AAAN Warns Community: Beware of Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) program
Today, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced the recipients of its controversial Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) program grant. The DHS has distributed $10 million to a number of organizations, including an Illinois state agency, the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority (ICJIA). The grant will support ICJIA's Targeted Violence Prevention Program (TVPP), under the DHS category of "Training and Engagement."
Masked in the language of public health and the prevention of violence, the TVPP is a local manifestation of the national CVE program, which was initiated in 2011, but gained political steam last year. In February 2016, the FBI launched a website entitled "Don't Be a Puppet," which targets teenagers, asking them to engage in a game to "free a puppet." The puppetrepresents someone who has been "tied up" by violent extremist thoughts. The FBI press release announcing the launch of the website claims:
"Without warning, many teens are joining violent extremist groups in the U.S. or leaving their families and traveling to war zones thousands of miles away to enlist in violent extremist movements-some are even plotting and launching attacks in the U.S. and overseas."
This statement is extremely dangerous, for it is patently false and essentially only offers justification for the continued politic
al and law enforcement targeting of young people from Arab and Muslim backgrounds. Testimony in 2015 from the director of the National Counterterrorism Center, Nicholas Rasmussen, placed the number of U.S. nationals who had travelled to join foreign terrorist organizations at 150. There is no methodology explained as to how that number had been calculated, nor are the ages of the U.S. nationals ever mentioned. Even if all of the 150 U.S. nationals had been teens, this is a far cry from the "many" the FBI claims are joining violent extremist groups.
In fact, a number of Chicagoland stories of young Arab and South Asian Muslims that have made the news recently-including Adel Daoud's alleged attempt to carry out an attack on U.S. soil, and Abdella Al Tounisi pleading guilty to trying to travel to Syria to join Al-Qaeda--are examples of entrapment carried out by the FBI itself!  These cases, along with numerous other "foiled terrorist attacks," have mostly proven to be the result of FBI agents approaching young, impressionable Arabs and/or Muslims--posing as members of ISIS, Al Qaeda, or other extremist organizations--and providing the ideological and material means for these young men to carry out attacks within the United States. Far from protecting our community from supposed ideological extremism, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice have themselves been propagating these ideas to impressionable Arab and South Asian Muslims.
Illinois' TVPP now has over $187,000 to "engage and train" the community. Although its website makes vague reference to a "public health model," there is no clear indication exactly what the program implementation plan is and what sort of data will be collected, but we do know (according to the Department of Homeland Security's Notice of Funding Opportunity) that TVPP must agree to "participate in the evaluation, which may include...providing access to program participants"--meaning that information about young people ("program participants") from our communities may be sent to the DHS.
In addition, t he resources list on the website includes a document titled, The Challenge and Promise of Using Community Policing Strategies to Prevent Violent Extremism , which touts the same old failed ideology of "community policing," but specifically mentions that the federal government should "stop using the phrase 'Countering Violent Extremism' to describe community outreach and engagement activities." So while the researchers have clearly identified that
community mistrust of law enforcement is the problem, they remain far from the correct solution, which is to end racial profiling, harassment, and entrapment NOW, and demand total accountability by all levels of law enforcement to the communities they purportedly serve.
To work towards this solution, the AAAN launched its youth-led   Campaign to End Racial Profiling in 2015, and has publicly called for an end to policies that allow for spying on, and entrapment and criminalization of, our communities-especially CVE and Suspicious Activity Reporting (SARs). The problem for members of our communities is not that we are becoming radicalized; the problem is that we are victims of hyper-surveillance, of being constantly marked as the embodiment of the enemy of the United States, of rampant harassment and entrapment.
The AAAN unequivocally calls on all our community and religious institutions to REFUSE to engage with the ICJIA's TVPP and its federally funded program. We must not be deceived by a softer, gentler CVE.
We say NO to CVE, NO to the TVPP, NO to SARs, and NO to racial, national, and religious profiling.
Arab American Action Network (AAAN)
January 13, 2017