Before the US House of Representatives, December 5, 2007
I regret that I was unavoidably out of town on
October 23, 2007, when a vote was taken on HR 1955, the Violent Radicalization
& Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act. Had I been able to vote, I would have
voted against this misguided and dangerous piece of legislation. This legislation
focuses the weight of the US government inward toward its own citizens under
the guise of protecting us against "violent radicalization."
I would like to note that this legislation was brought to the floor for a vote
under suspension of regular order. These so-called "suspension" bills
are meant to be non-controversial, thereby negating the need for the more complete
and open debate allowed under regular order. It is difficult for me to believe
that none of my colleagues in Congress view HR 1955, with its troubling civil
liberties implications, as "non-controversial."
There are many causes for concern in HR 1955. The legislation specifically
singles out the Internet for "facilitating violent radicalization, ideologically
based violence, and the homegrown terrorism process" in the United States.
Such language may well be the first step toward US government regulation of
what we are allowed to access on the Internet. Are we, for our own good, to
be subjected to the kind of governmental control of the Internet that we see
in unfree societies? This bill certainly sets us on that course.
This seems to be an unwise and dangerous solution in search of a real problem.
Previous acts of ideologically-motivated violence, though rare, have been resolved
successfully using law enforcement techniques, existing laws against violence,
and our court system. Even if there were a surge of "violent radicalization"
– a claim for which there is no evidence – there is no reason to believe that
our criminal justice system is so flawed and weak as to be incapable of trying
and punishing those who perpetrate violent acts.
This legislation will set up a new government bureaucracy to monitor and further
study the as-yet undemonstrated pressing problem of homegrown terrorism and
radicalization. It will no doubt prove to be another bureaucracy that artificially
inflates problems so as to guarantee its future existence and funding. But it
may do so at great further expense to our civil liberties. What disturbs me
most about this legislation is that it leaves the door wide open for the broadest
definition of what constitutes "radicalization." Could otherwise nonviolent
anti-tax, antiwar, or anti-abortion groups fall under the watchful eye of this
new government commission? Assurances otherwise in this legislation are unconvincing.
In addition, this legislation will create a Department of Homeland Security-established
university-based body to further study radicalization and to "contribute
to the establishment of training, written materials, information, analytical
assistance and professional resources to aid in combating violent radicalization
and homegrown terrorism." I wonder whether this is really a legitimate
role for institutes of higher learning in a free society.
Legislation such as this demands heavy-handed governmental action against American
citizens where no crime has been committed. It is yet another attack on our
Constitutionally- protected civil liberties. It is my sincere hope that we will
reject such approaches to security, which will fail at their stated goal at
a great cost to our way of life.