Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Dan Smith's critique of Rep. Jane Harman's HR1955

Dan Smith has written a very nice critique of Rep. Jane Harman's attempt to create a new McCarthyism with her HR1955, the "Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Act."

UPDATE (July 18, 2009): I must agree with commenter Jack--HR1955/S.1959 doesn't criminalize anything or create any law enforcement powers for the commission that it orders to solicit testimony and write a report. There's nothing in the bill that amends the Homeland Security Act to add any new crimes or enforcement capabilities. No doubt the commission will make legislative recommendations (and I think having such a commission is a bad idea), but this bill itself doesn't do so.


jackd said...

I have to disagree. Col. Smith's essay is not a critique of the bill, but a bit of alarmism that revolves around one introductory "whereas" clause and a few definitions.

For what proves to be good reason, there is no link to the actual bill. It can be read in its entirety here.

Although the text he and many others have highlighted is alarming, the only action the bill provides for is creating a Commission and a Center of Excellence.

Also note that despite Col. Smith's concern over the Finding (#8) that "any measure...should not violate the constitutional rights, civil rights, or civil liberties of United States citizens or lawful permanent residents," Sec 899F(a) states that DHS "shall not violate" those same rights [emphasis added].

The phrase he is disturbed about follows, "The Congress finds the following", which he omits. Since "finding" is an observation and "shall" is an imperative, it's nonsense to claim that this finding is some sign that Harman is weak on civil liberties.

My impression is that the uproar over HR1955 is vastly overblown, and I'm disappointed that you seem to be contributing - you're usually more careful than that.

Lippard said...

The fact remains that this bill creates an unnecessary and wasteful Commission which will no doubt operate in a manner similar to the two Presidents' Commissions on Pornography, collecting testimony from witnesses promoting FUD about domestic terrorism, and publishing a report with recommendations to Congress for action including legislation.

This is not as bad as McCarthy's HUAC, in that the Commission doesn't have Congressional subpoena power, but I think Smith's points about the merit of such a Commission are sound even if some of his remarks are unduly alarmist.

If the Commission comes back with a report that says "we don't think we need any more laws or that domestic terrorism is a significant problem worthy of more billions of dollars of funding," then I'll consider it to have, after all, had a positive result (though its cost should still be subtracted from that value).

Lippard said...

Looks like Jane Harman was the only member of the House Intelligence Committee to object to waterboarding.