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Citing Civil Liberties Concerns, 48 Groups Oppose Countering Violent Extremism Act

Creating a new office for Countering Violent Extremism within the Department of Homeland Security will do little to reduce terrorism and could harm national security efforts, the Brennan Center and others argued in a letter to House leadership.

Published: July 14, 2015

The Bren­nan Center for Justice, along with 47 other human rights, civil liber­ties, and community-based organ­iz­a­tions sent a letter to the lead­er­ship of the House Commit­tee on Home­land Secur­ity, express­ing concern over H.R. 2899, the “Coun­ter­ing Viol­ent Extrem­ism Act of 2015”, a recent bill intro­duced by Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX).

The bill would estab­lish a new Office for Coun­ter­ing Viol­ent Extrem­ism in the Depart­ment of Home­land Secur­ity, headed by a new Assist­ant Secret­ary and provides $40 million over four years to fund the Office’s activ­it­ies. This effort is misguided, advoc­ates argue, as it will mirror current CVE initi­at­ives both in the US and abroad, which are aimed at identi­fy­ing “risk factors” which often include common beha­vi­ors asso­ci­ated with reli­gious prac­tice and polit­ical activ­ism. CVE programs have also been misused as a cover for intel­li­gence gath­er­ing and surveil­lance of the Amer­ican Muslim communit­ies they target. As such, given the lack of a sound research basis demon­strat­ing the effic­acy of CVE program­ming, estab­lish­ing a high-level DHS office devoted to the matter would be a waste of secur­ity resources. 

“Despite years of feder­ally-funded efforts, research­ers have not developed reli­able criteria that can be used to predict who will commit a terror­ist act,” the letter states. “CVE train­ing that conveys vague and unsup­port­able ‘indic­at­ors’ of viol­ent extrem­ism will only result in further civil rights and privacy viol­a­tions, unre­li­able report­ing to law enforce­ment, and will waste invest­ig­at­ive resources. … Given the lack of a sound research basis for CVE program­ming, estab­lish­ing a high-level DHS office devoted to the matter would be a further waste of secur­ity resources.”

The bill will be the subject of a full commit­tee hear­ing on Wednes­day, July 15, 2015. 

Down­load the Letter Here (PDF)

071415 Final CVE Bill Coali­tion Letter