The White House today released the latest iteration of its plan to counter violent extremism (CVE). Neither CVE nor the White House plan are new. The first White House CVE strategy was published in 2011, and just two years ago the Justice Department announced “new” CVE pilot programs in Boston, Minneapolis, and Los Angeles. Last year the government established an interagency CVE Task Force including the FBI, Justice Department, Department of Homeland Security, and National Counterterrorism Center, and the FBI announced the creation of “Shared Responsibility Committees” made up of community members who would secretly assess individuals referred to them by the FBI for tailored “interventions.”
The plan released today appears to be a retread of this approach, which relies on the discredited approach of mandating schools and communities to identify Muslims who might become terrorists and staging “interventions” to prevent them from becoming violent. Law enforcement agencies remain firmly at the helm of these programs. While the new plan mentions some of the concerns raised by community and civil rights groups, it does not address them. It includes no additional safeguards to ensure that community outreach programs are not used for intelligence gathering or to account for the discriminatory application of CVE and its impact on freedom of speech, association and religion.
“CVE programs are not new,” said Michael German, a fellow with the Brennan Center for Justice. “They are based on a flawed theory that adopting or expressing beliefs the government deems ‘extreme’ put one on a pathway to violence, and that lay people in the community can identify who is likely to become violent in the future. Facts show otherwise. The FBI, with all its tools of investigation and access to extraordinary intelligence databases was unable to predict attacks in Ft. Hood, Texas, Boston, Massachusetts, Orlando, Florida, and New York and New Jersey, despite receiving warnings about the culprits and investigating them. If the FBI can’t predict who will become a terrorist how could a teacher, psychologist or social worker who has no training or access to intelligence? These programs will inevitably result in many young Americans being labeled as dangerous because of racial, ethnic and religious bias, or political opposition to U.S. government policies.”
Faiza Patel, co-director of the Brennan Center’s Liberty and National Security Program added, “CVE programs have been ineffective, divisive, and counterproductive everywhere they have been implemented. Just today, the Open Society Institute published a report highlighting the devastating impact of British CVE programs in schools, colleges, and healthcare institutions. The United States should not replicate programs that have already proven so destructive to community trust in other nations.”
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