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The Thought Crime Bill - A Senator's Boilerplate Response

category_bug_politics.gif No, I haven’t forgotten S.1959, also known as H.R.1955, titled the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act which I call The Thought Crime Bill (full text here and read more here). As far as can be determined, it is sitting in the Senate Homeland Security Committee with no hearings scheduled yet.

Like many elderbloggers, Cowtown Pattie of Texas Trifles wrote to her senators about our concerns that the bill tramples all over the First Amendment and several others. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison recently sent Pattie this insulting reply:

“Thank you for contacting me regarding S. 1959, the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act. I welcome your thoughts and comments on this issue.

“Introduced on August 2 nd by Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), S. 1959 seeks to amend the Homeland Security Act of 2002 by including new provisions regarding the prevention of violent radicalization and homegrown terrorism. One such provision of this legislation would be to establish a National Commission on the Prevention of Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism. The primary duties of the commission would include examining and reporting on facts and causes of homegrown terrorism and ideologically based violence in the United States.

“Another important provision of S. 1959 is the establishment of a university-based Center of Excellence for the Study of Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism in the United States. This center would assist federal, state, and local homeland security officials in preventing homegrown terrorism in the United States.

“S. 1959 has been referred to the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, of which I am not a member. Should this legislation come before the full Senate, you may be certain I will keep your views in mind.

“I appreciate hearing from you and hope you will not hesitate to keep in touch on any issue of concern to you.”

The senator’s response treats Cowtown Pattie as though she’s an idiot who doesn’t understand the bill rather than addressing the concerns about civil liberties Pattie raised and is almost a duplicate of the responses others have received from their Washington representatives, including the response from my own senator, the bill’s sponsor, Susan Collins. They pay lip service to their constituents, but essentially dismiss our concerns.

Meanwhile, at least one other mainstream newspaper has printed an editorial warning about the dangers of this bill, one of which Diane of Cab Drollery alerted me to from the Sacramento Bee. The editorial makes some excellent points:

“According to the bill, ‘violent radicalization’ is promoting an undefined ‘extremist belief system.’ It is using ‘force or violence’ to advance ‘political, religious or social change.’

“Of course, force need not involve physical violence. Examples of nonviolent force abound: Blacks in the 1950s staging sit-ins at whites-only restaurants; suffragettes chaining themselves to the White House fence in the 1910s to win the vote; workers striking to win better labor conditions in the 1930s.

“And what constitutes homegrown terrorism? According to Harman's bill, it includes planning to ‘intimidate or coerce’ the government or people of the United States to further ‘political or social objectives.’ In short, Harman's bill would make civil disobedience in the name of political change ‘homegrown terrorism.’

“Even worse, the national commission that would ferret out such activity would have sweeping subpoena and investigative powers to haul individuals and groups in for examination.”

The editorial continues with this historical warning:

“Harman's bill is labeled as an act to ‘prevent homegrown terrorism,’ and undefined ‘other purposes.’ This makes her bill eerily similar to the bill creating the House Un-American Activities Committee, which began in 1938 as a vehicle for investigating Nazi propaganda ‘and certain other propaganda activity.’

“The abuses of that committee, including its harassment of civil rights groups, are well documented.”

The Sacramento Bee does an excellent job of deconstructing the consequences of the bill’s vague definitions that, should it become law as it is now worded, could make even this blog post a reason to subpoena and investigate me or anyone one of us who publishes our own “editorial” against S.1959.

It would be a good idea for us all to continue to write our senators and those who sit on the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, presidential candidate Barack Obama among them. Personally, I want to see if quoting the Sacramento Bee editorial will get a less insulting response.

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Kay Richard tells us about her experience with one of many women's lifelong obsessions in Long Beautiful Hair.]


That darn Sacramento Bee requires registration! Luckily I still have one and I remembered my password. But for those who don't ...it's free and only takes a few seconds to get to the article.

I'm not registered and didn't have a problem following the direct link that Diane sent. But now that it's in my story, the link redirects to a registration page.

However, I discovered if you copy and paste the link into your browser address bar, you can get directly to the editorial without registering. Here is the link:

I contacted my Senators and Norm Coleman sent me a letter that mirrors word for word the text in the letter received by Patti - disgusting. Thank you for continuing to keep this issue front and center.

When I lived in Texas I used to write to Kay Bailey Hutchinson all the time and her replies were just as insulting then as they are now. Now I write to Heather Wilson and get the same discouraging party line response. It is as if they don't care what they hear from their people, they only care how the upper echelon in the party spins the issue.

BTW, Bill Richardson is back home now and is going to do something about bring universal health care to NM. Can't wait to see how that goes.

Speaking of NM politics, our long-time Republican Senator Pete Dominici is leaving office, and every politico who has a pulse is trying to fill his seat. Heather Wilson and Tom Udall are the most well known of them. It would be great for those of a Democratic persuasion if Tom Udall could get that Senate seat. Cross your fingers.

The only solution is vote them out, when they support such things-- in either party while we still have an election system that lets us. They, none of them, have our best interests at heart.

Ronnie I am going to contact Lindsey Graham(R-SC) who is one of my senators about H.R.1955. He is a Military Judge and his response may be enlightening!

After reading this I copied the entire Sacramento Bee editorial and sent it to everyone on my e-mail list with the plea to please contact their Representatives and newspapers.
We have to keep trying to stop this dangerous piece of legislation from going forward. Those of us old enough to remember the McCarthy years are really alarmed.

Not surprising! It just proves how little respect our elected officials have for us ordinary mortals.

Out of sheer cussedness, if I were Diane, I would write a letter to my local paper's editor and include the text of Ms. Hutchison message.

Sounds like Kay Hutchison has been entrenched down there far too long and some House (and Senate) cleaning needs to be done/ .

The bill must have it's own PR team that put together the canned response we've all gotten. I think the idea of copying some of the Bee editorial and sending that might prove helpful. If nothing else, it is a reminder that we are still aware that this bill is still active.

You know if a company misrepresents its product, lawsuits can follow and the government authorities come down on them like flies on a dead possum.

What recourse do we have if our own officials misrepresent legislation, all in attempts to blindside constituents, who surely can't know what's best for themselves?

Isn't this also very malicious false advertising, with obvious intent to defraud?

I want a refund.

I publish a small town weekly newspaper and receive op eds from John W. Whitehead of the Rutherford Institute. Today I received his op ed on the Terrorism Bill -- "Are You A Homegrown Terrorist?"

Whitehead is a constitutional attorney and founded the Institute which is an advocate of civil liberties and human rights. You can read what he says about the bill here.

I will publish his opinion in our next week's newspaper. More people need to be aware of yet another governmental travesty. They can't fool all of us, all of the time.

Don't get too hot under the collar about the Senator "treating Pattie like an idiot" in the boiler plate response. It has nothing to do with this particular issue. This is typical of the responses I've gotten when I've written Hillary Clinton or any other representatives -- it's standard congressional doubletalk. The opening and closing lines use lots of words to say nothing, regardless of what the issue is. Such meaningless responses are their stock in trade, nothing new or unusual. It was carefully crafted before the first constituent wrote in so that it could be sent to persons who expressed either support or opposition to the bill.

Ronni I contacted Senator Graham)R-SC) and got an advertisement for all that he has supposedly done and wants to do. H.R.1955 was not mentioned at all and when I tried to e-mail him again the e-mail could not be delivered! Politics as usual - ad nauseum!

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