Some people are planning demonstrations in front of the offices of Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama on Monday, December 10, which is International Human Rights Day. The demonstrations are to protest H.R. 1955 and S. 1959, "The Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act". This Act was passed by the House on October 23 of this year and now awaits action in the Senate. The protesters of the bill are calling it the "Prevention of Thought Crimes" bill.
I have read the bill and I don't see what all the fuss is about. I don't see anything in the bill that attempts to get people to stop thinking radical thoughts. Rather, I think it is merely an attempt to understand why people become radicalized.
First of all the bill establishes a Congressional Commission whose job it will be to hold hearings on why and how people living in the United States might become radical and consider terrorizing or blowing things up. The Commission is to issue two interim reports, the first one 6 months after the Commission is established, and the second one 6 months later. The Commission is to cease to exist 30 days after it submits its final report.
Secondly, the bill asks the Secretary of Homeland Security to establish or designate a university-based Center of Excellence for the Study of Violent Radicalization and Homegrown terrorism in the United States. The purpose of the Center is to conduct research to "better understand the origins, dynamics, and social and psychological aspects of violet radicalization and homegrown terrorism;" and "on the motivational factors that lead to violent radicalization and homegrown terrorism."
Where there might be some concern is the Center is also being asked to "contribute to the establishment of training, written materials, information, analytical assistance and professional resources to aid in combating violent radicalization and homegrown terrorism." I am very skeptical of any attempt to try to reach someone who is contemplating blowing up a building and with training, written materials, etc., persuading him to do otherwise. To me this is more a waste of time, money, and resources than a threat to our rights. Studying never hurt anything. It is when action might be contemplated on the results of the studies that we might need to be concerned.
The Secretary of Homeland Security is also tasked with cooperating with the Secretary of State and the Attorney General in learning how other countries are dealing with homegrown terrorists in their countries.
There is even a section in the bill stating that the actions to prevent "ideologically based violence and homegrown terrorism" "shall not violate the constitutional rights, civil rights, or civil liberties of United States citizens or lawful permanent residents." Assurance of this is provided by an office within the Department of Homeland Security called the Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Office which is tasked with reporting to Congress annually of audits of compliance with this provision.
I don't see any problem with gathering information. Let's just hope it doesn't cost us much in terms of money.