ legislation,” World Socialist Web Site, 1 December 2007.

When one considers that elite consensus favoring “muscular” strategies for fighting “terror”–homegrown or otherwise–emerge during a period when the Bush regime has illegally wiretapped phone calls, sifted e-mails, spied on political and religious organizations, and conducted extensive data mining of financial and other personal records, it becomes clear that the corporate police state is shifting into high-gear in a desperate move to criminalize ideological “thought crimes.”

The intent of the proposed legislation, however, goes far beyond an academic exercise. According to Jessica Lee, Harman stated that “the National Commission [will] propose to both Congress and [Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael] Chertoff initiatives to intercede before radicalized individuals turn violent.”

In the context of the post-Constitutional “New Normal” paradigm, Harman and her acolytes evoke images of Philip K. Dick’s Department of Precrime in his dystopian novella, The Minority Report. Only here, in the bizarro world of outsourced “homeland security,” mutant precogs are replaced by high-end–and taxpayer funded–data-miners, psychological profilers and social network analysts in the employ of dodgy security firms linked to America’s military-intelligence complex.

The legislation specifically singles out the Internet as a “weapon” for domestic radicalization. When she introduced her bill to the Senate last November, Harman remarked, “There can be no doubt: the Internet is increasingly being used as a tool to reach and radicalize Americans and legal residents.”

Equating America’s web-surfacing habits with the threat of ideological infection by Islamist pod-people, Harman avers that the Internet allows Americans “to become indoctrinated by extremists and to learn how to kill their neighbors … from the comfort of their own living rooms.”

(Britney, Paris, better move over… there’s a new truck-bombing instructional posted over on YouTube! OMG!)

Harman’s ludicrous pronouncement is considerably ramped-up by the Lieberman and Collins report, based on–what else– “expert testimony” during hearings held by the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.

Lieberman and Collins claim that,

…the report assesses the federal government’s response to the spread of the violent Islamist message on the Internet and concludes that there is no cohesive and comprehensive outreach and communications strategy in place to confront this threat. The report does not discuss relevant classified tools and tactics employed by the law enforcement and intelligence communities, but does recognize that there is no plan to harness all possible resources including adopting new laws, encouraging and supporting law enforcement and the intelligence community at the local, state, and federal levels, and more aggressively implementing an outreach and counter-messaging campaign on the Internet and elsewhere.

In other words, “independent” Democrat Lieberman and “maverick Republican” Collins are proposing new “tools” for regulating the Internet through a counter-propaganda campaign that would create “message force multipliers” that “support law enforcement” initiatives to crush the radical “threat.”

By targeting the Internet, House and Senate thought police claim that “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.”

But as the American Civil Liberties Union wrote last week,

Experience has demonstrated that in the event of a terrorist attack, the results of this report will likely be used to recommend the use of racial, ethnic and religious profiling. This will only heighten, rather than decrease, the spread of extremist violence. As an organization dedicated to the principles of freedom of speech, we cannot in good conscience support this report or any measure that might lead to censorship and persecution based solely on one’s personal beliefs.

The ACLU is concerned that identifying the Internet as a tool for terrorists will lead to censorship and regulated speech — especially since the Internet has become an essential communications and research tool for everyone. Indeed, some policy makers have advocated shutting down objectionable websites in violation of the First Amendment. It is an unworkable solution.American Civil Liberties Union, “ACLU Skeptical of Senate Report on ‘Homegrown’ Terrorism,” Press Release, May 8, 2008.

Precisely. But wait, there’s more! Citing the New York City Police Department (NYPD) as “experts” in the area of “homegrown radicalism,” the report avers:

After more than two years of research into homegrown terrorism cases in the United States and around the world, the New York City Police Department (NYPD) developed a model to explain how this core enlistment message, and the “jihadi-Salafi” ideology that provides the foundation for that message, drive the domestic radicalization process — transforming “unremarkable people” into terrorists.

Perhaps Lieberman and Collins should have consulted the family of Sean Bell as to the NYPD’s “expertise” on analogous crime “modeling.” Murdered by trigger-happy cops after a bachelor party the morning of his wedding, Bell’s life was snuffed-out after he and his friends were shot some 50 times. The cops–surprise!–were recently found “not guilty” on all counts by a New York judge.

We can dismiss senatorial allusions to NYPD’s acumen in the area of “counterterrorist analysis” with the contempt it deserves. But let’s be clear on one thing: the sole purpose of the “Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act” is to target the American people’s constitutionally-protected right to say No.

If the U.S. House and Senate care to examine the “root causes” of terrorism today, they need look no further than the on-going U.S. slaughter in Iraq–a “preemptive” war of choice to which they infamously gave their consent with eyes wide open.

Tom Burghardt is a researcher and activist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. His articles are published in many venues. He is the editor of Police State America: U.S. Military "Civil Disturbance" Planning, distributed by AK Press. Read other articles by Tom, or visit Tom's website.

13 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Thomas Mc said on May 15th, 2008 at 8:28am #

    Dictatorship Happens

  2. catherine said on May 15th, 2008 at 11:04am #


    You know how some humorists identify members of Congress, such as Stevens (Asshole – Alaska); or Boehner (Boner – Ohio). Well, when I started your article I thought you were doing it with Lieberman and read it at Lieberman (Idiot – Connecticut.) Because lord knows he’s so far from an Independent that it’s not the first word that comes to mind. And, also, because he’s an idiot, which does come to mind.

    Also, “Islamist pod–people” – splendid term. So much more interesting than the boring old “Islamofascist.”

    Anyway, thanks for scaring the hell out of me. I didn’t know about this (well, generally I know what’s going to be happening for a very long time, but didn’t know about this bill) and hadn’t been terrified yet today. So, yeah, thanks.

  3. catherine said on May 15th, 2008 at 11:08am #

    Uh, that would be “read it AS Lieberman (Idiot – Connecticut). Sorry.

  4. Andy White said on May 15th, 2008 at 4:24pm #

    Those who make peaceful revolutions impossible make violent revolutions inevitable.

  5. Tom Burghardt said on May 15th, 2008 at 4:44pm #

    Glad you found the piece informative, Catherine. The bill is even worse than I’ve explored. Strongly urge you to link to Jessica Lee’s excellent article on published by the Indypendent newspaper.

    The “Islamist pod-people” phrase was a play on the original 1956 Cold War sci-fi film, Invasion of the Body Snatchers. When aliens (in the form of beautiful, seemingly benign flowers) invade earth, strange things start to happen. When you go to sleep, giant pods form that duplicate, and then dispose of, your body. You’re left affectlessless, without an emotional bone in your “body,” but a completely conforming member of the “New (alien) Order.”

    Now, that’s what I call being “on-message”! 🙂

  6. serena1313 said on May 15th, 2008 at 11:23pm #

    I had read about this some time ago, but I thought it was dead. This is very, very disturbing. Thank you for informing us.

    I do not know about other servers, but ComCast is known for blocking political emails. They have been caught at least two or three times. So I assume censorship is only a prelude of what is to come.

    How is this possible in America ! Damn I never dreamt anything like this would happen here.

    While neither Lieberman nor Collins come at any surprise, but I presumed Harman had come to her senses after her bill was defeated, but apparently she had no intention of giving up. I want to know her incentive: fear or “reward” a certain corporation? Who benefits? Does she really believe this nonsense! This is absurd.

    Did the bill pass both Houses?

    I’ll say this:

    Bush & Cheney put in place the same mechanisms as others have in the past that close open societies. Since they have yet to be cemented in place we still have a window of opportunity. Thought you ought to know.

    It is my belief, from everything I have read, if McCain is, god forbid, elected things will get worse, much worse. America will never be the same again. We can kiss what little is left of our freedom, human rights, women’s rights and civil rights good-bye.

    Iam still in shock that the bill even passed … i just hope not by both houses. If this doesn’t set off alarms, bells and whistles I do not know what will!

  7. Scarecrow said on May 16th, 2008 at 9:20am #

    this will make what we are doing RIGHT here .. Illeagal! We must stop this as it IS the end of our free society… for more info on this & all the OTHER bad laws see this film:

    from site:
    “WASHINGTON, YOU’RE FIRED!” was born out of sheer frustration with abuses in our current political system and it gives a voice to Americans across the country.

    From the mismanagement of Hurricane Katrina rescue efforts and law enforcement abuses to the wrongful imprisonment and torturing of legal enemy combatants and misuse of the FBI and NSA — nothing is taboo in this disturbing look at the last seven years of fundamentally flawed terror-related spy bills, how they affect you, and what you can do about it.

    Bills such as the USA PATRIOT Act, the Military Commissions Act, and the John Warner Defense Act have crippled the U.S. Constitution and have weakened the liberties that Americans once thought they could never lose. The loss of Habeas Corpus and Posse Comitatus, coupled with a new definition of “torture” are just the tip of the Orwellian iceberg. If enacted, HR 1955 will for the first time put “thought crime” laws on the books, robbing citizens of their right to freedom of conscience thought.

    The American people know in their hearts that a problem exists in our current political structure and their solutions are simple, direct, and honest. Washington, You’re Fired captures the spirit and zest of an old fashioned Boston tea party and captivatingly delivers the audience an education into legislation that will affect them and generations of Americans to come.

    This is a film every American should see and show to everyone they can before its too late!

  8. catherine said on May 16th, 2008 at 10:33am #

    Invasion of the Body Snatchers – one of all-time best sci-fi flicks/books.
    Will look up Lee’s article.

  9. Wendy said on May 16th, 2008 at 12:12pm #

    Does anyone know how Obama voted on this thing?

    As an animal rights activist I am very terrorized by this bill.

    Does anyone know what we can do to stop it?

    My senators don’t care about me – both are republican – and “my” representative’s office doesn’t even have the courtesy to reply to the letters I write on behalf of non-humans, women and starving people (that would be Heath Shuler).

    Is this Germany 1934 or am I in a time warp?

  10. Tom Burghardt said on May 17th, 2008 at 8:03am #

    The bill passed the House, as I wrote, by a 404-6 (!) vote back in October but is currently “stalled” in the Senate. Given the fact that both bills (H.R. 1955) and (S. 1959) have generated almost zero publicity in the corporate media, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if it was passed in the dead of night at the end of the current session.

    If history is any judge of Democratic party “opposition” to the Bushist agenda, Clinton/Obama will either vote in favor or be “absent” entirely. Remember, the House bill was crafted by a reputed “liberal,” Jane Harman, not a died-in-the-wool Republican neanderthal.

    Unfortunately, this is the price paid by the anemic U.S. “left”–including the unions–for continuing to support the bankrupt Democratic party.

  11. Joy said on May 21st, 2008 at 7:04am #

    Given how little time Bush has left in office, if this thing ever makes it out of committee, it’d be unlikely he, or Chertoff, would be appointing anyone. Ultimately, how one feels about this legislation may depend on whether or not they believe that the US /has/ any domestic terrorism. What about Oklahoma City? Of course, those enforcing may not distinguish between different groups and agendas…

    Party affiliation is meaningless. Follow the money.

  12. Anton said on September 4th, 2008 at 9:14am #

    I had discovered this putrid legislation in early November of 07.
    Isn’t it nice that we have such a vigilent media, asking the tough questions, and informing the public of abuses of power by their
    government ? This infomation was ignored so blatently, I’d have
    better luck digging up my ass and finding gold.

    If the senate passes this crud and it becomes law, then any utterance
    or discourging word about public or private policy that differs from
    the status quo, would be deemed crimminally actionable. The state
    could then intern anyone for justifiablely calling this or future admin-
    strations out as the caitiffs they are.

    I had thought only psychologists were the ones who labeled individ-
    uals or group mentally sick or twisted when they disagreed with the
    abuse of power by any public or private group or individual. That
    was a many moons ago when I believed that. When I reached the age
    of reason and thought for myself, I realized that marginalization and
    vilification toward any who diagreed with the status quo, no matter
    how obviously oppressive or murderous, is their way of thinning the
    herd of non-conformists.

    It isn’t enough to state “I simply disgree with you, You bulling F–k!”.
    You must submit to their edicts or the state will destroy you, soci-
    ally, economically, or phsyically. Anyone who diagrees with this
    is the house slave for the system.

    So this is my personnal solution. All who feign propriety, decency, or
    delicacy, but who are in fact lying, thieving, murderous bastards,
    I won’t assist in any way toward their survival. Even if I were to see
    them on the street, looking tired, hungry, and weak. I’m going walk
    on by and let them die. Because they’re warmongering lies. Even Jesus
    may understand if I just let them die, and walk on by.

    This is a course of inaction toward the bullies and crimminals one can
    and will encounter throughout their lifetime. If these inbreeders can
    play god with the people, then We The People can play god with anyone of them.

  13. Little Brother | Alterati: The GSpot- The Inside Look at the Outside Culture said on November 9th, 2009 at 11:03am #

    […] This is a great book on an important topic – a discussion that has in some ways been swept under the rug under the guise of ‘national security’. And it’s good in another way, too – there are days when things seem so bad that on some level I’m actually shocked that this book got published at all. Not completely shocked, mind you. I don’t honestly think we’ve descended into a world of thoughtcrime, but there are days when I think that’s where we’re headed. […]