The New Crime of Thinking
by Gary D. Barnett
by Gary D. Barnett
It looks like
the term thought police just might take on a whole new
and real meaning. This depends on what happens in the U.S. Senate
after receiving House bill H.R. 1955: Violent Radicalization and
Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007. This act (now S-1959
Senate version) is now being considered by Senate committees
and, if passed by the Senate and signed by the president, will become
law. Common sense would indicate that something this vague and dangerous
would not make it out of committee, but considering that the House
passed it on October 23 with 404 ayes, 6 nays, and 22 present/not
voting, Im not holding my breath.
The most disturbing
aspects of this bill, and there are many, are the definitions noted
in Section 899a. The three offenses defined in this document that
will warrant prosecution are:
Radicalization: The term violent radicalization means
the process of adopting or promoting an extremist belief system
for the purpose of facilitating ideologically based violence to
advance political, religious, or social change.
Terrorism: The term homegrown terrorism means the use,
planned use, or threatened use, of force or violence by a group
or individual born, raised, or operating primarily within the United
States or any possession of the United States government, the civilian
population of the United States, or any segment thereof, in furtherance
of political or social objectives.
based violence: The term ideologically based violence
means the use, planned use, or threatened use of force or violence
by a group or individual to promote the group or individuals
political, religious, or social beliefs.
fact that this Act would greatly expand an already monstrous bureaucracy
(Homeland Security Act of 2002), it is on its very face a threat
to all ideological thinking not approved by the state. Any citizen
at any given time could be considered a terrorism suspect and accused
or prosecuted for bad thoughts. Since the very act of
thinking could now be considered a crime, how would the populace
react to this new paradigm? Would political debate among the citizenry
become more subdued? Would watch groups, whether police or private,
arise to monitor individual and group conversations? Would speaking
out and writing against the government become a dangerous activity?
contained in this proposed legislation is not only vague, it is
also broad, sweeping, and unclear. The tenebrous and obscure nature
of the above definitions is obviously not an accident. The broader
the net, the more who are caught; the more who are caught, the more
who live in fear of being caught. Ambiguity and fear are mighty
deterrents, and ambiguity and fear foster obedience. In this case,
unconditional obedience to the mighty state and its many dictates.
In the definition
of violent radicalization, it is a crime to adopt or
promote an extremist belief system to facilitate ideologically based
violence. Neither extremist nor type of political, religious,
or social change is defined. And what about ideologically
based violence? Is it violence to simply advocate radical change
that might lead someone else to initiate violence? Who decides what
beliefs are okay and what beliefs are not? The state, of course,
is the final decider. The door is left open for interpretation,
but for interpretation by government only.
terrorism, although similarly defined, is notable in that
it concentrates strictly on U.S.-born, U.S.-raised, or U.S.-based
individuals and groups operating primarily within the United States
or any possession of the United States. The Bush administration
has had its problems in the courts at times concerning American
citizens and their rights, sometimes setting it and its agenda back.
This bill could help alleviate those problems. In addition, to intimidate
or coerce the U.S. government, the civilian population, or any segment
thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives, is forbidden
and considered criminal. Let me repeat; to intimidate the government
to further political or social objectives is forbidden. If this
is allowed to stand, what does it do to demonstration, protest,
petition, and the right to assemble?
proposed act is attached to the Homeland Security Act of 2002. This
is what gives it the teeth so that the enforcers can pursue and
detain those considered guilty of holding or promoting an extremist
belief system or wishing to advance political, religious, or social
change. I use the word enforcers because this bill allows
for the federal authorities, including intelligence and law enforcement,
to use any state or local law-enforcement agencies. In addition,
the commission may contract to enable enforcement. Also, The
Commission may request directly from any executive department, bureau,
agency, board, commission, office, independent establishment, or
instrumentality of the Government, information, suggestions, estimates,
and statistics for the purposes of this Section. (Section
899C.) What little privacy still exists will not exist for long
with the passage of this bill.
One of the
tenets of any totalitarian society is that the citizenry must acquiesce
to government control. The state itself is supreme and sovereign,
not the people. This has been true throughout history whether it
was during Hitlers, Stalins, Maos or any other
of a number of brutal dictatorial rulers reigns. Dissent was
stifled, whether it was ideological or physical, and accused parties
faced humiliation, incarceration, or death for their unwillingness
to conform. Is that where were headed?
weapon we have at our disposal in our fight against tyranny is our
advanced communication systems, especially the Internet. Reaching
untold numbers of persons, something not possible only a few years
ago, is now possible because of the Internet. With the mainstream
media kowtowing to politicians and government, the Internet has
become the major tool for those promoting liberty and truth. It
has allowed many brilliant freedom lovers to reach and change minds.
Even this has not escaped the watchful eye of Big Brother in this
bill. In Section 899B Congress finds the following:
has aided in facilitating violent radicalization, ideologically
based violence, and the homegrown terrorism process in the United
States by providing access to broad and constant streams of terrorist-related
propaganda to United States citizens.
if passed into law, will do nothing less than muffle, if not destroy,
our ability to speak out against government. Considering the combination
of the USA PATRIOT Act, The Homeland Security Act, the Military
Commissions Act, and the now-enhanced executive power, adding this
single piece of legislation fills the only loophole left. With the
passage of this abominable act, all U.S. citizens are at risk, not
just those few radical persons and foreigners spoken about by government,
but all of us. This very article could be considered as ideologically
based violence, subjecting me to punishment by government. This
could be the final piece of the puzzle.
This new proposed
legislation will help an already tyrannical government in its effort
to become supreme.
D. Barnett [send
him mail] is president of Barnett Financial Services, Inc.,
in Lewistown, Montana.
© 2008 Future of Freedom Foundation