Friday, November 9, 2007

Senate May Vote on "Thought Crimes" Act

On October 23, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 1955, the "Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007" by a landslide vote of 404 to 6. The bill has been referred to the Senate where it awaits scrutiny from the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.

According to supporters, the measure will play an important role in helping government and law enforcement officials understand and prevent domestic terrorism. In a speech on the House floor advocating passage of the bill, Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.) -- the coauthor and initial sponsor of the measure -- warned that the next time the U.S. faces a terrorist threat, "my assumption is that many who attack us will already be here, and some will be US citizens." To prevent that attack, she said, the new "legislation will help the nation develop a better understanding of the forces that lead to homegrown terrorism, and the steps we can take to stop it."

Critics of the measure allege that it is a thinly veiled and dangerous attempt to criminalize dissent. Such concern is based on the bill's vague and open-ended language that, critics say, could be used by the government to trample basic rights to free speech and assembly and turn legitimate dissent into thought crimes.



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