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A little-noticed anti-terrorism bill quietly making its through Congress is raising fears of a new affront on activism and constitutional rights. The Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act was passed in an overwhelming 400 to six House vote last month. Critics say it could herald a new government crackdown on dissident activity and infiltration of universities under the guise of fighting terrorism. The bill would establish two government-appointed bodies to study, monitor and propose ways of curbing what it calls homegrown terrorism and extremism in the United States. The first body, a National Commission, would convene for eighteen months. A university-based "Center for Excellence" would follow, bringing together academic specialists to recommend laws and other measures.
Critics say the bill's definition of "extremism" and "terrorism" is too vague and its mandate even more broad. Under a false veil of expertise and independence, the government-appointed commissions could be used as ideological cover to push through harsher laws.
Following last month's approval in the House, the Senate version is expected to go before the Judiciary Committee this week.
- Jessica Lee, reporter for the Indypendent, published by the NYC Indymedia Center. Her latest article is called "Bringing the War on Terrorism Home: Congress Considers How to 'Disrupt' Radical Movements in the United States"
- Kamau Karl Franklin, Racial Justice Fellow at the NY-based Center for Constitutional Rights. He is also co-chair of the National Conference of Black Lawyers and serves on the Executive Committee of the National Lawyers Guild.