New Analysis: Trump Administration Targets Muslim, LGBTQ, Black Lives Matter Communities with Countering Violent Extremism Programs

June 15, 2018

Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) programs, already controversial in the Obama era for their reliance on debunked methodology and targeting of Muslim communities, have had their worst qualities supercharged by the Trump administration. A new Brennan Center analysis finds that under Trump, Muslims and other minority groups – now expanded to include Black Lives Matter activists, LGBTQ Americans, immigrants, and refugees – are explicitly targeted in more than 85 percent of Department of Homeland Security grants for CVE.

“The Trump administration has taken an already dangerous set of programs with no record of success, and funded them based on the premise that diversity and the experience of discrimination in America suggest a national security threat,” said Faiza Patel, co-director of the Brennan Center for Justice’s Liberty & National Security Program. “CVE has always operated under false pretenses, conducting surveillance and law enforcement work under the guise of community services. It provided the Trump administration a ready-made vehicle to ramp up the targeting of minority groups – and they appear to be taking full advantage. CVE was bad policy under Obama, and is worse policy now. We don’t need more evidence to say it should be ended in all forms.”

CVE programs are purportedly designed to identify and preempt Americans from becoming involved in “violent extremism.” Among the analysis’s main findings: 

  • More than 85 percent of CVE funding, and over half of CVE programs, now explicitly target minority groups, including Muslims, LGBTQ Americans, Black Lives Matter Activists, immigrants, and refugees.
  • The amount of CVE funding going to law enforcement has tripled, from $764,000 to $2,340,000.
  • 14 of the 26 programs funded by the Department of Homeland Security target schools and students, some as young as 5 years old – often encouraging them to report suspicious behavior by parents or fellow students.

CVE programs include a range of activities, including community outreach, developing counter-messaging, and developing “indicators” to identify vulnerable individuals. A host of empirical studies have debunked the theories and assumptions on which CVE relies.

The Brennan Center’s analysis reviewed Department of Homeland Security CVE grants to 19 cities in 13 states and the District of Columbia. For each program in each city, it contains information about funding totals, community targets, local partners, and more.

View Countering Violent Extremism in the Trump Era.
Read more about the Brennan Center’s work on Liberty & National Security.

For more information or to speak with an expert, contact Naren Daniel at (646) 292-8381 or