Senator Tester Responds: "Homegrown Terrorists" Bill

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Allentown.gifEarly this morning I received what seems like a thoughtful form letter response from Senator Tester to my email about the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act.

To say I don't see the necessity of this bill at all is an understatement. But he clearly isn't dismissing it entirely. His reply primarily focused on my surveillance concerns. Since it sounds like he will fight for a less frightening version I will write again with an emphasis on the vague definition of "force," and the dangers of defining ideologically based violence, integrating comments from Bill and the anonymous commenter here.

What do you think? What are your Senators saying? What next?

Dear Kyeann:

Thank you for taking the time to contact me about S. 1959, the Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007. I have serious privacy concerns about this bill and appreciate your input, as it is a critical part of making sure the laws we pass in the Senate reflect the priorities we share as Montanans.

The stated goal of the Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act is to prevent terrorism by individuals born, raised, or based and operating primarily in the United States. Ideally, this bill would protect our civil rights and liberties while helping the Department of Homeland Security work to protect us against ideologically-based violence by these homegrown terrorists.


Personal freedom is at the core of our rights as Americans. I will fight to defend these rights because they are protected and defended by our Constitution. All too often, politicians and bureaucrats have stepped on our rights as Montanans and Americans. The security of our country and sanctity of our Constitution is imperative to our way of life. Intruding on the lives and freedom of average Americans does not make us any safer.

Legislation that encourages and supports vigilant law enforcement and the tracking of patterns of suspicious behavior is needed to protect us from those who seek to do us harm. That being said, we cannot allow law enforcement free reign to snoop in our library records, gun purchases, and bank accounts. It is a priority of mine to address this issue and find a solution that works for both Montanans and the security of the nation as a whole.

I will be sure to keep your views in mind when this legislation makes its way to the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs and the Senate floor. I appreciate the time that you have taken to be involved and informed about this matter. Please do not hesitate to contact me again in the future if I can be of further assistance.

Sincerely,

Jon Tester
United States Senator


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16 Comments

Sounds like my sanctimonios senator, lets get rid of them before they get rid of us, vote them out of office. said:

whoops

wanealy Author Profile Page said:

Right on Kyeann (cool name by the way).
When I realized that this bill was written by DEMOCRATS, it was like being punched in the gut.

As is, the authorities are threatening and bullying individual citizens. This piece of legislation is VERY dangerous. The Democrats are seriously out of touch if they don't think that this law is absolutely begging to be misused to quash dissent at home. Keep fighting the good fight. You have a friend and an ally in me. Hope you and yours are well. Peace.

Pedro said:

This is what my senator responded with:

Dear "PEDRO":

Thank you for expressing your concerns about H.R.1955 and S.1959, the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act.

H.R.1955 and S.1959 amend the Homeland Security Act of 2002 to add provisions concerning the prevention of terrorism by those born, raised, or based and operating primarily in the United States.

The bill would direct the Department of Homeland Security to establish a grant program to help prevent homegrown terrorism and the use of extremist belief systems to facilitate ideologically-based violence. It would also establish a university-based Center of Excellence for the Study of Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism in the United States and conduct a survey of methodologies implemented by foreign nations to prevent radicalization and homegrown terrorism.

In addition, the bill explicitly states that the Department of Homeland Security's efforts to prevent ideologically based violence and homegrown terrorism may not violate the constitutional rights, civil rights, or civil liberties of any American citizens or lawful permanent residents.

H.R.1955 passed in the House of Representatives by a vote of 404 to 6. Should S.1959 reach the Senate floor, I will keep your views in mind. Thank you again for contacting me.

Sincerely,
Sherrod Brown

ltz said:

Yeah, well looks like they're already doing somethings ahead of the bloody bill. Preemptive strike against monitoring domestic network traffic. But doesn't seem to have anything with terrorism at all. Take a look.

www.dhsnnw.org

Mr Anonymous said:

The current administration likes to take an individuals rights away slowly. I do not think that they are in touch with reality anymore. Just think that they can come into a house without a search warrant, arrest you without just cause, and detain you for an given amount of time until they ship you out of the country and do with you whatever they want to, or worse, leave you in the country and make you diseappear. I'm scared the goverment is going to get me, and no that isn't supposed to be funny.

Former Aide said:

As a form aide on Capital Hill, I tell you that the letter is meaningless. It's completely non-committal and follows the format of a nearly all letters to constituents.

1 - Agree with the basic concerns of the letter "I have serious privacy concerns".
2 - Give an overview. "The stated goal of the Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act is..."
3 - Make stance on vague principles using action words, without committing to specific action. "I will fight to defend these rights."
4 - State an appreciation for the letter. "I appreciate the time you've taken."
5 - Give an impression that the letter can make a difference. "I will keep your views in mind."

The letter is formulaic. The intention of these letter is to give the constituent a sense that their concerns are heard, while remaining non-committal. Any of the 100 senators ' staffers could have sent the same exact letter. I just wouldn't put much weight on the letter at all either way.

If you're really concerned. Get a group of constituents to meet with the senator in his Montana office.

tt said:

This a DANGEROUS bill and I am getting the same mealy-mouthed, non-committal dissembling from my representative, Tom Allen. I'm pretty sure Mr. Allen didn't respond to me, but rather had a staff member send out a response. And, his office will neither confirm or deny that.

This looks to be the way this Congress is, with a few exceptions. They appear all too willing to violate their own sworn oaths, regardless of the consequences.

Anonymous said:

This is what the Obama camp sent my way:

Thank you for contacting me to share your thoughts regarding the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007. I appreciate hearing from you.

As you know, this legislation, as referred to the Senate Committee on Homeland Security, would amend the Homeland Security Act of 2002 to create a national commission to examine and prepare a report on the causes of violent radicalization, homegrown terrorism, and ideologically based violence in the United States. The legislation would also establish a Center of Excellence to study the roots of violent radicalization and homegrown terrorism and methods that can be used by Federal, State, local, and tribal homeland security officials to mitigate and prevent homegrown terrorism. The American people understand that new threats require flexible responses to keep them safe. They also insist that our responses to threats respect the constitution and do not violate the basic tenets of our democracy. The Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act includes provisions prohibiting the Department of Homeland Security's efforts from violating civil rights and civil liberties of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents.

As you mention, this legislation passed the House on October 23, 2007. I will keep your important comments in mind as I work with my colleagues on the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs. I will work to ensure that this legislation helps to achieve our domestic security objectives while protecting civil liberties and constitutional rights.

Thank you again for contacting me. Please keep in touch.

Sincerely,

Barack Obama
United States Senator

Kendall Scott (raised in Bozeman) said:

I have two comments - a response to "wanealy", and a comment about the general situation.

To wanealy: While the idea of "get rid of them" seems like a Good Thing, it's really not. First, it's not going to happen until we institute draconian term limits (that is, one term), and second, it fails to consider the effect of having 33/34 new Senators each session with no experience. There be Dragons there, as Bill Tester is no doubt learning.

To all: The general state of our Union is not all that bad, but the state of our Government is not. Laws like these are proposed because the lawmakers are afraid of being painted as Cowards, and their response to that fear is to want to appear to be Touch Guys. The original Patriot Act was an overreaction to a horrific event - we were caught with our pants down, and we weren't going to let that happen again. It was the first time we were faced, as a Nation, with the prospect that a Bad Guy could reach out and kill Citizens. The reaction was understandable, of course, but like many things it had unintended conseqences. We could have a long, long debate about whether those in Power at the time seized the opportunity for personal and political gain, but the result of the debate wouldn't change a simple fact: we now have a mess, and we need to clean it up.

So how do we, as Citizens, guide our Leaders in cleaning up the mess created by our overreaction? What mistakes did we make then, and what mistakes do we continue to make? Are we thinking clearly yet? I won't claim to have the end-all answers to these questions, nor do I see any simplistic solutions that will satisfy everyone. The core idea of the Patriot Act and it's children was to protect our Citizens from harm, but it clearly has an unintended consequence of reducing our Personal Freedom and Privacy. The ultimate solution will have to be a balancing act between these conflicting desires. We simply cannot have both.

My proposals to all Citizens are these:

(1) stop voting for and supporting legislators and executive candidates who use Fear as a campaign tool
(2) stop listening to the "news" that perpetuates the climate of Fear that these candidates rely upon
(3) stop pretending that none of this applies to you, just because you're a Good Citizen

I realize that the quote below uses the "Nazi argument", I still believe that the general lesson applies here and must not be forgotten. Bush/Cheney aren't Nazis, of course, but they are clearly using Fear as a political tool, and the ultimate extension of the Patriot Act and it's children are very risky steps down a very slippery slope that leads to the world that Martin Niemöller describes:

"When Hitler attacked the Jews I was not a Jew, therefore I was not concerned. And when Hitler attacked the Catholics, I was not a Catholic, and therefore, I was not concerned. And when Hitler attacked the unions and the industrialists, I was not a member of the unions and I was not concerned. Then Hitler attacked me and the Protestant church - and there was nobody left to be concerned."
— Martin Niemöller

Beyond here there be Dragons,

Kendall Scott

Kyeann said:

Thanks for your comments, everyone. I will respond more thoughtfully later, but just wanted to say that I wrote the NY Times, Washington Post, SF Chronicle, and LA Times and most of their reader advocates to say that the public deserves coverage of this bill. Since we count on the press to keep us informed in this democracy of ours, aren't they obligated to educate us on all of its potential implications? Will also write a letter to my local editor... Even if it's futile, we have to do what we can, right?

wanealy Author Profile Page said:

Thanks for the feedback Kendall.

I don't think it's realistic to throw them out. Of course not. There would have to be a radical transformation of the structures of government for that to happen.

I am still, however, highly disappointed at the Democratic Party. I don't believe that they're doing this because of a fear to look "soft on terror" unless they only get their news from the right wing media. The people at the grassroots, both Left and Right are united against this bill. In fact, the fact that they bypassed the regular rules of order (no debate) to pass this piece of legislation indicates that they KNOW how unpopular this piece is.

The Democrats are either stupid or cowardly. Either way, we lose. As a nonviolent peace activist, I'm used to having my organization tapped by the government (even though we are mostly quakers, pacifists, etc...) The FBI tapped our phones during the Vietnam era, and, more recently, we were infiltrated by the New York Police Department before the 2004 Republican National Convention (as well as numerous small, grassroots organizations like Grannies for Peace, for e.g. There is a lawsuit pending and the New York Times wrote a couple of pieces on this issue: we were singled out as nonviolent activists who "threatened" national Security: Yeah, right)). This piece of legislation WILL affect every citizen, and if the Democrats don't realize that, then they are not fit for office.

Brice Timmons Author Profile Page said:

While form letters are "meaningless" in the sense that they promise no specific action, they do mean at least one thing: your Senator has thought out a position. Here in Tennessee I have gotten no response from either of my Senators to an email proposing only that the provision of this bill which creates an auditing mechanism to protect civil liberties be strengthened. I've merely suggested that said mechanism should be a purview of the DoJ rather than the commission itself, and I can't even get a form letter back.

getoverit said:

Have any of you read the bill? If you have not, read it and calm your fears. If you have and still fear it, your retarded. Why non-lawyers should not interpret statutes.

Sofia said:

Just so you know, the Center of Excellence is part of Sun Microsystems and they do research on computers/internet. Basically the government is going to focus on our internet activity for finding "homegrown terrorism"

been there already said:

I know some of you will groan, but the comment that you will be driven out is not funny or fantasy .. it happened to me under Clinton and I now live in exile in Canada, with no US passpot. The War on Drugs was MURKA's test case to see what would happen when they could just "set people up" without cause, deny them rights and due process, strip them of their property and demonize them, criminalize them and then take away their citizenship rights

This is not "just" a BuZh issue .. it goes way back . Check the ACLU and CATO institute and see for yourselves. The difference is that now foreigners control the US databases on citizens! The esteemed Mr. Cherthoff is an ISRAELI - but he is soon to be replaced by NY State's former top cop. The passage of this bill and Col. Johnson being simultaneously is NO accident, I assure you. He's obviously been "groomed".

KEEP SCREAMING ABOUT PASSAGE OF THIS BILL. Circulate petitions nicely and educated your fellow citizens. There is STILL time.

henry buehler said:

artical 5 of the U.S. constitution allows for the states to call for a convention to revisit the constitution of The U.S. my answer is to ask all the police of all the states to demand a contitutional convention. While they still can.

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Six Hours A Week Is:

A coping strategy, advocacy outlet, and form of protection. My life has been nearly destroyed by the unconstitutional practices of politically/socially-motivated private intelligence contractors and the corruption and cronyism that allow them. Apparently because I speak out in ways that prioritize the little guy and human and environmental health above gargantuan profit margins, and believe that facts are as important as PR spin, I was someone who had to be completely discredited. In 2007, after a few months of a surreal and relentless invasion of privacy and dignity, I started to spend six hours each week researching, communicating about, and advocating legal and ethical responses to assaults on our shared democratic and republican ideals. For most of that time I was writing from the perspective of someone whose life was manipulated into a constant state of terror and emergency. In 2010, many of the array of entrapment attempts seem to have failed and it seems no longer possible to get away with such excessive, obvious harassment and overt interference. As we take more practical steps to address what has been allowed to happen to my family, we do expect to see some more harassment and intimidation. But I should be able to chronicle it from a more measured perspective, rather than that of someone in constant fear. Part of me would like to go back and delete earlier posts, because even I find them hard to relate to in some ways. But this blog has been one of our only forms of protection as everyone in any official capacity ignored the truth and tried to spin and frame us into the troublemakers and perpetrators of one form or another. So I leave it up as a form of protection, a record of what has occurred, and (with luck) the account of our way back to credibility and some form of legitimate justice. All content on this site is property of Kyeann Sayer. All rights reserved.

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This page contains a single entry by Kyeann published on December 7, 2007 3:04 PM.

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