Saturday, August 16, 2008

National Pre-Crime Squad: Monitoring America's Neural Fabric

The Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007, which passed through Congress by a 404-6 margin in October of 2007 will make it legal for a National Commission to subpoena Americans thought to have "radical" ideas or "thought crimes".

If this bill passes the Senate and is signed into law, President Bush and Secretary of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff will each appoint one member of the Commission, and split the appointment of the other eight positions equally between Congressional Democrats and Republicans. In total, the Commission would consist of six Republican appointees and four Democratic ones.

On the surface, the bill does not seem all that threatening. A university-based Center of Excellence will be set up where the Commission can devote itself to collecting and analyzing information from a number of sources, and recommend policy changes to Congress based on perceived threats. It all sounds very academic, so far. What's the big deal?

Well, this same Commission, as I mentioned before, will have subpoena power, the ability to collect evidence, and the authority to hold hearings, indiscriminately or based on the Commission member's belief system.

"The commission would have very broad powers. It could investigate anyone. It would create a public perception that whoever is being investigated by the Commission must be involved in subversive or illegal activities. It would give the appearance that whoever they are investigating is potentially a traitor or disloyal or a terrorist, even if all they were doing was advocating lawful views," -- Odette Wilkens, the executive director of the Equal Justice Alliance,
The main target will be the Internet, as it is seen as the weapon of choice because of its immense power and/or capacity to dispense "radical" thought bullets to our population at large. This is according to the originator, Jane Harman, former House Intelligence Committee Chairwoman (D-CA) of this legislation designed to monitor America's neural fabric in order to prevent domestic radicalization.
“There can be no doubt that the Internet is increasingly being used as a tool to reach and radicalize Americans and legal residents.... longer need to travel to foreign countries or isolated backwoods compounds to become indoctrinated by extremists or learn how to kill their neighbor. On the contrary, the Internet allows them to share violent goals and plot from the comfort of their own living rooms."
-- Jane Harman, former House Intelligence Committee Chairwoman(D-CA)
Unfortunately, this National "pre-crime" squad will be limited to using their five senses, unlike the "Pre-Cogs", or precognitive humans in the movie (Minority Report). Without the ability to tap into the thoughts of these so-called radicalized individuals, hell-bent on committing terrorist acts, one has to wonder what our nation's pre-crime or "pre-terror" commission will rely on to catch the "thought terrorist". Perhaps, they will turn to the "reliable" information that circulates in abundance about each one of us. You know, the information so easily corrupted by credit reporting agencies, identity theft, and human/computer error in general.

The bottom line is, rounding up Americans based on their belief system alone opens up a "Pandora's Box" of possibilities. The bill defines "violent radicalization," as 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." This definition could apply to an eclectic assortment of belief systems. Define "extremist". In addition, aren't all ideologies to advance political, religious, or social change prone to violence? How do you determine the "purpose" of the "extremist" belief system?

The ACLU chimed in of course:
Experience has demonstrated that in the event of a terrorist attack, the results of this report will likely be used to recommend the use of racial, ethnic and religious profiling. This will only heighten, rather than decrease, the spread of extremist violence. As an organization dedicated to the principles of freedom of speech, we cannot in good conscience support this report or any measure that might lead to censorship and persecution based solely on one’s personal beliefs.

The ACLU is concerned that identifying the Internet as a tool for terrorists will lead to censorship and regulated speech — especially since the Internet has become an essential communications and research tool for everyone. Indeed, some policy makers have advocated shutting down objectionable websites in violation of the First Amendment. It is an unworkable solution.
The “Violent Islamist Extremism, the Internet, and the Homegrown Terrorism Threat,” report will undoubtedly be used as justification for this what can only be called Orwellian legislation.


Anonymous,  13:26  

Sounds like McCarthyism.

What about RAND? 15:24  

You forgot to mention the Jane Harman/RAND Corporation connection. It is believed the bill was penned with plenty of help from the RAND Corporation who Harman has a longstanding relationship.

The legislation apparently involved input from the RAND Corporation, which produced a 10-page document for inclusion in testimony to the House Committee on Homeland Security, Subcommittee on Intelligence, which generated the bill. 4 In 2005, RAND produced a 97-page report, entitled Trends in Terrorism, Chapter Four of which was entitled "Homegrown Terrorist Threats to the United States." 5 The RAND Corporation, established in 1946 as Project RAND by the United States Army Air Forces, played a key role in leading the US into the Vietnam war. RAND's National Defense Research Institute is frequently contracted by the US military and intelligence communities to produce studies which in turn are used to justify funding weapons systems. Participants in the RAND Corporation have included former advisor Lewis "Scooter" Libby, consultant Henry Kissinger, and Chairman from 1981 to 1986 Donald Rumsfeld.

bleute 13:28  

Thanks! Very interesting!

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