Saturday, October 27, 2007

Put On the Cuffs, I’m Guilty as Charged

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.


Harman1 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.

Chertoffincommittee 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.

Coerce, force (verbs) to cause to do through pressure or necessity, by physical, moral or intellectual means.

Guilty as charged, I guess. It is certainly my purpose to morally and intellectually pressure my government in furtherance of a political and social objective.

Is Jane Harmon nuts? Is not what I have just described and what she has declared terrorist, not the essence of the democratic process? One of us is dead wrong.

What I find unacceptable is twofold; 1) that Harman has removed that definition (upon which my fate depends) from the Constitution and given it to agents of the state, and 2) that mainstream American media apparently hasn’t even noticed.

Anyone know what Ideologically Based Violence means?

(4) IDEOLOGICALLY BASED VIOLENCE- The term `ideologically based violence' means the use, planned use, or threatened use of force or violence by a group or individual to promote the group or individual's political, religious, or social beliefs.

Ideological (adjective) of or pertaining to or characteristic of an orientation that characterizes the thinking of a group or nation. Violence (noun) an act of aggression, as one against a person who resists. Well, then you have to go further and define aggression; (noun) a feeling of hostility that arouses thoughts of attack.

Again, carry me off in cuffs, ‘cause I hope I characterize the thinking of a group, my hostility is against an administration that resists its own laws and, although I never have (nor would) advocate a physical attack against my government, I surely and repeatedly attack it verbally.

That is my right as a citizen. The great James Madison, our fourth president, said “If Tyranny and Oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy.” Certainly terrorism’s false definition by the Bush administration as a foreign enemy confirms that warning by Madison with heartbreaking accuracy.

Harman2 Jane Harmon, we can only presume, has never read nor paid much notice to our greatest presidents. If she had, her ears would ring with Lincoln’s admonition that “America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter, and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves,” adding that “to sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards of men.”

Jane apparently sees terrorism behind every palm tree in her homegrown California climate and finds her neighbors radicalized, some of them violently. Her bill makes certain ‘findings’ with which she arms the nation against the terrible destructive power of its own citizenry.

The Congress finds the following:
(1) The development and implementation of methods and processes that can be utilized to prevent violent radicalization, homegrown terrorism, and ideologically based violence in the United States is critical to combating domestic terrorism.

No Jane, your Congress is incorrect. What is and always has been critical to our freedoms (including the freedom from terrorism) is the restriction of methods and processes within constitutional law.

(2) The promotion of violent radicalization, homegrown terrorism, and ideologically based violence exists in the United States and poses a threat to homeland security.

You bet it does and that promotion (as I have described and confessed to it) is elemental to the freedoms within a homeland that make it worthy of preserving.

(3) 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 presumption here is that, under Harmon’s watchful eye, we will only be exposed to what she deems worthy of exposition. Nice touch. Nice opening shot against Net Neutrality.

(4) While the United States must continue its vigilant efforts to combat international terrorism, it must also strengthen efforts to combat the threat posed by homegrown terrorists based and operating within the United States.

Most of those tormented by Senator Joseph McCarthy fifty years ago are dead by now. But in case supposed communists have been quietly been reincarnating themselves as supposed terrorists, Harman strives to bring back the halcyon days of Joe. Are those ‘card-carrying’ terrorists, Jane?

(5) Understanding the motivational factors that lead to violent radicalization, homegrown terrorism, and ideologically based violence is a vital step toward eradicating these threats in the United States.

Eradication. Like Dutch Elm Disease. My motivation is the freedom to speak, to practice my religion (as a Muslim if that is my choice) or none at all, to associate with friends and perhaps even indulge in political discussion, to write without governmental editing, to travel as my desires, finances and passport allow and to be left the hell alone—all of these without threat (or perceived threat) to my neighbors.

(6) Preventing the potential rise of self radicalized, unaffiliated terrorists domestically cannot be easily accomplished solely through traditional Federal intelligence or law enforcement efforts, and can benefit from the incorporation of State and local efforts.

Probably correct and yet one wonders how (again, ambiguously) this bill purports to incorporate State and local effort. So far as I know, even Joe McCarthy was never  allowed to do that.

(7) Individuals prone to violent radicalization, homegrown terrorism, and ideologically based violence span all races, ethnicities, and religious beliefs, and individuals should not be targeted based solely on race, ethnicity, or religion.

Well Janie, let’s hear it for equal-opportunity victimization. But if not solely, then how about just a little bit?

(8) Any measure taken to prevent violent radicalization, homegrown terrorism, and ideologically based violence and homegrown terrorism in the United States should not violate the constitutional rights, civil rights, or civil liberties of United States citizens or lawful permanent residents.

Should not (probable), will not (absolute). Does that ‘should not’ apply before or after the determination to pack a suspect off to another country. I would suggest to you a quick reference to the tale of the son of an Egyptian diplomat.

(9) Certain governments, including the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia have significant experience with homegrown terrorism and the United States can benefit from lessons learned by those nations.

Harman3 No doubt. Then of course, having not dotted every 'i' and crossed every 't' in the observation of her fellow (but perhaps less well-connected) citizens, Harman proposes to set up her own version of a “School for Scandal.”

SEC. 899D. CENTER OF EXCELLENCE FOR THE STUDY OF VIOLENT RADICALIZATION AND HOMEGROWN TERRORISM IN THE UNITED STATES. (Blah, blah and then more blah, until we get down to ‘c’)

(c) Activities- In carrying out this section, the Center shall--

(1) contribute to the establishment of training, written materials, information, analytical assistance and professional resources to aid in combating violent radicalization and homegrown terrorism;

Brown shirts are dress-optional.

(2) utilize theories, methods and data from the social and behavioral sciences to better understand the origins, dynamics, and social and psychological aspects of violent radicalization and homegrown terrorism;

Harman has done everything up to now but slip on the swastika arm-band.

(3) conduct research on the motivational factors that lead to violent radicalization and homegrown terrorism;

Including the motivation to live in a free and independent nation.

(4) coordinate with other academic institutions studying the effects of violent radicalization and homegrown terrorism where appropriate.

Well Jane. Now that you have finally wadeed down through this veritable swamp of constitutional degradation, hip-boots slathered in congressional slime, you throw us the bone of ‘where appropriate.’ How California of you.

In an effort to wind this up and provide some connective tissue, let me draw attention to other little heralded laws. Federal confiscation laws are in effect that could cost you everything you own. There is little argument against these violations of the 4th, 5th, 8th and 14th Amendments to the Constitution because, what the hell, you and I are not drug users or dealers.

(Your House is Under Arrest, Brenda Grantland, attorney) Property can be confiscated from innocent people for the crimes of others. Even if you are totally innocent, you have to go through the whole process, and prove at trial that you didn't know of or consent to the illegal use of your property before you can get it back.

Forfeiture procedures allow the government to sieze property without a hearing, and hold onto it until the case is over. Often the police seize everything of value you own, so that you don't have any money to hire a lawyer to fight your case. There is no right to court appointed counsel in forfeiture cases.

In federal law, they make you pay the police 10% of the value of your property in order to have any right to a trial at all! Even after you pay the cost bond, you can still be denied the right to trial if the judge grants "summary judgement" for the government. This can happen if the judge decides there are no facts to dispute, or that you don't have enough "credible" evidence to win at trial.

At trial -- if you get one -- the property is presumed guilty. The burden of proof is on you to prove your property should not be forfeited. The courts even let the government use hearsay to prove their case -- but they won't let you use hearsay to defend yourself.
Some state forfeiture statutes have even taken away the right to a jury trial in all forfeiture cases.

You may say this could never happen in America because the U.S. Constitution protects you. There you are wrong, because it is happening in the U.S. -- at an alarmingly increasing pace.

And it has been happening since 1993, but most likely not to anyone you know personally.

The same might be said of HR 1955 RFS as well. But one of our greatest freedoms as Americans is the ability to walk down a street, drive down a highway and challenge anyone who stands in our way. Even a policeman, perhaps particularly a policeman.

"Is there a problem, officer," is said by Americans with the little bit of swagger that adds "you better have a damned good reason." I thank my country often for the ability to walk without fear, knowing no one wants me, no one wishes me ill, no one gives a damn who I am.

There isn't a man or woman among us who would trade that ability to sleep peacefully and un-bothered for someone else's concept of the fear of terrorism. Thanks anyway, Jane, I'll take my chances on good old traditional American police work.
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