On Wednesday, the House Committee on Homeland Security will consider a bill that would create a new office for Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) within the Department of Homeland Security, headed by a new Assistant Secretary.
The bill, dubbed the “Countering Violent Extremism Act of 2015,” will do little to reduce terrorism and could harm national security efforts by directing resources based on unscientific theories and alienating the very communities who law enforcement relies on in combating terrorism.
“The House Committee should reject this misguided $40 million proposal,” said Faiza Patel, co-director of the Liberty and National Security Program at the Brennan Center for Justice. “While CVE efforts may be well-intentioned, there is simply no proof of their effectiveness. Years of federally-funded research have failed to yield any reliable indicators about who will commit an act of terrorism. Nor is there any evidence that government-sponsored messaging is at all effective. Spending federal dollars to create a new office dedicated to these tasks is a waste of money and will only perpetuate the widespread targeting of American Muslim communities.”
CVE programs include a range of activities, including outreach to particular communities, developing counter-messaging, and developing “indicators” to identifying vulnerable individuals. These efforts rely on simplistic theories about terrorist radicalization that have long been discredited by empirical studies. As such they have no demonstrated anti-violence impact.
“Previous iterations of CVE have been thinly veiled attempts at gathering intelligence,” said Fellow Mike German. “This has led to strong opposition from within targeted American Muslim communities who say CVE stigmatizes them as suspects rather than as partners in the fight against terrorism.”
The Countering Violent Extremism Act of 2015 includes a requirement that “all activities related to countering violent extremism fully respect, the privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties of all Americans.”
“Given the history of and ongoing abuses in federal counterterrorism policy, these words alone are not sufficient,” German added. “Concrete safeguards for speech association and religion must be put in place to ensure that constitutional rights are not burdened by CVE programs.”