Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Hurry Up, Please: It's Time

Last November, I posted on a "thought crime" bill that had been passed overwhelmingly in the House and was now residing in the Senate awaiting action. The mainstream media has reported very little on the bill, but yesterday an editorial in the Sacramento Bee took the right stand on the bill:

The definitions in the bill are so vague as to sweep up all sorts of activities that Americans would not associate with terrorism. That's why the bill has drawn the opposition of the National Lawyers Guild, the Center for Constitutional Rights and civil liberties groups.

According to the bill, "violent radicalization" is promoting an undefined "extremist belief system." It is using "force or violence" to advance "political, religious or social change."

Of course, force need not involve physical violence. Examples of nonviolent force abound: Blacks in the 1950s staging sit-ins at whites-only restaurants; suffragettes chaining themselves to the White House fence in the 1910s to win the vote; workers striking to win better labor conditions in the 1930s.

And what constitutes homegrown terrorism? According to Harman's bill, it includes planning to "intimidate or coerce" the government or people of the United States to further "political or social objectives." In short, Harman's bill would make civil disobedience in the name of political change "homegrown terrorism."

Even worse, the national commission that would ferret out such activity would have sweeping subpoena and investigative powers to haul individuals and groups in for examination. ...

Harman's bill is labeled as an act to "prevent homegrown terrorism," and undefined "other purposes." This makes her bill eerily similar to the bill creating the House Un-American Activities Committee, which began in 1938 as a vehicle for investigating Nazi propaganda "and certain other propaganda activity."

The abuses of that committee, including its harassment of civil rights groups, are well documented. The Senate should kill Harman's bill and give the $22 million to local law enforcement, protecting the nation's citizens without ensnaring political activities as homegrown terrorism.

Exactly so. I'm glad somebody in the media is paying attention, but it's time for all of us to do so as well. Go read the bill for yourself, here, look at what other bloggers have to say, including Ronni Bennett at Time Goes By (click on the "Keep On Blogging" graphic on the upper left of her blog). Then start calling, writing, faxing, and emailing both of your senators to let them know how you feel about having your civil liberties erased. You might also let those senators who are busy campaigning to be president know how you feel and ask them to take enough time in their campaigns to speak to the issue.

It's time.

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