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Remove Language Targeting American Muslims from the DHS Reauthorization Act of 2011

Legislative Fact Sheet

(October 2011)

The Issue

  • The Department of Homeland Security Reauthorization Act of 2011 (S.1546 and H.R.3116), pending in U.S. Senate and House, unconstitutionally supports counterterrorism measures that pursue beliefs, not criminal actions. Specifically, the act singles out American Muslims for additional scrutiny over the threat of violent extremism in the United States.
  • Sponsored by Senator Joseph Lieberman and Representative Peter King, both drafts of the bill seek to create a new coordinator position within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to direct efforts on "counter[ing] homegrown violent Islamist extremism" with particular focus on the "ideology of Al Qaeda and its affiliated groups" in the United States. However, it will be ordinary American Muslims, not Al Qaeda extremists, who end up being investigated under such a position.
  • The American Muslim community utterly rejects violent extremism. Creating a coordinator position that narrowly shifts the DHS counterterrorism strategy away from following actual leads and preventing illegal and violent acts, to monitoring the thoughts and beliefs of American citizens is akin to religious McCarthyism.

What is being asked of members of Congress?

Congress should oppose any legislation that unconstitutionally singles out American citizens for unwarranted scrutiny on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, or religion. Specifically, members of Congress should:

  • Ensure that if the Department of Homeland Security Reauthorization Act of 2011 comes to a vote, the bill is amended to remove all problematic language that targets ideology.
  • Continue to support measures that pursue criminal action, not beliefs.

Reasons to Support

  • In a recent letter to Senator Lieberman, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano reaffirmed that, "DHS has made it a priority to counter all forms of domestic violent extremism, regardless of ideology," and that DHS has already established, "the Counterterrorism Advisory Board [led by a Counterterrorism Coordinator] to better coordinate the Department's ... efforts to prevent and protect against foreign and homegrown terrorist attacks."
  • DHS has already established a coordinator to direct efforts on confronting violent extremism. Creating an additional position conflicts with current counterterrorism programs and goals.
  • Profiling is unconstitutional and violates the basic constitutional protections of the First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendments.
  • Religious and racial profiling is not effective law enforcement. Anti-government, violent extremists like Timothy McVeigh (Oklahoma City Bombing, 1995), John Bedell (Pentagon Shooting, 2010), and Joseph Stack (IRS - Austin, TX Suicide Bombing, 2010) would not have been identified by a coordinator focused on religious ideology.
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