Wednesday, April 9, 2008

DEMOCRATS MOVING TO PASS ANOTHER THOUGHT CONTROL BILL

WILLIAM FISHER, IPS Civil libertarians are worried that a little-known anti-terrorism bill now making its way through the U.S. Congress with virtually no debate could be planting the seeds of another USA Patriot Act, which was hurriedly enacted into law after the al Qaeda attacks of Sep. 11, 2001. The Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act, co-authored by the former chair of the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, Jane Harmon, a California Democrat, passed the House by an overwhelming 400-6 vote last month, and will soon be considered by the Senate.

The bill's co-author is Republican Congressman David Reichert of Washington State. The Senate version is being drafted by Susan Collins of Maine, the ranking Republican on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, which is chaired by the hawkish Connecticut independent, Sen. Joe Lieberman. Harmon is chair of the House Homeland Security Intelligence Subcommittee.

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

Harman's bill would convene a 10-member national commission to study 'violent radicalization' (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').

The bill also directs the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security to designate a university-based research 'centre of excellence' where academics, policy-makers, members of the private sector and other stakeholders can collaborate to better understand and prevent radicalization and homegrown terrorism. Some experts are concerned that politics will unduly influence which institution DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff will designate.

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