Jane Harman (D-CA) sucks. There’s no better way to say it. Why does Jane Harman suck? Because she introduced the Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007. An oddly named bill, reminiscent of The Patriot Act, The Protect America Act, and others which might be called anything but patriotic or protecting. And, for that, both it, and she, sucks. BTW, this bill is also loving called the Thought Crime Bill. Why? Watch and weep, then keep reading.
This clip is from the film Washington You’re Fired which you can purchase here. An excellent film, one I highly recommend.
Let me say, for the record, that in concept, I don’t think that it’s a bad thing to determine who might want to blow up both stuff and people in the US. If you read what’s on the House site regarding this bill, it sounds all rosy. That said, a generally worded document – no, LAW, of dubious origins (more below the fold), with inadequate definitions; definitions which are open to far too much interpretation for comfort, becomes something to fear greatly.
But that’s not the only reason Jane Harman sucks.
Let’s first look at this bill and we’ll more about why Ms. Harman sucks shortly. So, how is this poorly worded? This is an excerpts from the official House site.
10/23/2007–Passed House amended.
Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007 – Amends the Homeland Security Act of 2002 to add a new section concerning the prevention of violent radicalization; (an extremist belief system for facilitating ideologically based violence to advance political, religious, or social change); and homegrown terrorism (violence by a group or individual within the United States; to coerce the U.S. government, the civilian population, or a segment thereof in furtherance of political or social objectives).
Why is this problematic? Lee Waters takes this on quite nicely.
The definition of violent radicalization uses vague language to define this term of promoting any belief system that the government considers to be an extremist agenda. Since the bill doesn’t specifically define what an extremist belief system is, it is entirely up to the interpretation of the government. Considering how much the government has done to destroy the Constitution they could even define Ron Paul supporters as promoting an extremist belief system. Literally, the government according to this definition can define whatever they want as an extremist belief system. Essentially they have defined violent radicalization as thought crime. The definition as defined in the bill is shown below.
(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.
The definition of homegrown terrorism uses equally vague language to further define thought crime. The bill includes the planned use of force or violence as homegrown terrorism which could be interpreted as thinking about using force or violence. Not only that but the definition is so vaguely defined, that petty crimes could even fall into the category of homegrown terrorism. The definition as defined in the bill is shown below.
(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.
Section 899B of the bill goes over the findings of Congress as it pertains to homegrown terrorism. Particularly alarming is that the bill mentions the Internet as a main source for terrorist propaganda. The bill even mentions streams in obvious reference to many of the patriot and pro-constitution Internet radio networks that have been formed. It also mentions that homegrown terrorists span all ages and races indicating that the Congress is stating that everyone is a potential terrorist. Even worse is that Congress states in their findings that they should look at draconian police states like Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom as models to defeat homegrown terrorists. Literally, these findings of Congress fall right in line with the growing patriot community.
And then there were the speeches which resulted in this bill’s passage.
First up, excerpts from Rep. Bennie Thompson [D-MS]:
In May, six men were arrested for allegedly plotting to attack Fort Dix. Three of those men were United States citizens; the other three had been in the United States since they were small children. Then, again, in June, another four men were charged with plotting to attack JFK Airport by blowing up jet fuel tanks. The alleged mastermind of this plot was a United States citizen.
Homegrown terrorists no longer need to travel to Afghanistan or Pakistan to get support and training. They can simply go on the Internet to find violent propaganda and others who share their violent ideology.
The bill also creates a center of excellence to conduct research that is desperately needed in determining the root cause of violent radicalization.
The centerpiece of this bill is the creation of a national commission. It is a step in the right direction. National commissions have a long and successful history in this country. The Gilmore Commission, of which our chairwoman was a member, which functioned from 1993 to 1998, made 164 recommendations regarding the domestic response to terrorism. Of those 164 recommendations, all have been adopted in whole or in part by the Congress and the Federal Government.
Well, we’re off to a bad start. The Fort Dix situation was a case of presumptive prosecution (which is too reminiscent of our preemptive war with Iraq) and, in my opinion, questionable in many respects) which garnered a guilty plea by one suspect for possession of weapons. Not exactly a stunning bit of terrorism there. (If you’re interested, here’s a good blog which followed this. Knock yourself out.)
And just what is the root cause of violent radicalization? Let me venture a couple of guesses here: abject poverty, food insecurity (why don’t they call it starvation anymore?), our government’s interference both domestically and abroad which is usually to the detriment of the populace at large, mental illness? I am sure the list could go on and on but how about addressing a couple of the concepts?
And The Gilmore Commission? Hold that thought for another moment.
But let’s give our esteemed representatives some benefit of the doubt. Let’s look more at the speeches.
Now to Ms. Harman’s speech. Again excerpts:
In recent testimony before our Intelligence Subcommittee, some common traits and characteristics emerged. Said RAND Corporation’s Bruce Jenkins: “It is the same age group that is susceptible to being recruited into gangs. These are young men who are going through identity crises, looking to define themselves. If you have a narrative that exalts violence, that attempts to project that violence as a personal obligation, that offers the tantalizing prospect of clandestinity (sic), identity, all of those are appealing to that specific age group.”
Combine that personal adolescent upheaval with the explosion of information technologies and communications tools, tools which American kids are using to broadcast messages from al Qaeda….
I’ll spare you more speeches consisting of Fort Dix, Al Qaeda, JFK, etc., etc., ad nauseum.
But what about this Rand Corporation? And how about The Gilmore Commission? Glad you asked.
This is from an interview by Amy Goodman and journalist Jessica Lee and Kaman Karl Franklin, a fellow with the Center for Constitutional Rights:
JESSICA LEE: Right. When I started to look into this bill, what I found was a great influence by the Rand Corporation, which is a government affiliated think tank. Twice, Brian Michael Jenkins, who is an expert on terrorism, gave testimony in the House on this bill.
AMY GOODMAN: He is from the Rand Corporation.
JESSICA LEE: He is from the Rand, yes. They largely tried to push this bill through on this idea there are these extreme political Islamists in our country and they did not do a very good job stating the actual threat. But when you look through the Rand Corporation’s other reports in 2005, they had a report called “Trends in Terrorism”. And they had one chapter called “Homegrown Terrorism Threats”. When you look in that chapter, there’s nothing about political Islamists. In fact, its all about anti- globalization people on the right and left side of the spectrum. The animal rights and the environmental movements; and anarchists. And to me I found that very interesting that that testimony was not mentioned at all when this bill was passed. That this legislation is not just gonna look at so-called violent, religious people, but also people who have been very strong opinions against this administration.
AMY GOODMAN: In terms of the Rand Corporation, it was Daniel Ellsburg who worked for the Rand Corporation, when he have that many thousands of pages on the history of the Vietnam war and the Pentagon papers. So Rand is the key—what would you say, writer of the bill? And the Congressmember who’s most involved in this?
JESSICA LEE: Representative Jane Harmon, a Democrat from California, has had a lengthy relationship with the Rand Corporation. I called several times to get comment from the Rand Corporation, they said that their experts are out of town and unavailable due to the holidays. So I did not find out if they indeed did write the bill themselves. What we do know is that have a great influence and that they have had in the past.
KAMAU FRANKLIN: I just wanted to add to the Rand comment, particularly with Brian Michael Jenkins, supposed terrorist expert who’s mainly known according to Rand as someone who helped the United States in counter-insurgency measures in Vietnam, which is one of his claims to fame. In addition to that, he wrote a book and in his own book, I just want to quote that says “in their international campaign, the Jihadist will seek common ground with leftist, anti-American and anti-globalization forces who will in turn seek radical Islam comrades against a mutual foe.” So I think what Jessica’s talking about, is that, the breadth of it is not focused in on supposed terrorists who are threatening the United States, but folks who have real concerns about where this country is heading, folks who express dissent in various different ways including demonstrations and marches. These are the folks who this bill potentially good target.
Here is an excellent Open Letter to Jane Harman addressing this issue and Rand specifically. I strongly suggest you read this.
One of the best entries I have read concerning this slippery slope of a bill is by Paul Craig Roberts, Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration, prior Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal editorial pages, and a Contributing Editor of the National Review (yes, I said National Review, that bastion of thinking left). He ends his post with “The light of liberty has gone out in the United States.” Ya think?
The assault on the US Constitution by the Democratic Party is as determined as the assault by the Republicans. On October 23, 2007, the House passed a bill sponsored by California Democratic congresswoman Jane Harman, chairwoman of a Homeland Security subcommittee, that overturns the constitutionally guaranteed rights to free expression, association, and assembly.
The bill passed the House on a vote of 404-6. In the Senate the bill is sponsored by Maine Republican Susan Collins and apparently faces no meaningful opposition.
Harman’s bill is called the “Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act.”When HR 1955 becomes law, it will create a commission tasked with identifying extremist people, groups, and ideas. The commission will hold hearings around the country, taking testimony and compiling a list of dangerous people and beliefs. The bill will, in short, create massive terrorism in the United States. But the perpetrators of terrorism will not be Muslim terrorists; they will be government agents and fellow citizens.
We are beginning to see who will be the inmates of the detention centers being built in the US by Halliburton under government contract.
Who will be on the “extremist beliefs” list? The answer is: civil libertarians, critics of Israel, 9/11 skeptics, critics of the administration’s wars and foreign policies, critics of the administration’s use of kidnapping, rendition, torture and violation of the Geneva Conventions, and critics of the administration’s spying on Americans. Anyone in the way of a powerful interest group–such as environmentalists opposing politically connected developers–is also a candidate for the list.
The “Extremist Beliefs Commission” is the mechanism for identifying Americans who pose “a threat to domestic security” and a threat of “homegrown terrorism” that “cannot be easily prevented through traditional federal intelligence or law enforcement efforts.
While I am railing on Jane Harman, let me add that this isn’t the only reason to say that she sucks. Ms. Harman was also one of the Gang of Eight who knew, back in 2004, about the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping. Now only did she not say anything, she supported it and tried to keep it out of the press. She felt that open discussion was damaging.
As the former Rep. Tom Hayden says:
She was one of a handful of Congressmembers invited into the secret White House briefings on what has mushroomed into a major scandal: the launch of domestic spying by intelligence agencies without warrants. The ranking Democrat on the House intelligence committee, Harman promised the White House to keep secret what she heard at the meetings.
- She could have been a whistleblower, but chose not to be.
- She could have refused the unconditional promise of secrecy, but chose not to.
- She could have resigned the secret committee without comment, letting her silence do the talking, but chose not to.
Left to Harman, the spy scandal would still be a secret today. It was the New York Times, not Democratic leaders, who first broke the silence and secrecy.
Harman actually approved the spy program in her initial comments, then sought a legal opinion before commenting further.
Thanks, Jane. Between this and the Thought Crime Bill, I feel so much safer.
Since the birth of our nation, patriotism IS dissent. Patriotism is a working media which oversees the overseers. Patriotism is questioning everything to keep our government honest. Patriotism requires a knowledgeable population. It takes interest from the masses, the ability to critically think and understand. Alas, we are failing miserably on each of these very important aspects of what being patriotic truly is. What it is not is wrapping yourself in a flag, wearing a flag pin, or blindly following whatever ideology you choose.
What can you do?
Let me close with a poem attributed to Pastor Martin Neimoller:
When the Nazis came for the communists,
I remained silent;
I was not a communist.
When they locked up the social democrats,
I remained silent;
I was not a social democrat.
When they came for the trade unionists,
I did not speak out;
I was not a trade unionist.
When they came for the Jews,
I remained silent;
I wasn’t a Jew.
When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out.