When the Future is Shorter Than the Past
On Fear of Aging and Death

Thought Crime Bill Passes House

category_bug_politics.gif While the media were pretending all other news was on hold during the California wildfires, a dangerous bill made it through the House of Representatives and has now been sent to the Senate where it has been referred to the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.

Should a majority in the Senate approve the bill, all it requires to become law is the president’s signature and since it does not deprive children of healthcare, there is no reason to think he would veto it.

Designated H.R.1955 and titled the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism and Prevention Act of 2007, it is an amendment to the Homeland Security Act of 2002. The bill was sponsored by Rep. Jane Harmon [Dem-CA] and overwhelming approved by the House on 23 October by a 404 to 6 vote.

Some people have called this the “thought crime bill”, and they are not exaggerating – which is why I am straying from the topic of aging today to bring this to your attention.

This is the first terrorism-related legislation that specifically targets U.S. citizens and the vagueness of the wording is a dangerous threat to the First Amendment and to each of us in ways that have not been attempted before in the United States. The definitions in the bill hold the frightening keys to the undermining of our most basic liberty - to speak freely [bolding is mine]:

“VIOLENT RADICALIZATION - The term ‘violent radicalization' means process of adopting or promoting an extremist belief system for the purpose of facilitating ideologically based violence to advance political, religious, or social change."

The difficulties here are that “extremist belief system” means anything the government wants it to mean as does the word “facilitating.”

“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.”

Again, this refers not just to violence, but to thought and speech for any undefined “political or social objectives”. In other words, it could mean universal healthcare, equal rights, abortion or anything at all about which you or I might want to make our views known that the government objects to. And, it establishes U.S. citizens as the targets of this legislation.

“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.”

This repeats legislative intolerance of speech and thought.

The Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism and Prevention Act does not establish penalties for these thought crimes; it “only” establishes a commission to study them. But it tells us where the thinking in Washington is heading.

The Commission is required to send a report about its findings to the Congress and president every six months for a year and a half. As disturbing as the bill itself is, so is the additional requirement that there be a “a public version” of the reports – that is, something different from what Congress sees.

Even with only a commission at this point, there is no way to understand the bill except as a warning of what is to come and mainstream media has not mentioned it – not The New York Times nor the Washington Post nor the Los Angeles Times, USA Today or CNN.

Please read the entire bill. It is not lengthy and there is more in it to be concerned about than I have reported in this post.

It is not extreme to say that unless you want to find out what it was like to live in Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union under Stalin or Italy under Mussolini where any "wrong" thought and word could make a citizen subject to arrest and worse, this bill must be stopped. Write, email, telephone your senators and get everyone you know to do so too. You can easily do that here. It might be prudent too to ask the senators who are running for president how they will vote on this bill.

It won’t be easy to convince our senators. Any legislation that goes through Congress with the word “terrorism” in it, gets kneejerk passage. And there is no reason the Senate won't pass it, as the House did, while the country's attention is elsewhere.

The six brave representatives who stood up against the majority in voting against H.R.1955 are: Jeff Flake [Rep-AR], Dana Rohrabacher [Rep-CA], Neil Abercrombie [Dem-HI], Jerry Costello {Dem-IL], Dennis Kucinich [Dem-OH] and John Duncan {Rep-TN].

Thought Crime Bill Story List

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Lia explains how she came to be labeled a Rabenmutter.]


thank you, ronni. stunned by this, by how few congressmen oppossed it. how did you hear about it. two items noticed in my first reading of the bill-- focus on the internet pops up very early and the empowerment of states and local government entities to take action.

feel this very personally and hope your readers do also.

In today's world, with today's so-called government, this shouldn't surprise me....but in all honesty, it scares the hell out of me.
I believe it's only a very fine line of crossover for society to revert to the ways of Nazi Germany. I've never doubted this and this administration only confirms it for me.
I'm off to email my Senators on this very frightening bill. Thanks for the heads-up, Ronni.

it's ironic that as China is becoming more like America, America is becoming more like China.


Notice of this arrived in one of my Google Alerts; I don't remember which one.

Another point about the bill is that there is no reason for it beyond eventually criminalizing speech. Violence is already illegal under many other local and federal statutes.

The bill closely follows Naomi Wolf's description in her book, The End of America, of the ten steps that have historically been used to shut down democracies. Her book should be required reading in every school and for every adult in the United States.

And perhaps we should all read it NOW, before we are not allowed to if this bill goes to its natural conclusion.

My e-mail box is always full of political news as I am somewhat of a junkie. You are right; not one of them covered this dangerous bill. I just subscribed to Congress.org and I thank you for the information.

The quote in the letter to the Senators says it all. "Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.' Benjamin Franklin.

You think it's as bad as it can get and then it gets worse. I told a friend we are on the road that Germany took with the Nazis and she said oh no, we're not. We're not like them. Germans seem like nice people today too. When people start down these roads, they simply don't realize where it's heading and by the time they realize, they fear trying to stop it. This is very scary

I can see how many of us will get on Bush's bad guy list. Thank you for letting us know about this.

Many thanks for this post!! While America Slept might be a good subtitle. I'm forwarding this to everyone I know with pleas to call their reps in "Congress" and read 'em the riot act. And yes, what about those presidential candidates? Do they KNOW about this??

Keep pouring it on....you rock!

At the very beginning when it says "To prevent homegrown terrorism AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES," alarm bells should start ringing. Are senators allowed to think for themselves?

Jumpin' Jeezus Jehosephat!

This is unbelieveable!

Even more frightening that there is not an American outcry audible all the way to the moon! First I've heard of it.

What in the world is any congressman/woman thinking in supporting this kind of legislature?

Kick the s.o.b's out that let this one through...VOTE OUT THE IDIOTS.

Dana Rohrabacher and Dennis Kucinich on the same side of an issue? Well, they can't be accused of marching in
ideological lockstep.

Although the Nazi Germany analogy is the usual one, I increasingly see America's present course as more paralleling Japan in the 1930s, after the militarists took power, but that would be the topic for an essay in itself. And while I'm not supporting him for President, I read an interesting quote from Ron Paul this morning: "“The stage is set for [America] eventually devolving into military dictatorship, and few seem to care.”

Oh No! That is terrible news. It is odd that it didn't hit the radar over here. Thanks for letting me know.

Thanks for bringing this up and also for the link to the original document...

Of course, the bill also includes this specific clause:

"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."

Perhaps folks are overreacting a bit?

Brian: I don't mean to be rude, but you do need to keep up. Even the Constitution is no brake on this government, so that clause, which is boilerplate, has no meaning. It is less than worthless. To wit:

Although protected by the Constitution, habeas corpus has been suspended by the Bush administration.

Under the Military Commissions Act, any citizen can be named an "enemy combatant" by the president alone or by anyone he designates and held indefinitely without access to an attorney or notification of family.

Although the Constitution protects us against unreasonable search and seizure in our homes, under the Patriot Act, the government can demand anyone's financial, health and other records without a warrant.

There is more, but I think my point is made.

This political climate seems a lot like the 50's, when U.S. citizens were routinely accused of being Communists sympathizers. Now, it seems, U.S. citizens may routinely be accused of terrorist activities. Can a revival of jingoistic loyalty oaths be far behind?

When I was in second grade we had "drop and cover" drills, and they didn't keep us safe. The loyalty oaths didn't keep us safe either. They just kept us scared.

It sounds as if the feds are ramping up the same game again. It's enough to make anyone scream.

Brian, the paragraph you quoted was:

"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."

Note use of the word "should" instead of "shall". I worked for years in a highly regulated industry, and the difference between these two words is significant, in the world of regulatory verbiage. I'm sure the words were carefully chosen. SHOULD means preferable but not mandatory. SHALL is the word used when nothing less is ever acceptable.

Thanks Ronni. I'm blown out by this one and I tend to think the state of the country is pretty dire.

I follow Juan Cole on matters about our Middle Eastern and Central Asian wars and he had this to say about Pakistan today: "If Bush and Cheney are ever tempted into extreme measures in the United States, Musharraf has provided a template for how it would unfold. Maintain you are moving against terrorists and extremists, but actually move against the rule of law. [Barnett] Rubin has accepted the suggested term of "lawfare" to describe this kind of warfare by executive order."

Lawfare indeed.

It's been more than 12 hours since I first read this post and alerted a lot of people, including the Huffington Post, about this bill. So far, I have not seen ONE WORD in any of the online news services or blogs about this bill. It's as if it does not exist. If we have been calling and raising cain and nothing's happening, what next??

In the UK, a woman in Scotland was arrested for walking on a cycle path, under powers in the Prevention of Terrorism Act.

Another (70 year old)man was violently ejected from the Labour Part conference for heckling about government support for the Iraq war and was held afterwards under the same powers.

We don't have the sort of constitutional protections you do - GUARD THEM WELL...

Many thanks for the "heads up" on this bill. I have written my congressmen (US mail). I will also e-mail and send a letter to our local paper. I'm curious as to how you heard about this.


Sharry - I mis-spoke when I answered Naomi above that I heard of this through one of my Google Alerts. It would not have turned up in those, so I undoubtedly learned of it through one of my two dozen or so email subscriptions to various reports on politics and Congressional actions.

I do remember that it was buried among other items that got bigger play in the email.

Unfortunately, I deleted it after I wrote the story.

My congressman, who on many past issues appeared to be a relative good guy, voted FOR this bill and I've asked his office to explain the reason(s). It will be interesting to see if they respond beyond the automated reply acknowledging receipt of my letter.

In years of writing my representatives about this and that - including Senators Hillary Clinton and Charles Schumer when I still lived in New York - I have never received a reply to my specific question. Only boilerplate about whatever their talking point was that day.

I don't think there is much use in writing Congress; none of them pay attention to the people their constituents. But I like my views to be on record, so I continue this useless endeavor.

BTW, I did a check today of the major newspapers around the country to see if any had reported on H.R.1955. None yet.

I'm not seeing anything on this bill either. I'll certainly be following up with my congressman and senators.

Your descriptions here coincide with my experience and comments I recently received regarding the frustration and futility in efforts to communicate with congresspersons. Most receive either no response, or a reply quite unrelated to the question asked. One observation was that regular letters, emails and other communication forms are ignored -- that faxes may receive some attention.

I've been thinking exactly what janinsanfran wrote, that B&C would do what Musharraf is doing in Pakistan if they thought they could get away with it. Certainly the Adm. policies have been enacted just as the terrorists would have had them, could they have written them out for our country. They must just be ecstatic with joy to see how our leaders exploiting fear are betraying our freedoms and our Constitution while systematically undermining our democracy/republic.


Unbelievable that this bill was sponsored by Rep. Jane Harmon (Dem.CA).

My Representative from Pennsylvania must have voted for it ,too. I usually have complete confidence in the Congresswoman (Allison Schwartz) who represents my district,so I will be questioning her office as soon as possible.

Thanks for the warning......


I will post a link to this on my blog. I am totally appalled by it. Thank you so much for making us aware of it.

Er, did anyone actually read this bill? It doesn't criminalize anything. It forms a commission to study a very real problem.

These comments are absurd. Until I got to Zara's I thought maybe I was taking crazy pills. The bill creates a commission. That's it. Doesn't create any new crimes, doesn't deprive anyone of anything, doesn't really do anything. It's a blue-ribbon panel, folks, which is easily observable to anyone who bothers to read the bill. Settle down.


Sorry to come back to this so late, but my Mom (a regular of yours, I think) pinged me about the front-page post on this today.

So, I still think you're overreacting. As Arejay points out, this act _creates a commission_. Admittedly, I'd be more comfortable if the clause I cited use the word "shall" instead of "should," (as Pamela notes) but I see nothing so worrying here. And I'm afraid that saying "the Bush administration ignores the Constitution" cuts no ice with me.

It's true, they do ignore it. And in another 13 months, they will be gone, hopefully without letting the door hit them in the ass on the way out. I'm afraid I'm disinterested in making policy decisions that will affect many generations of Americans on the basis of a single President.

"There is more, but I think my point is made."

Mmm. It is. I don't take it, but it's made.

Great job, Ronni, for bringing "both sides of the perspective" to light. Thank you.

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