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November 28, 2007

The "Thought Crimes Act" Threatens

The Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007 is poised to be come the next greatest threat to American democracy. No, really: "not since the "Patriot Act" of 2001 has any bill so threatened our constitutionally guaranteed rights."

I looked for a generally unbiased article to link for you, but everything out there about the bill opposes it. It doesn't look like legacy media have picked up the story yet. If you like, you can look through the legislative text.

The bill passed the House in October by a vote of 404 to 6. A Senate committee is considering it now. If it becomes law, the bill will establish a congressional commission to look at the causes of "violent radicalization, homegrown terrorism, and ideologically based violence in the United States." It also directs the creation of a "university-based Center of Excellence" which would work with the commission and also "study the social, criminal, political, psychological, and economic roots of violent radicalization and homegrown terrorism in the United States."

The language that really scares the Left is that which gives the commission the power to call hearings and take oaths and that directing the university center to discover "methods that can be utilized" by state and federal governments to combat radicalization and terrorism. They claim that the former will make the commission members "little McCarthys" and that the latter will lead to thought police.

All the right people are in a tizzy over this one: Indymedia, numerous op-ed writers, and, of course, Lefty blogs, who have issued so many "Action Alerts" about it that even I noticed. Amusingly, the John Birch Society also opposes it, as do the PaulBots.

My patriotic fervor was particularly stirred by this Action Alert from the National Lawyers Guild (the same folks who brought you terrorist supporter Lynne Stewart). It is embarrassingly farfetched:

This legislation does not criminalize conduct, but may well lead to criminalizing ideas or beliefs in violation of the First Amendment. By targeting the Internet, it may result in increased surveillance of Internet communications in violation of the Fourth Amendment.

The NLG's objection is like protesting the invention of the internal combustion engine because it might one day lead to tank warfare. Unfortunately, there are just a few intervening steps in there that they might be overlooking. Despite it's characterization as a "thought crimes law", there are no criminal penalties in bill. In fact, it would take wholly new legislative action to criminalize "ideas or beliefs" and, of course, such a law would never pass constitutional muster.

The real question is why the Left (and fringe Right) is so frantic to prevent examination of "ideologically based violence to advance political, religious, or social change." It's like that hits too close to the mark or something.

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posted by Gabriel Malor at 03:26 AM

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