Section 899 C (k) of S. 1959: Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007 states “Nonapplicability of Federal Advisory Committee Act -- The Federal Advisory Committee Act (5 U.S.C. App.) shall not apply to the Commission.”. This pending legislation recently moved to the Senate, after the House passed it 404-6, as H.R. 1955.
Why should the FAC Act not apply? The recommendations of the Commission proposed by this bill may have grave effects on 1st and 4th Amendment protected Rights, and this process should certainly have maximum public scrutiny, input and accountability.
What is FACA? Here’s a summary of FACA pros and cons published by Resources for the Future: http://www.rff.org/documents/RFF-DP-99-17.pdf In a nutshell, the Federal Advisory Committee Act limits the influence special interests can have on legislation without public oversight; it serves to inform the public on who is advising the government, what the advice is, and how the government is using it. This “Thought Crime” Commission being FACA-exempt means its processes, documents and witnesses, their testimony and advice, and the conclusions reached and laws recommended will be shielded to a certain, possibly large extent from public scrutiny and objections.
While it is never preferable that government operate without openness and accountability to the People, in the case of a law like this, that in its wording suggests abridging the 1st and 4th Amendments may be an appropriate way to fight terror, public input and oversight need to be welcomed, not discouraged and frustrated. In the House Hearings for this Bill, peaceful 9/11 inquiry websites like http://www.AE911Truth.org were equated with terrorist propaganda, and the internet was blamed for enabling the circulation of ideas. http://infowars.net/articles/november2007/131107terror.htm Are those who question what we’ve been told about 9/11 to be called terrorists, or blamed for terrorism? Will it be claimed that the government should be able to decide what news and views are OK for the People to consider and discuss? Our Republic is strengthened, and our Constitution defended, by free expression and open debate. Most people are decent, law-abiding and can handle the truth; politicians who don’t like having light shined on their activities often have something to fear- from public opinion, if not the Constitution and the law.
Here are some issues with this Bill that have been highlighted by others, including the National Lawyers Guild, Society of American Law Teachers, Center for Constitutional Rights and the American Civil Liberties Union:
• We already have laws against planning and committing violent acts.
• The FBI, CIA and non-governmental organizations have already done, and are doing, extensive research on radical/violent ideologies; there is no need to give political ideologues $22 million to do research that will be redundant at best, and may result in laws detrimental to Liberty.
• Sec 899A (2). Does not define “extremist belief system”; with such vague language, this could even mean anything other than points of view endorsed by Democrats and Republicans.
• Sec 899A (3) (4) Equates “force” with “violence”; non-violent protesters who plan a march could be labeled “terrorists” and prosecuted as such.
• Sec 899B (4) Finds “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 internet facilitates freedom of choice, expression and debate, and these are strengths; this is not an acceptable finding. Also, if this finding is accepted, will the proposed solutions be to regulate internet access and content, and increase warrantless surveillance and searches of Americans?
• Sec 899D (a) Establishes a “Center of Excellence” to “assist Federal, State, local and tribal homeland security officials through training, education, and research in preventing violent radicalization and homegrown terrorism in the United States.” While this may sound good or innocuous on the face, recall that the definitions of “violent radicalization” and “homegrown terrorism” are so broad that even non-violent protest could be included.
• Possibly worst of all, the Preamble of the Bill; “To establish the National Commission…, and for other purposes.” A bill as Orwellian as this should not be enacted at all; and certainly not for anything other than strictly defined and limited purposes.
You can read the Bill’s text and track its status here:
Call your Senators at 1-800-965-4701, and write to your local, independent and corporate media to express your opposition to this dangerous Bill, now! Point out the problems with it, and urge them to filibuster it. The idea of the Bill itself is bad- but if they will not stop it, tell them that, at a minimum the public must have input and oversight on the Commission’s work, and the 1st and 4th Amendment-threatening language must be removed.
Most important, tell your friends, family, co-workers and strangers- The Constitution and all our Rights are at stake, if we cannot question what we’re told. Remember, there are already State and Federal Laws against planning and committing violent acts; there is no need for laws that will chill 1st Amendment-protected speech and activities, and will faciliate abuse of power.
National Lawyers Guild
Center for Constitutional Rights
American Civil Liberties Union www.aclu.org/safefree/general/32886prs20071128.html
Here Come the Thought Police by Ralph E. Shaffer and R. William Robinson, published by The Baltimore Sun
*Thanks to Janice Matthews of http://www.911Truth.org for pointing out that this Bill specifically negates the applicability of FACA.