Radical Bloggers Scrutinized by Congress

Dennis Faas's picture

In April, bill 1955, the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act (VRAHTPA), was introduced in Congress. If passed, the legislation would create a a new commission that would be charged with monitoring citizens with "extremist belief systems" and anyone who may be suspected of "ideologically based violence."  (Source: news.com)

The following is an excerpt from VRAHTPA:

"Congress finds the following: The Internet has aided in facilitating violent radicalization, ideologically based violence, and the home grown terrorism process in the United States by providing access to broad and constant streams of terrorist-related propaganda to United States citizens." (Source: loc.gov)

It is safe to assume from this statement that the new commission would be taking a serious look at what people are saying and thinking online. In fact, Congress held a hearing in Washington on November 6, relating to VRAHTPA entitled "Using the Web as a Weapon: the Internet as a Tool for Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism."

Caroline Frederickson, Director of the Washington Legislative Office of the American Civil Liberties Union brought up some serious concerns before the hearing committee. "If Congress finds the Internet is dangerous," she said, "then the ACLU will have to worry about censorship and limitations on First Amendment activities. Why go down that road?"

The U.S. government is showing increased concern about confronting terrorism whether it be foreign or domestic, and understandably so. But, if the 1950s are any barometer, Congress has in the past failed miserably when it comes to investigating private citizens for radical beliefs, and that should concern Washington a great deal more than a handful of irate bloggers.

Bill 1955 was approved by the House of Representatives in October by a vote of 404 to 6, but it has yet to be introduced on the Senate floor. (Source: govtrack.us)

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