Groups, like Truthout, are cranking up their appeal to their followers to contact Senators asking them to veto H.R. 1955, "The Violent Radicalization Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007." The bill sponsored by California Democrat Jane Harman and introduced last April 2007 passed the House with bipartisan support by a roll call vote of 404 to 6 (the negative vote was equally split between Democrats and Republicans with 22 not casting a vote.
Only 274 votes were needed for the bill to pass. Ohio Democrat Dennis Kucinich was one of the six who cast a negative vote, the others came from Representatives from Arizona, California, Hawaii, Illinois, and Tennessee.
H.R. 1955 considers a group or an individual born, raised or operating primarily in the US or its possessions who uses, plans, or threatens to use "ideologically based" force or violence to further political or social objectives by intimidation or forceful means as "homegrown terrorists."
In other words, the government is afraid of a civil uprising that could mean as mild as an uprising to root out both the Democrats and Republicans in Congress who want to see this bill law or others out there who want to re-instill democratic principles originally defined by our forefathers. Of course, it also refers to those Islamic extremists who want to rid the world of ideologies inconsistent with their self-proclaimed beliefs, and nobody can deny the scariness of that thought.
H.R. 1955 sets up a 10-member commission to investigate the issue and specifies having expertise in the subject of "Islam," suggesting the need to determine whether the language in the Qur'an, dubbed the final revelation from God to mankind, is being taken figuratively or literally. It also extends the power of Homeland Security by establishing an unspecified "university-based Center of Excellence," one to be selected by the secretary. (Doesn't "Center of Excellence" in this case sound Orwellian? And why are critics hearing CATO Institute involvement?)
Dave Davison, the president of Peace Network of the Ozarks, has taken issue with the language in the bill. "Our contention with the bill 'in its current form' is that it allows such broad definitions of what violent action may be," he said. "We don't think legitimate 'informed dissent' by American citizens, another opinion that disagrees with a government position, is violent or radical. The concern is that if the bill is carried to extreme in its current form, it is quite possible for authoritarians to abuse American citizens who simply have a different opinion."
He further said:
We have all learned... when you give an authoritarian an inch, they will take a mile in their own interpretation of power and authority. The definitions in the bill need to be improved, strengthened, made plain to exactly what violence really is. We all want potential violent actions to be curbed, and genuine terrorists to be caught, etc., but we don't want a police state that works against America in a manner that continues to shred the Constitution that the president of the United States is reported to have said, "It's just a God damn piece of paper."
According to the bill's findings, "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." What this statement assumes is that only by government intervention will these threats be eradicated. It also suggests the concern that John Q and Mary Public might be overly influenced by what they are reading in the alternative press disseminated on the Internet.
While not objecting to a commission that would collect information for the purpose of educating Congress regarding domestically spawned terrorism, Matt Renner, assistant editor and Washington reporter for Truthout, suggests that the "commission would be given broad authority to hold hearings and collect evidence, powers that raise red flags for civil liberties groups." He says that activists have criticized the bill, some comparing the commission it would create to that created in the McCarthy era. The McCarthy Commission in investigating Americans for possible ties to Communist groups, cast suspicion on law-abiding citizens and in many cases destroyed their lives.