Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Better Watch Those Radical Thoughts, Folks

If you thought the Patriot Act was bad, just consider how much worse it could get with the “Patriot Act Lite,” which would give the government the right to crack down on thought. It’s called “The Violent Radicalisation and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act,” and it’s already passed in the US House of Representatives with a 400-6 vote (kind of makes you wonder, doesn’t it?). The Senate version was written by Joe Lieberman and Jane Harmon and is being pushed by Susan Collins. William Fisher in an article for the Inter Press Service,
Civil Libertarians Warn of ‘Patriot Act Lite,’

Civil liberties groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), say the measure could herald a new government crackdown on dissident activity and infiltration of universities under the guise of fighting terrorism.

The CCR’s Kamau Franklin, a Racial Justice Fellow, told IPS, ‘This measure looks benign enough, but we should be concerned about where it will lead. It may well result in recommendations for new laws that criminalise radical thought and peaceful dissent, posing as academic study.’

Franklin added, ‘Crimes such as conspiracy or incitement to violence are already covered by both state and federal statute. There is no need for additional criminal laws.’

He speculated that Congress ‘may want to get this measure passed and signed into law to head off peaceful demonstrations’ at the upcoming Republican and Democratic Party conventions. ‘And no Congressperson of either political party wants to vote against this bill and get labeled as being soft on terrorism.’

Harman’s bill would convene a 10-member national commission to study ‘violent radicalisation’ (defined as ‘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’) and ‘homegrown terrorism’ (defined 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 […] 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’).

Although the politicians are claiming the bill is “benign,”

the bill’s purpose goes beyond academic inquiry. In a Nov. 7 press release, Harman said, ‘the National Commission [will] propose to both Congress and Chertoff initiatives to intercede before radicalised individuals turn violent.’

According to the Centre for Constitutional Rights, the commission ‘will focus in on passing additional federal criminal penalties that are sweeping and inclusive in criminalising dissent and protest work more surveillance on thought rather than on actions. Further, this bi-partisan attempt can set the ground for an even more acquiescent Congress to presidential power, never wanting to look weak on terrorism.’

The commission would be tasked with compiling information about what leads up to violent radicalisation, and how to prevent or combat it with the intent to issue a final report with recommendations for both preventative and countermeasures.

If the bill isn’t about policing thought itself, it’s a mystery why it’s being proposed, since

critics point out that the bill would duplicate work already being done in and out of government.

For example, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) already has a domestic terrorism unit; the U.S. intelligence community monitors the homegrown terrorists and overseas networks that might be reaching out to U.S. residents; and many universities and think-tanks are already specialising in studying the subject.

So naturally,

groups like the CCR are wondering what exactly is meant by ‘an extremist belief system’.

‘The term is left undefined and open to many interpretations — socialism, anarchism, communism, nationalism, liberalism, etc. — that would serve to undermine expressions that don’t fit within the allowable areas of debate. A direct action led by any group that blocks traffic can be looked upon as being coercive,’ CCR says.

The bill says the Internet has aided in facilitating violent radicalisation, ideologically based violence, and the homegrown terrorism process in the U.S. by providing access to ‘broad and constant streams of terrorist-related propaganda to U.S. citizens.’

Gah. So what is it that happens to people after they're sworn into federal office? Do you suppose that on election to Congress every new freshman (excepting he or she who refuse and then gets locked out of The Clubhouse) undergoes a secret initiation ceremony that includes a lobotomy? Or are they immediately replaced with Stepford Senators and Stepford Representatives? Sounds bizarre, but it would explain their absolutely brainless acquiescence to the sacking and looting of the citizenry and the destruction of the constitution that they've supposedly taken an oath to uphold.

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