HR 1955 calls for a Commission that will “examine and report upon the facts and causes” of so called violent radicalism and extremist ideology, then make legislative recommendations on combating it.
SPONSORS – Primary sponsor: Homeland Security Intelligence Subcommittee chair Jane Harmon (D-CA)—reportedly in response to a 2005 plot to bomb synagogues in Los Angeles. Co-sponsor: David Reichert (R-WA) stated that the commission would “focus exclusively on homegrown terrorism,” and become “a gathering point” for knowledge gleaned from both government agencies and academia. Reichert also said the commission will look at white power groups, neo-Nazis, and other extremists, too. “We don’t want to focus on any one group or leave anybody out,” he said.
CURRENT STATUS – Already passed by the House with a vote of 404-6 on October 23 and referred to the Senate. The Senate version is under construction by Susan Collins of Maine, the ranking Republican on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.
SUMMARY – The bill will create a 10-member panel (House version is 10, current Senate version is 12) to create the “National Commission on the Prevention of Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism.” With staff, travel and other costs added in, the bill “would cost $22 million over the 2008-2012 period,” according to the Congressional Budget Office.
The Commission is tasked with compiling information about what leads to violent radicalization and how to prevent or combat it with the intent to issue a final report with recommendations for both preventative and countermeasures to violent radicalization, homegrown terrorism, and ideologically based violence in the United States. In theory they will get this information through the Commission’s own examinations, as well as from foreign sources (specifically mentioning the governments of the UK, Canada, and Australia), federal, state, local or tribal government studies and experience, as well as academic studies. At the end of its 18-month term, it would cede its work to one of the Homeland Security Department’s university-based Centers of Excellence (see next page).
The bill also includes the creation of a new such center—or the designation of an existing one—for the study of Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism in the United States.
NOTEWORTHY POINTS – SEC. 899A (2) VIOLENT RADICALIZATION – The term “violent radicalization” means 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.
What is an extremist belief system? The term is left undefined and open to many interpretations— socialism, anarchism, communism, nationalism, liberalism, etc.—that would serve to undermine expressions that don’t fit within the allowable areas of debate. A direct action led by any group that blocks traffic can be looked on as being coercive.
SEC. 899B. (3) The Internet has aided in facilitating violent radicalization, ideologically based violence, and the homegrown terrorism process in the United States by providing access to broad and constant streams of terrorist-related propaganda to United States citizens.
The focus on the Internet is crucial as it can set up far more intrusive surveillance techniques, without warrants, and the potential to criminalize ideas and not actions can mean penalties for your stance rather than any criminal act.
SEC. 899A. (4) 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.
What is force? Is it civil disobedience? If arrested at a protest rally and charged with disorderly conduct, obstructing governmental administration, or even assault, does that now open you up to possible terrorist charges in the future?
RAND CORPORATION INFLUENCE – Brian Michael Jenkins, Rand Corporation’s “counterterrorism” expert, testified at the Violent Radicalism hearings. Jenkins is credited by Rand in the 1960s focusing on the insurgencies in Vietnam and Cambodia, on Vietnamese military institutions, and on the styles and techniques of conflict, drawing parallels between the rise of urbanization in the war in Vietnam and trends taking place in other parts of Asia and Latin America. Jenkins outlined a five-stage process by which urban guerrillas could take over a city and made recommendations for countermeasures.
Also of note: a Rand study, “Trends in Terrorism,” (Chapter 4) on homegrown terrorism advocated special attention to environmentalists, anti-globalization activists, and anarchists as potential new terrorists in the making.
Homeland Security Centers of Excellence
From Homeland Security website (www.dhs.gov)
The Homeland Security Centers of Excellence (HS-Centers) bring together leading experts and researchers to conduct multidisciplinary research and education for homeland security solutions. The centers are authorized by Congress and chosen by the Department’s Science & Technology Directorate through a competitive selection process. Each center is led by a university in collaboration with partners from other institutions, agencies, laboratories, think tanks, and the private sector.
- The Center for Risk and Economic Analysis of Terrorism Events (CREATE), led by the University of Southern California, evaluates the risks, costs, and consequences of terrorism, and guides economically viable investments in countermeasures that will make our Nation safer and more secure.
- The National Center for Food Protection and Defense (NCFPD), led by the University of Minnesota, defends the safety of the food system from pre-farm inputs through consumption by establishing best practices, developing new tools, and attracting new researchers to prevent, manage, and respond to food contamination events.
- The National Center for Foreign Animal and Zoonotic Disease Defense (FAZD), led by Texas A&M University, protects against the introduction of high-consequence foreign animal and zoonotic diseases into the United States, with an emphasis on prevention, surveillance, intervention, and recovery.
- The National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START), led by the University of Maryland, informs decisions on how to disrupt terrorists and terrorist groups, while strengthening the resilience of U.S. citizens to terrorist attacks.
- The National Center for the Study of Preparedness and Catastrophic Event Response (PACER), led by Johns Hopkins University, optimizes our Nation’s preparedness in the event of a high-consequence natural or man-made disaster, as well as develops guidelines to best alleviate the effects of such an event.
- The Center for Advancing Microbial Risk Assessment (CAMRA), led by Michigan State University and established jointly with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, fills critical gaps in risk assessments for decontaminating microbiological threats—such as plague and anthrax—answering the question, “How Clean is Safe?”
- The University Affiliate Centers to the Institute for Discrete Sciences (IDS-UACs) are led by Rutgers University, the University of Southern California, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and the University of Pittsburgh. They collaborate with IDS, based at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, to conduct research on advanced methods for information analysis and the development of computational technologies to protect the nation.
- The Regional Visualization and Analytics Centers (RVACS) are led by Penn State University, Purdue University, Stanford University, the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, and the University of Washington. They collaborate with the National Visualization and Analytics Center, based at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, to conduct research on visually-based analytic techniques that help people gain insight from complex, conflicting, and changing information.