ACLU Skeptical of Senate Hearing on “Homegrown” Terrorism

July 9, 2008 12:00 am

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Alienating Islamic community does nothing to make America safer

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Wednesday, July 9, 2008


Washington, DC – The American Civil Liberties Union urges the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee to avoid suggesting that Americans of a certain religion or ethnicity have a greater proclivity for “homegrown terrorism.” Tomorrow the committee conducts a hearing on, “Islamist Extremism and Efforts to Counter It.” Caroline Fredrickson, director of the ACLU’s Washington Legislative Office said, “Making certain people, simply because of their religious beliefs and backgrounds, terror suspects is a grave national security mistake. We risk real harm to core civil rights and raise the risks of violent attacks by ignoring the Timothy McVeighs and Ted Kaczynskis who seek to do us harm.”

A report released in May by Senators Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) and Susan Collins (R-ME), “Violent Islamist Extremism, the Internet, and the Homegrown Terrorism Threat,” is based on findings from hearings held by the committee. The ACLU and nearly twenty other groups provided the committee with concerns with the report, most notably the free speech implications of labeling the Internet a “weapon” and unfairly singling out members of one religious group as possible “extremists.”

“We must stop limiting the rights of our citizenry in the name of fear mongering. The ACLU understands the need to prevent criminal acts of violence but to do so by targeting communities based on religious beliefs is closing the door to free thought and opening the door to the thought police,” said Fredrickson. “We should not be legislating against thought and we should certainly not be regulating religious or unpopular thought. A dynamic debate can only make this country stronger and safer.”

“Experience has demonstrated that in the event of a terrorist attack, the results of this report will likely be used to recommend the use of racial, ethnic and religious profiling,” said ACLU Policy Counsel Mike German, a former FBI agent. “This will only heighten, rather than decrease, the spread of extremist violence.” As an organization dedicated to the principle of free speech, the ACLU urges the committee to consider the long-term constitutional implications of supporting any legislation that limits liberties in the name of “homegrown” terrorism.

To read the coalition memo about homegrown terrorism, go to: /safefree/general/35209leg20080507.html

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