Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The danger of House Resolution 1955

If you do a Google news search on House Resolution 1959, you will find that it was not covered by any major news outlets. This is not very surprising considering that the House passed the bill under what is called suspension of regular order. Suspension of regular order is used when bills are considered uncontroversial, so there is less time given to debate as to why the bill is necessary.

I'm not going to do an in depth analysis on the subject at this moment, but thought it was worth highlighting a few points of the H.R.

The bill has passed in the House 404-6 with 22 congress members not being present. It is also likely that the bill will pass with bipartisan support in the Senate, and is not threatened by a Presidential veto.

The title of the bill is the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007. Now what could possibly be wrong with a bill that seems to be concerned with the safety of the American people? Well let us take a look at the language used in the bill.

Here are the key terms defined in the H.R. 1959:

(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.

(3) HOMEGROWN TERRORISM- The term `homegrown terrorism' means the use, planned use, or threatened use, of force or violence by a group or individual born, raised, or based and operating primarily within the United States or any possession of the United States to intimidate or coerce the United States government, the civilian population of the United States, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.

(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.

The language is extremely vague and in an age when our government is not willing to equate the act of water boarding with the word torture, I get extremely concerned with the ambiguity of the definitions listed above. With these definitions it is very easy to see how the Act could be used to target dissent against this government by way of protest. For example someone who is proven to have planned to threaten the use of force for social change(using the language found in the text) whatever that means is now a terrorist by definition.

Now some supporters are saying, that H.R. 1959 will be used appropriately to protect us against the danger that exists here in America. A question you have to ask yourself if you feel this way is 'why are the laws that are already in place not sufficient to deal with these threats, why is H.R. 1955 needed.'

Some supporters of the bill attempt to downplay its power, dismissing it as essentially non-binding and only setting up a committee for observation but that is not the whole truth. While this it is true that the bill is a non-binding resolution, they are missing the fact that the committee will indeed act. If you think Congressional committees such as this one are assembled simply to study and never act then you are simply mistaken.

What we are guaranteed to see from this committee is for them to take an isolated event where an anti-war, anti-abortion or anti-government group acted out violently and universally criminalize the activities that they participated in leading up to the act of violence. One of those activities already listed in the bill is communication of ideas through the internet. It is worded this way in H.R. 1959:

(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.

This “finding” is sure to shape the activities studied in the committee. As Congressman Ron Paul(R-TX) stated when on the floor of the House:

“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.”

I would not trust the government, once granted power to regulate the internet, to not protect themselves from dissenters.

Now some people may say that I am being an alarmist, but I would rather fight this bill before it is law rather than have to fight the very well funded powerful committee, but most likely and quite ironically the fight will take place against this committee by organizing on the Internet and protesting in the streets. Sometimes the best way to defend a right is to exercise that right.

The full text of H.R. 1959 can be read here:

http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/F?c110:4:./temp/~c110nVQyMx:e582:

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