Thursday, December 13, 2007

Freedom vs. terror

-- by Dave

Be sure to check out my weekly Firedoglake post, "Civil Liberties and Terrorism", a discussion of Jane Harman's current anti-domestic-terrorism legislation:
As a journalist who has spent some time reporting on -- and in the process, studying -- domestic terrorism, I've been long dismayed by the Bush administration's political-marketing approach to terrorism, emphasizing the threat of foreign terrorists in the wake of 9/11 while displaying a distinct blindness to the ongoing threat from the domestic side.

So when I first heard about Rep. Jane Harman's "Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007" -- which looseheadprop has already discussed a bit -- I was intrigued. After all, a cursory glance at it indicated that it represented a reprioritization of our anti-terrorism policies to a more comprehensive strategy, one that's been lacking since George W. Bush's presidential tenure began.

But a closer look at the bill -- particularly the context in which it's arising, the elements pushing it forward, and the significant incursion on civil liberties for which it potentially opens the floodgates -- makes clear that, instead of offering effective tools to defeat terrorists, it's likely if anything to make matters worse. Certainly, it's nothing that serious progressives should support; the sooner it is shot down, the better.

I first heard about it a few weeks ago when I received an e-mail from Lindsay Beyerstein of Majikthise, who was in the process of writing a story about it, inquiring if I'd heard of the legislation. At the time, I hadn't; and my initial response, based on a cursory examination, was that it looked, at least on the surface, like a potentially effective measure that would reorient our priorities on fighting terrorism.

Still, there were nagging issues, not the least of which was that the "national commission" that it would create would be exempt under the Federal Advisory Commission Act, which is designed to ensure transparency and openness to the public for its activities. Indeed, the more I looked, the more it became apparent the entity it would create would have little if any public accountability at all -- and would actually resemble some of the witch-hunt commissions that have haunted past episodes of American history.

But in-depth policy analysis is not my bailiwick, so I consulted people in the civil-rights business what their opinions were, and what I heard back was more than enough to raise real doubts in my mind about the legislation.

Unfortunately, it's eaten up all my blogging time today. Hope you find it worthy.

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