By an Overwhelming Majority
Congress Brings You…
Thought Control on the Internet
By Michael Collins
Washington, D.C. – Part 1
Cracking the Code – Who’s to Blame for “Violent Radicalization”?
The Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007 passed the U.S. House of Representatives by a 404 to 6 vote on Oct. 23. Not since the Iraq War Resolution have Democrats and Republicans found such a unifying cause. We’re told that House Resolution 1955 (H.R. 1955) will be an essential tool enabling law enforcement to peg the sources of “homegrown terrorism” on the Internet.
The overwhelming bipartisan support makes it no surprise that the legislation presents a significant danger to citizens and the nation. This sentence is the new heart of darkness for free speech.
(2) VIOLENT RADICALIZATION – The term `violent radicalization’ means 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. (Author’s emphasis) (House Resolution 1955)
That one word, “facilitating,” takes the bill beyond aiding the hunt for terrorists on the Internet. It creates an emerging standard for wrongdoing that can be applied to everyone who exercises net-based free speech. Senate 1959, the equivalent of H.R. 1955, is up for consideration now.
Here are some scenarios under the bill that could easily be called “thought crimes”, i.e., “facilitating violent radicalization.”
You post one of these statements on the Internet …
You are extremely upset about what you see as the nation’s most serious problem – illegal immigration. You go to your Internet forum of choice and write a barn burner stating clearly that this administration and Congress are attacking the nation, breaking laws, and a threat to the safety of the people.
You find the deaths of American soldiers and 1.1 million Iraqi civilians totally unacceptable. You go to your Internet forum of choice and write a very strong post accusing the president and his henchmen with war crimes.
You’re a former Reagan official, a “paleo-conservative.” You argue that this administration’s behavior represents tyrannical rule. You write a column published on the Internet where you ask questions about 911: “Who benefits? This question was conspicuously absent from the official investigation.” You answer by naming Bush, Cheney, the Federalist Society and others.
You question the collapse of the WTC towers and conclude by arguing that a major casualty of 911″is the civil liberties that protect Americans from tyranny. President Bush and his corrupt Department of Justice (sic) have declared our constitutional protections to be null and void at the whim of the executive.” Paul Craig Roberts, Sept. 10, 2007
… and a terrorist reads it. That terrorist subsequently commits a violent act. You don’t know the person. You’re not affiliated with him or her in any way. You don’t advocate violence in your post nor do you approve of violence to achieve political goals.
None of that matters. You can be accused of facilitating “violent radicalization,” which this bill specifically implies can be an outcome of flagrant opposition to the administration, even though you really just oppose the current or any future office holders. You’re busted!
The scenario just mentioned is an outcome of H.R. 1955 and the yet-to-be-passed equivalent Senate Resolution 1959.
Rep. Harman’s House committee just released a commentary on H.R. 1955, apparently to stem concerns about their intentions. On the opening page, the report states:
This legislation in no way restricts thought or speech. Both of these are legal activities that should be encouraged by all segments of our society and are welcomed in our system of open debate and dialogue. Radical thinking is not a crime and this legislation does not turn radical thinking into criminal behavior.
The next article on this topic will consider the full report. This language and today’s report are no more convincing than the section of the bill on preserving civil rights. The actual language and evidence used to justify it are the critical concerns. The report does nothing to change those concerns other than to heighten concerns recalling Queen Gertrude’s line in Hamlet: “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.”
Congressional hearing: “…these are conspiracy theories…” and apparently “extremist belief systems.”
Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA) is the chair of the House subcommittee that held hearings on H. R. 1955 (Full video) on Nov. 6, 2007. The bill had already passed in the House by a lopsided vote of 404 to 6 on Oct. 23, 2007. The committee met for just over an hour to consider this complex subject. During the testimony, “think tank” activists portrayed the Internet as a vehicle capable of whipping domestic extremists into a violent frenzy.
Mark Weitzman (right), of the Simon Wiesenthal Center lumped those who question official doctrine on post-2000 foul-ups with “pro-Iraqi” insurgents, a remarkable claim not supported by any evidence. That’s right, by heavy-handed inference, those who seriously doubt the official explanation of 911 and speak up may be part of the domestic groups guilty of “adopting and promoting and extremist belief system.” The witness said
Some of these are conspiracy theories that present a closed view of the world, such as blaming 9/11 as an “outside job” or blaming outside groups such as the U.S. government, or er the Jews etc.; some of these are pro-Iraqi insurgency videos, some of them are media portals that people can enter into, ones that you saw earlier with the flags — the U.S. flags show that thy were based on U.S. servers…” (Video at 1:20)
Weitzman’s testimony was disorganized and not at all persuasive. However, by his words, he associated “pro-Iraqi insurgency” with those who question the official story of 911. Weitzman then showed slides referencing Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth (Video at 5:10) among slides noting real terrorist groups.
The architects and engineers are professionals who list their names and locations on the Web site referenced above. The group seeks scientific inquiry and investigation. The only conflict that they advocate is an open debate on the science of the official 911 story.
Weitzman failed to mention growing public opinion indicating that 45% of citizens want 911 reinvestigated and that nearly as many, 42%, doubt the official version explaining the events of 911.
Political activists with strong stands against the administration and Congress understood what this attack on an activist group might mean to their efforts. This resulted in immediate outrage on both right and left.
The Senate version of this bill was the subject of a committee hearing chaired by Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) in April. This barely caused a stir. But Harman’s maladroit witness created a major controversy in October of this year.
H.R. 1955 authorizes structure to study “homegrown terrorism” and report back to Congress. Aside from the brief “definitions” and “findings” sections, just a few lines, the bill focuses on creating a commission which will, in turn, establish centers of “excellence” to study the supposed phenomenon. Reading the title then the timelines for reporting raises a serious question. If this is such a serious problem, how can Congress wait the 18 months the commission has to make its report?
The architects and engineers group sent a lengthy demand for an apology to Weitzman, noting the stunning inappropriateness of associating their group with any who advocate violence. In his reply, Weitzman backed away from any direct accusation but offered no apology.
We know how the game is played, don’t we? It’s a very crude but effective form of guilt by association and it works. Bush did it before the Iraq invasion by mentioning 911 and Saddam Hussein’s name in the same speech over and over. This caused many to believe Hussein was responsible for 911 and justifying their support for the invasion. When you’re caught you just say, “I never said that!” By that time, the damage is done.
Who’s Really Behind “Violent Radicalization?”
The irony of all this is that those who would fit this definition most clearly, “facilitating violent radicalization,” are the architects of the Iraq war and those in Congress who provide ongoing support through funding.
Here are the inevitable, empirically verified steps to radicalize individuals and groups. Initiate trade sanctions against a nation resulting in the death of 300,000 or more children. Then attack that nation because it has weapons of mass destruction (WMD), which are never found, thus negating the rationale for war. Create and implement a policy that shows disregard to for the safety of its people and their national treasures. Torture and humiliate citizens. And all the while, prolong the conflict even though the war is responsible for the death of over 1.1 million civilians.
Aren’t these the type of actions that would surely “facilitate violent radicalization?” Even with all this, there has been no documented “homegrown terrorism” as a result of political posts on the Internet. However, there can be little doubt that this administration’s war on Iraq is the proximate cause explaining whatever potential exists.
What’s Congress Up To?
Clearly law enforcement needs to go where criminals congregate and needs to investigate, and make arrests. With or without this law, domestic and international criminals will continue to use the Internet for their goals and law enforcement will pursue them.
This bill seems more about those who harshly criticize those in power, elected officials.
Viewed from that perspective, there are at least two goals for this legislation:
1) Chill domestic free speech by loyal, law abiding individuals or as the authors might have thought: “We’re sick and tired of all these letters and accusations. Let’s give them something to think about for a change. Whenever they make these accusations, they’ll have to think about being tagged as a terrorist supporter.”
2) Provide a tool to defame those who get too far out of line. They now have words to use against those Internet “trouble causers” who demand impeachment, say Congress is grossly negligent, call the war a travesty, etc., or as they might have thought: We’ll be able to use ‘facilitating homegrown terrorism’ to shut down these people whenever we want. Who wants to even log on to a site that’s associated with helping terrorists? All we have to do is make the charge.”
H.R.1955 is an affront to the intelligence of all citizens. It’s a disgrace to those who conceived it and serious mistake by those who voted for it. A majority of citizens now know the big lies about the Iraq War. They’re also smart enough to know nonsense legislation with stealth intentions of a controlling kind, if they ever get to hear the full story.
There is still a last minute chance to stop this in the Senate (S. 1959). The Senate “thought crimes” bill may be camouflaged in some other legislation, never debated, and passed before we know it. But feedback tells the Senate that the public is aware of this latest step to dismantle Constitutional rights in the name of antiterrorism.
The Loyal Opposition
There was opposition to this bill that also constituted a bipartisan coalition. The following six U.S. Representatives voted no in the face of assured criticism by their opponents in 2008 and no discernible political gain.
Voted “Nay” (no) on H. R. 1955
Neil Abercrombie (D-HI), Jerry Costello (D-IL), John Duncan (R-TN),
Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA)
What disturbs me most about this legislation is that it leaves the door wide open for the broadest definition of what constitutes “radicalization.” Could otherwise nonviolent anti-tax, anti-war, or anti-abortion groups fall under the watchful eye of this new government commission? Assurances otherwise in this legislation are unconvincing. Ron Paul (R-TX)
“If you understand what his bill does, it really sets the stage for further criminalization of protest. This is the way our democracy little, by little, by little, is being stripped away from us.”
“It probably should have been H.R. 1984. Because what they were doing… is they were trying to criminalize thought… Dennis Kucinich (D-OH)
Passed 404-6: H.R. 1955 Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007
Understanding H.R. 1955: The Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007 Majority Staff, Committee on Homeland Security, Dec. 17, 2007
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