750688.pdf - Countering Violent Extremism in the United...

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Countering Violent Extremism in the United States Jerome P. Bjelopera Specialist in Organized Crime and Terrorism February 19, 2014 Congressional Research Service 7-5700 R42553
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Countering Violent Extremism in the United States Congressional Research Service Summary In August 2011, the Obama Administration announced its counter-radicalization strategy. It is devised to address the forces that influence some people living in the United States to acquire and hold radical or extremist beliefs that may eventually compel them to commit terrorism. This is the first such strategy for the federal government, which calls this effort “combating violent extremism” (CVE). Since the Al Qaeda attacks of September 11, 2001, the U.S. government has prosecuted hundreds of individuals on terrorism charges. Unlike the necessarily secretive law enforcement and intelligence efforts driving these investigations, the CVE strategy includes sizeable government activity within the open marketplace of ideas, where private citizens are free to weigh competing ideologies and engage in constitutionally protected speech and expression. Some of the key challenges in the implementation of the CVE strategy likely spring from the interplay between the marketplace of ideas and the secretive realm encompassing law enforcement investigations and terrorist plotting. The strategy addresses the radicalization of all types of potential terrorists in the United States but focuses on those inspired by Al Qaeda. To further elaborate this strategy, in December 2011 the Administration released its “Strategic Implementation Plan for Empowering Local Partners to Prevent Violent Extremism in the United States” (SIP). The SIP is a large-scale planning document with three major objectives and numerous future activities and efforts. The SIP’s three objectives involve (1) enhancing federal community engagement efforts related to CVE, (2) developing greater government and law enforcement expertise for preventing violent extremism, and (3) countering violent extremist propaganda. This report provides examples of Administration CVE activity and examines some of the risks and challenges evident in the SIP’s three objectives. The report also diagrams and briefly discusses the “future activities and efforts” outlined in the SIP for each of these three objectives. A number of areas may call for oversight from Congress. These include the following: Picking Partners and Establishing “Rules of the Road” Much of the federal government’s CVE effort centers on engagement with Muslim American community groups. This may not be as easy as simply reaching out to local organizations. Who speaks for diverse Muslim communities in America? What criteria will the Administration employ in its selection efforts, and how open will the process be? Once approved as partners, what “rules of the road” will govern continued cooperation? Ad hoc and opaque decision making might render the whole CVE outreach process arbitrary to some community participants.
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