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rant

overbroad definitions

OK, so antoniseb points us to HR 1955 and S 1959, which are both entitled "Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007". Unless there's something really well hidden in there, I don't think these are an imminent danger to the American Way, but they have some wild definitions:

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.
HOMEGROWN TERRORISM
The term `homegrown terrorism' means 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 or any possession of 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.
IDEOLOGICALLY BASED VIOLENCE
The term `ideologically based violence' means the use, planned use, or threatened use of force or violence by a group or individual to promote the group or individual's political, religious, or social beliefs.

So let's see what these terms really mean in practice. For example, any national government qualifies as a "group". War certainly qualifies as "the use, planned use, or threatened use of force or violence." Most if not all wars, including the Iraq war, are intended "to promote the [national government]'s political, religious, or social beliefs," hence almost all wars qualify as "ideologically based violence."

Now let's consider "homegrown terrorism" in the light of a police officer who sees a suspicious-looking character fleeing the scene of a burglary, mugging, rape, etc. The prevention of such crimes is indisputably "a social objective", check. The police officer is "born, raised, or based and operating primarily within the United States," check. As soon as the police officer pulls a gun and shouts "Stop! Police!", (s)he is threatening the use of violence in order to intimidate or coerce a small segment (maybe one or two people) of the civilian population of the United States, so (s)he has become a Homegrown Terrorist.

The definition of "violent radicalization" depends on the aforementioned definition of "ideologically based violence," as well as on the very subjective notion of "extremist belief system." Some of us might think believing in Saddam Hussein's WMD's in defiance of the evidence and multiple commission reports is an "extremist belief system," and that system did indisputably "facilitate" the initiation of the Iraq war, which as we have already seen is "ideologically based violence," so anybody who adopted or promoted that belief is committing "violent radicalization."

Now, I don't really want to discover ways to "prevent" police officers from apprehending criminal suspects, but that's one of the things this Commission is charged with doing. OTOH, I'd love to see a National Commission look into ways to prevent wars, and most especially ways to prevent the use of extremist propaganda to incite wars. Somehow I don't think that's what they're going to look into :-)

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Comments

The concern I've been echoing is largely in the overbroad definitions, especially as relates to 'planned use' and 'threatened use' to 'intimidate or coerce', to promote political or social agendas.

I don't think that we can rely on this bill to help prevent future Bush-like potentates from engaging in self-serving wars, anymore than we can count on the oath that every member of our armed forces has taken to defend the constitution of the United States against all domestic enemies to save us from people like Dick Cheney or Karl Rove.

The concern is who gets to determine how these overbraod definitions get applied, and to whom. If, after this bill is passed, I write that we need to 'rise up and demand that corporations lose virtual personhood, so that our democracy can be saved', the phrase 'rise up' could be interpreted as advocating the use of force to affect social change. Even if I intended rise up to mean get off your butts and change the opinions of your neighbors through calm and pleasant social discourse, that isn't what I said, and I could be seen as a HOMEGROWN TERRORIST, and couldn't prove otherwise... In fact, I wouldn't (under HR1955) be given the opportunity to try and prove otherwise. I could be whisked away to one of the recently Haliburton-constructed concentration camps anywhere in the US or abroad, and given zero due process. After all, I would be a terrorist, not a human being with rights.

This is my concern.




... I could be seen as a HOMEGROWN TERRORIST, and couldn't prove otherwise... In fact, I wouldn't (under HR1955) be given the opportunity to try and prove otherwise. I could be whisked away to one of the recently Haliburton-constructed concentration camps anywhere in the US or abroad, and given zero due process. After all, I would be a terrorist, not a human being with rights.

Yes, that's a horrible problem, but that's not what this bill says; that's what the USA PATRIOT Act (in its various editions) has already said. USA PATRIOT doesn't depend on or refer to the definition of "homegrown terrorist" in this bill; it depends on somebody in the Justice Department deciding unilaterally that you're a risk to national security.
Right, but this bill provides an overbroad definition of what a homegrown terrorist is.
No argument on that. In fact, I wrote to one of my Senators (the other one is busy running for President), pointing out that a police or corrections officer could easily become a "homegrown terrorist" by doing his/her job -- not that that's what the Commission will actually go after, but it indicates that the definitions are poorly written.
Fantastic! Thank-you.