ACLU Statement on the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007

November 28, 2007 12:00 am

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Washington, D.C. – The ACLU continues to have serious concerns regarding the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007 (H.R. 1955). Caroline Fredrickson, Director of the Washington Legislative Office of the ACLU said, “Law enforcement should focus on action, not thought. We need to worry about the people who are committing crimes rather than those who harbor beliefs that the government may consider to be extreme.”

The framework established by the measure will unavoidably make the focus of the commission the bill creates more likely to lead to unconstitutional restrictions on speech and belief – in addition to more appropriate restrictions on actions. Experience has demonstrated that the results of such a study will likely be used to recommend the use of racial, ethnic and religious profiling, in the event of a terrorist attack. We believe this approach to be counter-productive, and it will only heighten, rather than decrease, the spread of radicalization.

The ACLU has raised multiple concerns with H.R. 1955 at different points during the last 13 months. We appreciate the steps that have been made to improve the legislation, but we still have reservations. As an organization dedicated to the principles of freedom of speech, we cannot in good conscience support this or any measure that might lead to censorship and persecution based solely on one’s personal beliefs. Fredrickson explained that during hearings on the legislation called, “Using the Web as a Weapon: the Internet as a Tool for Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism,” the focus on the internet was problematic. “If Congress finds the Internet is dangerous, then the ACLU will have to worry about censorship and limitations on First Amendment activities. Why go down that road?”

The ACLU is working with senators to improve First Amendment and civil liberties protections in the Senate version of the legislation.

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