Thursday, December 27, 2007

Homegrown terrorism act = Thought Police = Big Brother

Police in thought pursuit offers a good beginning point for considering the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 20007 (Act). The bill hasn't passed, but "the bill passed the House of Representatives on Oct. 23 by a 404-6 vote under a rule suspension that curtailed debate. To borrow from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, the First Amendment should not distract Congress from doing important business. The Senate companion bill (S. 1959)... has encountered little opposition" and the article describes it as "probably the greatest assault on free speech and association in the United States since the 1938 creation of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) .. Denuded of euphemisms and code words, the Act aims to identify and stigmatize persons and groups who hold thoughts the government decrees correlate with homegrown terrorism... The Act will inexorably culminate in a government listing of homegrown terrorists or terrorist organizations without due process; a complementary listing of books, videos, or ideas that ostensibly further "violent radicalization;" and a blacklisting of persons who have intersected with either list.". I suspect this web site would become enshrined in their records, right? The article was published, however, in the Washington Times, notoriously owned by the Rev. Moon and therefore a suspect news organ.

The status page (on Thomas.loc.gov) makes it clear this bill passed in the House of Representatives overwhelmingly, but under a suspension of the rules. I'll note three votes in particular. Kucinich voted against this, and both Conyers and Ron Paul did not vote.

It's current status is that it passed in the House of Representatives, overwhelmingly, and was referred to the Senate, where they've sent it to the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. The sponsor is Sen Collins, Susan M., and sole cosponsor is Sen Coleman, Norm.

The bill defines

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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

Those are interesting definitions. And I noted reading the House 'Debate' (links below) that some Representatives expressed 'shock' that not all 'terrorists' are foreigners. Um, what do you think about those who in the 1990's were murdering abortion doctors? They were publishing lists of abortion doctors, with home addresses, home telephone numbers, etc, and suggesting those people should be murdered in order to stop the murder of children through abortion. What do you think about the protests against 'Fags' or the attacks on Jewish synagogues or the Oklahoma City bombing? What do you think of the episodes over the last years where nooses were placed in ways that would remind the Negro Americans of the Lynchings in the past? And what would you think of ecology activists who torch Hummer dealerships and thereby get labeled as ecoterrorists?

These Congressmen, I suggest, are feigning shock or else have a very poor memory.

Terrorism is a military strategy. There isn't a set group of people who are terrorists. Terrorism is a strategy chosen all around the world by peoples who have no other means to express their rage and desire for change. I suspect that in the 1770's the British who were attacked by, for example, having tea shipments tossed into Boston Harbor, thought that those people were terrorists (the word 'Terrorist' hadn't been invented at the time, and they would have used some other word). The forefathers of the United States of America promoted the use of violence to achieve political change, yet they are extolled as leading lights and essentially freedom fighters.

One mans terrorist is another mans freedom fighter.

In the Findings they state

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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

Hmm, so I suppose that one consequence of this, if it were to become law, would be a clampdown on peoples freedom to publish on the Internet. However the Findings also state
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Any measure taken to prevent violent radicalization, homegrown terrorism, and ideologically based violence and homegrown terrorism in the United States should not violate the constitutional rights, civil rights, or civil liberties of United States citizens or lawful permanent residents

Pardon me if I don't receive much comfort from that statement. At least they are including in this proposed law guarantees of continued civil rights, but this reminds me of the saying that the cost of living in a Democracy is eternal vigilance against losing the Democracy.

The bill calls for the establishment within the legislative branch of the Government the National Commission on the Prevention of Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism. It would report on

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the facts and causes of violent radicalization, homegrown terrorism, and ideologically based violence in the United States, including United States connections to non-United States persons and networks, violent radicalization, homegrown terrorism, and ideologically based violence in prison, individual or `lone wolf' violent radicalization, homegrown terrorism, and ideologically based violence, and other faces of the phenomena of violent radicalization, homegrown terrorism, and ideologically based violence that the Commission considers important.

The bill calls for

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The Secretary of Homeland Security shall establish or designate a university-based Center of Excellence for the Study of Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism in the United States (hereinafter referred to as `Center') following the merit-review processes and procedures and other limitations that have been previously established for selecting and supporting University Programs Centers of Excellence.

With the purpose
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It shall be the purpose of the Center to study the social, criminal, political, psychological, and economic roots of violent radicalization and homegrown terrorism in the United States and methods that can be utilized by Federal, State, local, and tribal homeland security officials to mitigate violent radicalization and homegrown terrorism

The bill calls for

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International Effort- The Secretary shall, in cooperation with the Department of State, the Attorney General, and other Federal Government entities, as appropriate, conduct a survey of methodologies implemented by foreign nations to prevent violent radicalization and homegrown terrorism in their respective nations

Elsewhere in the bill they recognize that other countries, such as Ireland, the United Kingdom, and Israel, all have significant experience with homegrown terrorism, and that the U.S. can learn from them.

Finally, in SEC. 899F. PROTECTING CIVIL RIGHTS AND CIVIL LIBERTIES WHILE PREVENTING IDEOLOGICALLY BASED VIOLENCE AND HOMEGROWN TERRORISM the bill calls for auditing to prevent this bill from being abused to target specific racial groups, and that it not be used to degrade existing civil liberties.

In general the legislation does not specify any new crime definitions nor does it specify any new penalties. Instead it calls for the establishment of commissions to study the problem. I suppose though the fear is that these commissions will come up with some kind of expected information, that there are grave dangers to U.S. Society from something or other, and that therefore they will recommend the establishment of a thought police and actually outlaw us from thinking certain things. In other words the threat in this case is a potential future where the government has given itself the right to outlaw our thoughts and enforce somehow that we cannot think about certain things.

The Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act Offers an excellent tour through the history, in the United States, of fear-mongering legislation in the United States directed against groups and individuals believed to threaten the established order.

Democracy Now, November 20, 2007; Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act Raises Fears of New Government Crackdown on Dissent is an interview by Amy Goodman (Democracy Now) with Jessica Lee and Kamau Karl Franklin discussing this bill. They raise alarm over the potential uses of this bill given the broad language used in the definitions. While Philip Giraldi (above) thinks the most likely target of this bill are the Muslims, the bill does contain broad definitions that could be applied to anybody. For example ecological protesters often attempt block activities like logging by chaining themselves to trees, or forming human chains that would block logging trucks and crews from entering the forest. These activities could be labeled as promoting violence.

Specifically interesting are these snippets connecting the bill with the Rand Corporation. Especially as the bills sponsor, Rep. Jane Harmon, has in her district the headquarters of the Rand Corporation.

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I found was a great influence by the Rand Corporation, which is a government affiliated think tank. Twice, Brian Michael Jenkins, who is an expert on terrorism, gave testimony in the House on this bill....the Rand Corporation’s other reports in 2005, they had a report called “Trends in Terrorism”. And they had one chapter called “Homegrown Terrorism Threats”. When you look in that chapter, there’s nothing about political Islamists. In fact, its all about anti- globalization people on the right and left side of the spectrum. The animal rights and the environmental movements; and anarchists....the Rand comment, particularly with Brian Michael Jenkins, supposed terrorist expert who’s mainly known according to Rand as someone who helped the United States in counter-insurgency measures in Vietnam, which is one of his claims to fame. In addition to that, he wrote a book and in his own book... that says “in their international campaign, the Jihadist will seek common ground with leftist, anti-American and anti-globalization forces who will in turn seek radical Islam comrades against a mutual foe.”

The Democracy Now report references a Center for Constitutional Rights report: Factsheet: Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007

NATIONAL LAWYERS GUILD AND SOCIETY OF AMERICAN LAW TEACHERS STRONGLY OPPOSE HOMEGROWN TERRORISM PREVENTION ACT

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On October 23, 2007, the House of Representatives passed the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007 by a vote of 404-6. The bill will be referred out of committee this week and will then go to the Senate floor. The National Lawyers Guild and the Society of American Law Teachers strongly oppose this legislation because it will likely lead to the criminalization of beliefs, dissent and protest, and invite more draconian surveillance of Internet communications.

In Congress' "anti-extremist" bill targets online thoughtcrime documents some instances of 'mission creep' related to this area. An actual example from the Alabama Department of Homeland Security states domestic terrorists are those Americans who say the "U.S. government is infringing on their individual rights, and/or that the government's policies are criminal and immoral." He goes on to suggest Al Gore would be labeled this way because he has made several speeches claiming the U.S. Government is following stupid illegal policies. Part of the Civil Liberties we have is the right to criticize the government. Fortunately the proposed law preserves existing civil liberties, but what if the commissions were to recommend that some civil liberties are threats against the government? Hurm.

Jessica Lee posted “Homegrown Terrorism” Bill Update outlining further information and activities related to this bill. It appears there is a growing movement to pressure the Senate committee to kill the bill.

On The Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act: A Tutorial in Orwellian Newspeak goes through the bill looking for 'Orwellian' language. For example the bill starts with 'AN ACT - To prevent homegrown terrorism, and for other purposes', and that phrase 'other purposes' is more than suspicious.

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Future “other purposes” will undoubtedly be justified by the Act’s use of the term “violent radicalization,” which it defines as “the process of adopting or promoting an extremist belief system for the purpose of facilitating ideologically based violence . . .” or by the folksy, Lake Wobegonesque “homegrown terrorism,” defined as “the use, planned use, or threatened use, of force or violence by a group or individual born [or] raised . . . within the United States . . . to intimidate or coerce the United States, the civilian population . . . or any segment thereof . . . .”... A clue to future “other purposes” may lie in the Act’s parentage. The proud House “mother” of the Patriot Act’s evil twin is Rep. Jane Harmon (D-CA), chair of the Homeland Security Intelligence Subcommittee. Rep. Harmon has admitted to a long and productive relationship with the RAND Corporation, a California based think-tank with close ties to the military-industrial-intelligence complex. RAND’s 2005 study, “Trends in Terrorism,” contains a chapter titled, “Homegrown Terrorist Threats to the United States.” Is this Act a bastard child?... RAND maintains that “homegrown terrorism” will not be the result of jihadist sleeper cells. Rather, it will result from anti-globalists and radical environmentalists who “challenge the intrinsic qualities of capitalism, charging that in the insatiable quest for growth and profit, the philosophy is serving to destroy the world’s ecology, indigenous cultures, and individual welfare.”

I went through several pages of yahoogling and found basically universal warning "THIS IS HORRIBLE WE MUST STOP IT". However it appears many of those who are yelling DANGER didn't read the bill, or else are assuming this is just the first step to establish a crackdown on thought and freedom of speech and freedom of association. Perhaps it is. The bill clearly is worded very broadly and could be used in many ways.

External Media

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

BROADCAST EXCLUSIVE: Yemeni Man Imprisoned at CIA “Black Sites” Tells His Story of Kidnapping and Torture

BROADCAST EXCLUSIVE: Yemeni Man Imprisoned at CIA “Black Sites” Tells His Story of Kidnapping and Torture is an interview with Mohamed Farag Ahmad Bashmilah concerning his imprisonment and torture by U.S. forces. It appears from this interview that the treatment by U.S. forces did not include beating or physical torture, but psychological torture. In the earlier article, Inside the CIA's notorious "black sites", it appeared from the Salon.com article that U.S. forces had done beating and other physical torture. Instead he described that the Americans recognized he was not in a condition for rough treatment, and that psychologists were frequently with him.

There has been a controversy over the participation by psychologists in torture. Perhaps psychologists don't swear the Hippocratic Oath, but "first, do no harm" is a very good attitude to have regardless of whether they do or not. It appears that psychologists are involved with the military in designing torture techniques that don't require physical beatings, but instead work towards inducing insanity in the prisoner. Mohamed Farag Ahmad Bashmilah describes the techniques as sleep deprivation and playing loud raucous music constantly, and how it drove him to suicide attempts and to hitting his head against the walls.

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Saturday, December 15, 2007

Inside the CIA's notorious "black sites"

Inside the CIA's notorious "black sites" is, for me, an introduction to one of the Extraordinary Rendition cases. Extraordinary Rendition is a U.S. Government (CIA) practice of essentially outsourcing torture. A person will be captured somewhere and then enter into a system of secretly operated airplanes being flown around the world to secret prisons operated by the CIA.

This article deals specifically with Mohamed Farag Ahmad Bashmilah. He is a 38-year-old Yemeni national who lived with his wife Zahra in Indonesia, where he ran a small clothing store with his uncle. In October 2003 he flew to Jordan to visit his mother, and through a series of misunderstandings became implicated as a terror-activist trained in Afghanistan, which led the Jordanians to turn him over to the CIA who flew him to Baghram Air Force Base in Afghanistan for "interrogation".

The interrogation which ensued included some standard techniques of psychological manipulation which tend to incite psychological damage to the point of becoming crazy. Many believe these techniques are torture. The techniques include sleep deprivation, beatings, threats against his family members, threats against himself, playing loud music constantly, and more. At one point he signed a confession, which he did not read, just due to the promise that the treatment would end.

'The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a federal suit claiming Jeppesen Dataplan Inc. enabled the clandestine transportation of five terrorism suspects to overseas locations where they were subjected to "forms of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment."...The U.S. government has asked a federal judge to throw out the lawsuit on the basis that trying the case would result in the release of sensitive state secrets....The ACLU countered in its filing Friday that the clandestine transfer of terrorism suspects to U.S.-run overseas prisons or foreign intelligence agencies, known as extraordinary rendition, is already a matter of public record "confirmed by documentary evidence and eyewitness testimony," along with Federal Aviation Administration records.'

Amnesty International: United States of America / Yemen: Secret Detention in CIA "Black Sites" 'The goal of the network is not just to hold terrorist suspects and their supporters, but to collect intelligence through long-term interrogation, free from any legal restrictions or judicial oversight. The bulk of the work is carried out at facilities under US military control in Afghanistan, Guant√°namo Bay in Cuba and Iraq, which together hold at least 11,000 people.6 Most of them were detained in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq, but others were transferred from countries including Albania, Bosnia, Croatia, Gambia, Indonesia, Italy, Jordan, Kenya, Libya, Pakistan, Macedonia, Malaysia, Sudan, Tanzania, and Zambia... Long before Guant√°namo opened its gates to “war on terror” detainees, however, the USA had been secretly transferring terror suspects into the custody of other states, states where physical and psychological brutality feature prominently in interrogations. Known to the US Administration as “extraordinary rendition,” and to its critics as the “outsourcing of torture”, the program has expanded considerably, reportedly under a classified directive signed by President Bush in late September 2001.8 It has been estimated that the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), often using covert airplanes leased by fictional front companies,9 has flown hundreds of war on terror suspects to countries including Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Syria.10'

This fellow is not the only such person held in U.S. Custody, as you can see in the Wikipedia page for Category:Yemeni extrajudicial prisoners of the United States

External Media

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Belgium's survival in question as 'next PM' quits the battle

In March this year I visited Belgium, Brussels specifically, and had an interesting experience. Besides Brussels being a fabulous city, capital city of the European Union, the very first person I talked with was the taxi driver taking me from the airport to my hotel. While that might seem an unimportant detail, that taxi driver immediately launched into telling me about two things. First it was the superiority of Belgium beer (German beer is too watery), and the 4000 year history of the Walloon's and how Belgium is really two countries joined together as one. Belgium is split nearly equally between the Walloons of the south, who are french speaking, derived from the Celtic culture, etc, and the Flemish of the north who speak Dutch. Brussels is a kind of middle ground where the two cultures mix freely.

It seems that in June the people of Belgium voted in Yves Leterme, the Flemish Christian Democrat leader to be the leader of the Belgium government. However he hasn't been able to get the government together into a functioning operation, and he went to the King of Belgium, King Albert, and told him he had had enough, and Leterme has resigned.

The Guardian article goes on to describe how Belgium appears to be headed to splitting into two countries. While they share a country they are behaving as two. They watch different TV stations, they go to different schools, there are no national political parties, and so on.

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