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.