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house Bill H.R. 4820

Using Testimonials From Former Extremists to Counter Terrorist Propaganda

Argument in favor

Using testimonials from former terrorists and those close to them (when appropriate) is a powerful way to counteract the propaganda and recruitment efforts of terror groups.

BTSundra's Opinion
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03/26/2016
Using first hand evidence to deter terrorism is a good idea.
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Nathan's Opinion
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03/26/2016
We're currently losing the social media war with ISIS. All new strategies should be examined and tested for effectiveness.
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03/26/2016
First hand accounts will be the best deterrent we have.
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Argument opposed

If people start to think that these testimonials are fake, or are used without the subject’s permission or in a way that endangers them there will be less cooperation in terror cases.

gailnabity's Opinion
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03/26/2016
To me this shouldn't be discussed publicly. Nor does a law need to be created. This should be determined by our military, the CIA, the FBI and the state department. I shudder to think of Congress determining the military value of converting terrorists to non-terrorists.
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Kevin's Opinion
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03/26/2016
I oppose this bill because it does not include domestic terrorists. Although the bill is a good idea, it only targets foreign terrorists. It's important to use testimonies from former terrorists as counter propaganda against the propaganda of evil, but if you exclude domestic ones, then you're accepting half of the problem and ignoring the other half. I suggest including testimonials of foreign terrorists because it may appeal to everyone as pieces of a puzzle make a beautiful picture.
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Jordan's Opinion
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03/28/2016
Bill must be edited to include domestic terrorism suspects.
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What is House Bill H.R. 4820?

This bill would direct the Dept. of Homeland Security (DHS) to, when practical, use testimonials from former extremists, their friends, and families to counter-message the propaganda and recruiting efforts of terrorist groups.

DHS could also coordinate the identification and use of testimonials with other federal entities, non-governmental and international partners.

Impact

Former terrorists and those close to them whose testimonials may be used in community engagement or counter-messaging; and DHS.

Cost of House Bill H.R. 4820

A CBO cost estimate is unavailable.

More Information

In-Depth: The Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX), issued the following statement upon the committee’s approval of this bill the day after the terrorist attacks on Brussels:

“Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with the Belgian people and all affected by yesterday’s attacks. Today we spoke with a bipartisan voice: we will not be intimidated, and we will take immediate steps to ramp up security at home and abroad. Today’s measures are important in helping keep the American people safe from the indiscriminate violence of jihadists. I would like to specifically commend Rep. Katko (R-NY), Rep. McSally (R-AZ), and Rep. Perry (R-PA) for their hard work on these bills—and Rep. Fleischmann (R-TN) for his leadership on countering the terrorist threat.”

While this legislation was ultimately passed by voice vote in the House Homeland Security Committee, Democratic members of the committee raised concerns that the legislation targeted Islamic terrorists while ignoring homegrown extremists. They introduced nine amendments aimed at explicitly including domestic terror groups, all of which were rejected — although the final text of the legislation makes no mention of specific groups, only "violent extremists."

DHS has also expressed misgivings with the proposal on the grounds that they lack the personnel to effectively use testimonials. And that their use may complicate subsequent federal investigations:

“DHS cautions that public perception of how these testimonials are obtained could affect... community engagement and countering violent extremism efforts — especially with the Muslim community. Gaining and maintaining the trust of the community is central to the success of our outreach efforts.”

Media:

Summary by Eric Revell
(Photo Credit: Flickr user FreedomHouse)

AKA

Combating Terrorist Recruitment Act of 2016

Official Title

To require the Secretary of Homeland Security to use the testimonials of former violent extremists or their associates in order to counter terrorist recruitment, and for other purposes

bill Progress


  • Not enacted
    The President has not signed this bill
  • The senate has not voted
      senate Committees
      Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs
  • The house Passed April 26th, 2016
    Roll Call Vote 322 Yea / 79 Nay
      house Committees
      Committee on Homeland Security
    IntroducedMarch 21st, 2016

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    Using first hand evidence to deter terrorism is a good idea.
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    To me this shouldn't be discussed publicly. Nor does a law need to be created. This should be determined by our military, the CIA, the FBI and the state department. I shudder to think of Congress determining the military value of converting terrorists to non-terrorists.
    Like (21)
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    I oppose this bill because it does not include domestic terrorists. Although the bill is a good idea, it only targets foreign terrorists. It's important to use testimonies from former terrorists as counter propaganda against the propaganda of evil, but if you exclude domestic ones, then you're accepting half of the problem and ignoring the other half. I suggest including testimonials of foreign terrorists because it may appeal to everyone as pieces of a puzzle make a beautiful picture.
    Like (14)
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    Bill must be edited to include domestic terrorism suspects.
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    We're currently losing the social media war with ISIS. All new strategies should be examined and tested for effectiveness.
    Like (7)
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    First hand accounts will be the best deterrent we have.
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    not a bad idea but not perfect. I think this bill needs to include all terrorists, foreign as well as domestic.
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    This question is like the debate on opening a 100 year can of corned beef. You're pretty sure the the outcome prior to the actual opening. Therefore, I'm positive the outcome of these testimonies may lead to lost effort and good old Taxpayers money. So I'm positive with Yea or Nay!
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    The Fallacy of Focusing on Islamic Radicalization *************************************************** • Islam is the only positive uniting factor for Islamic terrorism. • What else unites jihadists from dozens of countries into a common identity that they are willing to kill and die for, if it isn’t Islam? • The non-Islamic factors on which Islamic terrorism is blamed are not unique to Muslims. Only Islam is. • Muslim violence spikes where there are religious differences. Where religious differences don’t exist, Jihadists create them by denouncing their Muslim enemies as un-Islamic. • Reducing ISIS to individually dissatisfied people, while ignoring what its members actually believe, is absurd. • Nobody decides to fight and die for a Jihadist group because they’re having trouble applying for a job at McDonald’s. They join because they believe in its mission. • Social services don’t prevent Islamic terrorism; they enable and fund the very no-go zones and dole-seeker lifestyles that are a gateway to the Jihad. • Western countries fund terrorism to fight terrorism and then partner with still more terrorists to train their homegrown terrorists not to be terrorists, or at least not the wrong kind of terrorists. • We cannot and will not defeat Islamic terror without honestly and bluntly confronting Islamization. There is no way to fight Islamic terrorism without acknowledging its organizing principle, its objective and its worldview. • Islamization is what happens to individual Muslims and to Muslim communities. Islamization is also the goal of Islamic movements, overtly violent or covertly subversive. Islamization is not the answer of some radical preacher, but of the Islamic religion. • Islam is not radicalized. It is radical. Like Communism or Nazism, it offers a totalitarian answer to everything. To truly believe in Islam is to possess the conviction that every country in the world must become Islamic and be ruled by Islamic law. Islamic terrorism is one tactic for realizing this conviction. *************************************************** By Daniel Greenfield, April 21, 2016 There are #Jihadists from dozens of countries who have joined #ISIS. What do they all have in common? The official answer is #radicalization. #Muslims in Europe are “radicalized” by alienation, racism and unemployment. Neglected by governments, Muslim youth band together and become #terrorists. Muslims in Israel are responding to the “despair and hopelessness” of the “Occupation”. Muslims from the rest of the #MiddleEast are angry over their “dictators”. Muslims from the Ukraine? Who knows. Radicalization comes packaged with a set of local grievances and explanations. It contends that all Muslim #terrorism is a response to local conditions and that we are responsible for those conditions. Even though the “radicalization” is #Islamic, it denies that #Islam plays a positive role as a Jihadist goal. Instead, like Halal liquor or hashish, it’s what Muslims turn to when they have been disappointed in the West or in their own governments. Islam is just what happens when a Belgian Muslim can’t get a job. And yet Islam is the only positive uniting factor for Islamic terrorism. Why otherwise should a Moroccan youth from a French suburb who works at a nightclub, the son of a rural Saudi farmer who has never been outside his country and an American teenager who converted to Islam all risk their lives to form an #IslamicState? The Jihadis of ISIS are a truly #multinational and #multicultural bunch. They have traveled to two foreign countries that most of them have never been to. What else unites them into a common identity that they are willing to kill and die for if it isn’t Islam? Radicalization favors local explanations. But those local explanations don’t add up nationally or globally. Europe spends a fortune on social services, and yet Muslim terrorism has only grown worse. Other immigrant minorities in Europe have lower employment rates and aren’t blowing things up. Removing Muslim dictators in the Arab Spring didn’t lower terrorism; it vastly increased the power and influence of Islamic terror groups. Nor have changes in American foreign policy and greater outreach lowered Islamic terrorism. If anything the scale of the problem seems to have only become more severe. The Israeli peace process with the PLO likewise vastly increased the terror threat, and no amount of concessions has brought peace any closer. There are stateless Muslims throughout the Middle East. Jordan is filled with the same exact “Palestinians” as Israel, many of whom are stateless and have few rights, yet terror rates are far lower. Instead Muslim violence spikes where there are religious differences. As we see in Iraq, Syria and Israel, religious differences are more explosive than political ones. And where religious differences don’t exist, Jihadists create them by denouncing their Muslim enemies as un-Islamic. ISIS is the culmination of a process that you can see among “moderate” Islamists. The official explanation is that a multitude of local factors cause Muslim disappointment leading to some sort of irreligiously religious radicalism which can be cured by preventing that disappointment. We are expected to believe that there are hundreds of explanations for Islamic terrorism, but not one. And while no doubt individual choices and emotions play a role in the making of a Muslim terrorist, the same is true in the making of a soldier. An army exists as part of a positive national ethos. Reducing an army to a series of personal dissatisfactions is absurd. So is reducing ISIS to individually dissatisfied people while ignoring what its members actually believe. It’s as absurd as believing that Hitler became a monster because he couldn’t get his painting career off the ground. Islamic terrorism is a positive ethos. It is horrifying, evil and brutal, but it is not some nihilistic void. You can look at unemployment rates in Brussels or dissatisfaction in Saudi Arabia, but nobody decides to fight and die for a Jihadist group because they’re having trouble applying for a job at McDonald’s. They join because they believe in its mission. Ignoring the organizing principle of Islamic terrorism while focusing on local conditions that might make Jihadist recruitment easier misses the forest for the trees. Radicalization programs, under euphemisms such as #CVE or Countering Violent Extremism, assume that Islamic terrorism can be countered by forming a partnership with Muslim groups and social services agencies. While the West will ease Muslim dissatisfaction by providing jobs and boosting their self-esteem to make them feel like they belong, the Muslim groups will tackle the touchy issue of Islam. These partnerships achieve nothing because social services don’t prevent Islamic terrorism; they enable and fund the very no-go zones and dole-seeker lifestyles that are a gateway to the Jihad. Meanwhile the Muslim partners are inevitably Islamists looking to pick up potential recruits for their own terror agendas. Western countries fund terrorism to fight terrorism and then partner with still more terrorists to train their homegrown terrorists not to be terrorists, or at least not the wrong kind of terrorists. This is what happens when the “Islam” part of Islamic terrorism is ignored and outsourced to any Islamist who can pretend to be moderate in front of a television camera for 5 minutes at a time. None of this actually stops Islamic terrorism. Instead it empowers and encourages it. The Islamist alliances suppress any discussion of Islamic terrorism as “harming” national security. Condemn the Muslim Brotherhood and you’re interfering with CVE efforts to stop terrorism by “educating” Muslims on real Islam and helping the Brotherhood take over entire countries to address the political anger of Muslims. At least the anger of those that are part of the Muslim Brotherhood. And yet without discussing Islam, there is nothing to discuss. There are plenty of unemployed non-Muslims in Europe. There are lots of bad governments all over the world. The non-Islamic factors on which Islamic terrorism is blamed are not unique to Muslims. Only Islam is. Islamic terrorism is unique and so its causes cannot be reduced to joblessness or bad governments. A unique outcome suggests a unique cause. And Islam is a unique cause. Islam is the unique cause of Islamic terrorism. There is no way to fight Islamic terrorism without acknowledging its organizing principle, its objective and its worldview. You cannot fight “radicalization” without dealing with what Muslim terrorists are “radicalized” to do. Without Islam, all that’s left is the political and sociological hunt for individual motives while completely ignoring what unites these individuals together. And so CVE plays the seven blind men while ignoring the elephant in the room. And the terror attacks and the futile efforts to avert them continue. The issue isn’t radicalization, it’s Islamization. Islamization is what happens to individual Muslims and to Muslim communities. Islamization is also the goal of Islamic movements, overtly violent or covertly subversive. Islamization is not the answer of some radical preacher, but of the Islamic religion. This is not about jobs in Europe or democracy in Egypt. Islam is not radicalized. It is radical. Like Communism or Nazism, it offers a totalitarian answer to everything. To truly believe in Islam is to possess the conviction that every country in the world must become Islamic and be ruled by Islamic law. Islamic terrorism is one tactic for realizing this conviction. We cannot and will not defeat Islamic terror without honestly and bluntly confronting Islamization.
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    This sounds like a variation on the Just Say No method of combating anything. It doesn't work.
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    As a recommendation from a congressional committee this might make some sense, but in general Congress should leave the executive branch to execute their duties. Telling them how they should execute their duties is not the business of Congress.
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    We need more non-violent ways to discourage extremism in our borders. While this is a small step; a step in the right direction is always a step worth taking. We need to increase funding for after-school programs and tutors for at-risk youth, because gang violence is a form of terrorism, just ask people who live in gang controlled territory. If we provide a path to a normal life for kids, 99% of them will take it. Instead of demonizing their religion or their community or their families, providing people to talk to and people to encourage them to do well in school, we can slowly turn the tide against violent extremism and terrorism. A helping hand is always more enticing than a stick.
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    This is yet again, another frivolous bill that shouldn't need legislation. However, i do think this will work, and the subject who's in the video should during his or her testimony.
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    If we can use people's experiences to counter propaganda and spread the truth, then we can save countless lives.
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    Sounds good
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    Using any words given by known terrorists plays into their agenda regardless of what is published. By publishing words of these extremists, as a country we only propagate the cause against the western and modem way.
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    There should be a provision that includes domestic terrorists.
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    Just seems to make sense. But, needs close monitoring to ensure the stated goal is actually met.
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    Not sure why people thinking about joining terrorist groups would listen to ex extremists. They are more likely to think those statements were made under duress or that the person just wasn't committed enough to the cause. This could backfire, creating more propaganda that the US is torturing to get those statements. Especially since ex officials and even some current presidential hopefuls continue to tell the world we are more than willing to break the Geneva convention and embrace torture.
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    Why does congress even need to get involved with this? The military and other government agencies are perfectly able to determine this.
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