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Senate Thought Crime Bill Sponsor Responds

category_bug_politics.gif [Before the holidays took over our lives for several weeks, I had been intent on keeping up the public conversation on S.1959, The Violent Radicalization and Homegrown terrorism Prevention Act (full text here), better known at Time Goes By and elsewhere on the web as “thought crime bill.”

Now that we have returned to real life, it's time to get back to basics. If you need a refresher on this bill, there are stories listed here, and you can track the progression of the bill through the Senate at

In mid-November, I emailed Senator Susan Collins through her webpage objecting to this bill and to her sponsorship of it, explaining my reasons. In addition to being one of my senators, Collins is the ranking Republican on the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs where S.1959 now sits waiting for debate to be scheduled.

Two days after Christmas, I received a snailmail response from Senator Collins dated December 10. The letter is filled with the empty patriotic rhetoric and excuses for excessive government intervention in citizens’ lives that have become routine in Congress since 9/11:

“Many terrorism experts, including Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff, list homegrown terrorism as a significant and growing threat to America’s homeland.”

Let’s stop there for a moment. I've been meaning to mention that I’m not the only one who felt (and still feels) creeped out when the name of the Department of Homeland Security was announced following the attacks on the World Trade Center. I’m 66 years old and I had never heard or read the word except in the context of Nazi Germany. Now, one of my senators (as many others do too) is using the word as though it is a synonym for “land of the free and home of the brave.” In regard to this usage, it’s worthwhile to listen to Naomi Wolf from page 7 of her cautionary book, The End of America:

“By 1930 Nazi propagandists referred to Germany not as ‘the nation’ or ‘the Republic’ – which it was – but rather as ‘the Heimat’ – ‘the Homeland.’ Homeland is a word that memoirist Ernestine Bradley, who grew up in Nazi Germany, describes as saturated with nationalist power […] A Department of Domestic Security is simply a bureaucracy, capable of mistakes; a department protecting our ‘Homeland’ has a different authority.”

Senator Collins continues in her letter repeating what I had made clear in my email note that I already understand (I dislike being patronized):

“[S.1955] will help our intelligence community and homeland security experts better understand the process of violent radicalization, helping to reduce the risk of future terrorist attacks. To do this, the bill established a National Commission on the Prevention of Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism, and requires the Secretary of DHS to establish or designate a National Center of Excellence for the study of violent radicalization and homegrown terrorism. The Commission would examine and report upon the facts and causes of violent radicalization and ideologically based violence. The Commission also would examine how radicalized individuals are enticed to commit violent acts.”

The name, “National Center of Excellence” is almost as creepy as the word “homeland” and I had hoped for an explanation from the senator of how a commission examines facts and causes of “ideologically based violence” without questioning people about their political beliefs, a sacrosanct, personal secret among Americans if we so wish. Alas, Senator Collins repeats only what is in the bill itself.

She finishes her letter with what she appears to believe are assurances of privacy and civil liberties:

“I would like to emphasize that this bill takes specific care to ensure that Americans’ civil rights and liberties are protected. It directs DHS’ Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Officer to ensure that the Commission’s activities do not infringe on civil rights.”

Uh-huh. Just like senators who swear to uphold the Constitution of the United States and then vote for two Patriot Acts and a Military Commissions Act that together limit citizens’ constitutional rights to habeas corpus, free speech, freedom of association, freedom from illegal search, prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment, and freedom from the illegal seizure of private property.

I wonder why I don't feel reassured by Senator Collins.

Senator Collins is up for re-election this year and she just lost my vote based on the vapidness of this boilerplate letter that instead of taking my concerns seriously, beats me over the head with her patriotism. The senator's current announced opponent, Tom Allen, the House member from my district, voted for the thought crime bill, but he is otherwise better aligned with my positions on other issues than Senator Collins and there is talk of other candidates entering the senatorial race.

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Lia muses on the wider implications of city gardens in Subculture II.]


I think we should all be afraid -- very afraid -- and watching the candidates for the presidency very carefully. The only one we know for sure is against this bill is my neighbor to the north, Dennis Kucunich, because he was one of the few who voted against it. I'm guessing that Ron Paul (who missed the vote because he was absent campaigning)is against it, too, because he's on record as voting against any law that violates the Constitution. We all need to stand up for our rights. In the meantime, I'm writing to my senators again and every single candidate for the presidency.
I strongly suggest everyone does the same.

Today the Iowa caucuses are taking place and it will be interesting to see the outcome.

Hear! Hear! Good stuff...

I wish I knew of a surefire way to get a Senators attention. I've written to both of mine in the past and all I ever got was 'boilerplate' in return. I have a vision of some underpaid clerk, working in a basement, whose sole job is to answer the Senators mail.

And yes, the Iowa Caucus will be interesting, but I wonder if anyone in the news media will note the numbers of Iowans who don't participate in this? That could be a story in itself.

I am just a tiny bit encouraged that attention is finally being paid to this rotten legislation. We must all keep up the writing campaign and if enough of us write our newspapers and legislators it my continue to be noticed.

I hope someone draws Senator Collins attention to this blog. Maybe a constituent could cut and paste it to an e-mail and send it to her.

Sorry, but I'm not paying much attention to the caucus or to the candidates. I've become somewhat cynical of late, weary from the daily avalanche of information in the media. That's probably why I'm still reading the early morning paper.....& turning down the TV & radio news. How can these folks running for office 24/7 be running this country & minding the legislation like S. 1959? It boggles the mind. On a brighter note: Happy New Year Ronni & Crabby & Ollie too! Dee

It is very scary and the ones running this country are 'them' whether they are in one party or the other. The only real chance is turning 'them' over with new people but the corruption goes deep and this kind of bill is about 'them' maintaining their power. Americans seem to be blind to what is happening or are too fat and happy being paid off with placebos to care what is happening to what used to be their Constitution-- not sure which.

Thanks again Ronni for keeping on top of this issue. I also got a snail-mail response from my Representative. It was also boiler plate. I thought perhaps I hadn't been clear enough on the reasons or my disapproval. However, maybe not. I may have gotten the same letter in any case. I agree with Kay that we need to be very afraid. Recently Rain at 'Rainy Day Thoughts' had a link to I think it was the Boston Globe. They had sent a list of questions to the major Presidential candidates of both parties asking their positions on the Constitutional limitations of Presidential power. Most of the Republicans gave either meaningless, double-speak answers or REFUSED to answer at all. All of the Democrats asked did respond. Unfortunately, Kucinich was not asked and was not listed.

I thought it would be good if did something with this issue. (I get mail from them that makes it so easy to respond with a signed petition or a letter to your local congressional reps.) I went to the site but don't see this bill listed in their political action list. And when I tried to use the contact link to ask them to do something with it, the Contact link didn't work. I'll keep going back to see if it begins working later.

Question: How many Bush administration officials does it take to change a light bulb?

Answer: None. There is nothing wrong with the light bulb; it's condition is improving everyday. Any reports of it's lack of incandescence are illusionary spins from the liberal media. Illuminating rooms is hard work. That light bulb has served honorably, and anything you say undermines the lighting effort. Why do you hate freedom?


I really hate being patronized. It makes me so angry I become irrational.

Maybe that letter was filed under "It will make their blood boil" category. Can you just imagine what type of people are sitting together at a table formulating such crap? Grrrr.

I don't usually comment twice but thid issue makes my blood boil. Only 6-7 percent of those of voting age actually cast ballots.

It's no wonder they think they can run roughshod over us.

Apathy is as dangerous as this heinous legislation.

I too find the term homeland inexplicable and foreboding. It first surfaced in my consciousness within 24 hours of the 9/ll incidents. It was conspicuous by its newness, and by the ease with which it rolled from the tongues of commentators using it. Thank you for the history (God help me, I thought it might have originated in Israel); it is a small thing in the context of everything that is happening today, but sometimes we are so overwhelmed we no longer trust our gut. You have reassured me that to some extent my gut is still working.

All I recall hearing Nazi Germany called was "The Fatherland"; but, that was obviously screened through our media and I had no way of knowing what was appearing in the Nazi newspapers.

Is it too late for you to file for candidacy, Ronni?

Although I'm not involved in the elections I'm still worried about the implications in the choice of a new President. Is there any one of them you can trust?
There are grave implications, not only for Americans' freedom but also for world peace.
Does any of the candidates have the will to undo the harm that's already been done?

I was creeped out by the Homeland Security name, and I thought I was the only one. All of this, when added to the power of microchips + satellites to monitor us in our daily lives endlessly, is beyond creepy -- it's terrifying.

Ronnie: thanks for posting this update. One question: why didn't you post Collins' full reply? I think that you should. I'd like to read Collins' entire reply.

I've read Wolf's book cover to cover and it is great. Well footnoted, too. I gave copies of Wolf's book to each of my children, ages 26, 24, and 21. I think that it's important to encourage our youth.

Also, I wrote to my Congressional rep (Steven Lynch, D-Mass) and he has yet to reply and explain why he voted for this bill. So, he should expect me not to vote for his re-election in November. I also wrote to my Senators (Kerry and Kennedy). They have replied.

Wonder what's happening with S1955 -- looks like it's still in committee. Hope that's a good sign, that maybe it will die there, or undergo radical surgery. I'd hate to think it could be rushed through the Senate for a vote when public focus is on the Presidential campaign and all becomes more intense later in the year.

I should have added -- a Senate vote before the elections could be good if candidates are drawn into having to take a position and are confronted with the hard questions about the wording and individual rights.

joared: I track S.1955 and will write about it here when/if anything changes. For now, as you surmise, it's sitting in committee.

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