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.]