Senate Moves Forward on Orwellian
"Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention
by Tom Burghardt
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
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. In addition to publishing
in Covert Action Quarterly, Love & Rage and Antifa Forum,
he is the editor of Police State America: U.S. Military "Civil
Disturbance" Planning, distributed by AK Press.