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Put On the Cuffs, I'm Guilty as Charged

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If you thought, as I did, that some pretty scary legislation was created in the past seven years of this administration, you might want to pay attention.

You or I may be a violent radical in the eyes of your neighbor, or someone at work or (quite possibly) a complete stranger on the subway.

No way.

Don’t be sure. Jane Harman, a Democratic member of the House from California, has just gotten together with fellow members to pass HR 1955 RFS. Just four days ago, the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007 sailed off to the Senate. Harman had fourteen co-sponsors, ten Democrats and four Republicans. Harman's bill has been called, quite properly, a "thought crime bill."

You might have been looking the other way or thinking about giving the lawn one last mowing before winter. There has not been so much as a whisper from the media, engrossed as they are by Hillary’s laugh and Britney’s course in child-raising.

The vote in your House of Representatives was 404 yes and a lonely 6 against. That’s how hot any disfigured legislation that often enough repeats ‘terrorism’ has become. Bad law comes of frightened times and we have allowed ourselves to become a terrorized nation.

Meanwhile, I ask you to think for a moment about the word ‘ambiguity;’ (noun) an expression whose meaning cannot be determined from its context; unclearness, by virtue of having more than one meaning.

The reason I ask that is because this act is thoroughly and deliberately ambiguous from start to finish—and therein lies its great danger to your and my freedom. I don’t mean freedom of speech or association, although those are at risk as well. I mean your freedom not to be hustled off in handcuffs, possibly never heard from again.

You’ve got to be kidding. This is still America.

Well, it is. For now--and presuming the Senate has the good judgment to bury Harmon’s bill. They sometimes do. Jane’s treachery to her fellow Americans resides at the moment in the Senate’s Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. Incredibly, Harman began her career in Washington by serving as chief counsel and staff director for the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Constitutional Rights. For Jane and most of Washington, scary-terrorism has come to trump the Constitution every time.

So, let’s get to it. What’s so scary about Rep. Jane Harmon’s bill? The first worry is its name, the 'Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007’ and the reason that’s a worry is because of its ambiguity. Ambiguity is what made Hitler’s Germany possible.

What do they mean by Violent Radicalization?

From the 'definitions page' of the bill; (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. My dictionary says ‘extremist’ is ‘far beyond the norm.’ Whose norm? How far is far? Those are ambiguous terms and because they are and because this is terrorist legislation, their meaning is in the hands of the arresting entity.

Bingo! You and/or I may be gone the route of the recent and unfortunate Canadian and German ‘extremists’ who were arrested, rendered to foreign countries and tortured.

My writing this opinion piece is for the explicit purpose of ‘advancing political and social change.’ The only veil between my right to speak as a citizen and extraordinary rendition is someone’s definition of ‘far’ and ‘norm.’ Someone I may not (and probably will not) be able to challenge in court. I’m sorry, Jane, but I find that very, very scary.

What do they mean by Homegrown Terrorism? I would guess it’s not at all similar to a particularly flavorful, tomatoey kind of terrorism.

(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.

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Jim Freeman's op-ed pieces and commentaries have appeared in The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, International Herald-Tribune, CNN, The New York Review, The Jon Stewart Daily Show and a number of magazines. His thirteen published books are (more...)
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