Defending Rights & Dissent helped organize a letter from nearly 50 civil rights, human rights, and civil liberties groups who are united in opposing the Countering Violent Extremism framework to address hate violence in the United States. We sent the letter to the Biden Administration in advance of tomorrow’s United We Stand Summit Against Hate Violence to urge against relying on the debunked framework.
From the letter:
“From Charlottesville to Buffalo, we have seen the consistent and visible rise of white supremacist violence. We recognize the urgency of the political moment. We have all grasped for words and solutions as our country reels from the recent manifestation of our country’s long history of white supremacist violence. And still, we write to you deeply concerned that the United We Stand summit will continue or expand the harmful counterterrorism framework and initiatives that have furthered white supremacy, particularly the Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) program now named Center for Prevention Programs and Partnerships (CP3) at the Department of Homeland Security. We oppose this repackaging of a flawed initiative.”
Representative Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) who has led congressional efforts on transparency and accountability for CP3, said:
“Even though it has been rebranded as the Center for Prevention Programs and Partnerships (CP3), at its core this is the same deeply flawed methodology behind the Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) program that does not make our communities safer. The so-called “indicators” that DHS uses to try to predict violence (which are not supported by scientific evidence) are relatively common in the U.S. population, and are so vague and malleable that the program creates a breeding ground for potential bias, as racial and religious minorities who commonly face discrimination and are more likely to be viewed with suspicion due to conscious or unconscious biases will bear the brunt of this approach.”
“We cannot allow the government to continue to make the same mistakes over and over again by relying on ineffective, unproven, and deeply biased programs like the CVE/CP3 framework. Getting serious about tackling hate violence means recognizing that this framework doesn’t work, and immediately exploring alternatives based in reality that have a demonstrated ability to effectively reduce violence.”
The Stop CVE Coalition led the effort to shape the narrative before the summit. “After being clearly targeted by CVE, it is extremely frustrating for Muslims to see it rebranded and promoted as an answer to white supremacist violence,” said Fatema Ahmand, Executive Director of the Muslim Justice League, which chairs the coalition. “This model does not work against any violence, but it does encourage biased profiling that will continue to impact Muslims and Black and brown communities. Expanding counterterrorism initiatives like CP3 or social media monitoring is not equity — we did not ask for equal opportunity surveillance. Addressing white supremacist violence must start with addressing the racism and Islamophobia perpetuated by institutions like DHS, not asking them to lead the charge. ”
The CVE program was designed as a counterterrorism program and has now been repurposed as CP3 to fight hate violence, without a shred of evidence that it is effective. But there is ample evidence that it harms communities and undermines civil liberties. The CP3 program should be ended, not expanded on the false premise that it can address the problems of hate violence.
“CP3 is rooted in harmful law enforcement policies that have historically targeted Black and Brown communities,” noted Margari Hill, of the Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative (MuslimARC), and a signer on the letter. “Whenever law enforcement address white violence, they only use these policies to suppress our communities. We are exhausted by being both the target of white nationalism and state violence.”
“Domestic terrorism programs that focus on attempting to identify “future” perpetrators use broad behavioral markers to criminalize people without any fact-based connection to acts of violence,” said Tracy Rosenberg, Advocacy Director, Oakland Privacy. “We urge the Biden administration to reject labeling-based programs, whether based on discriminatory religious and ethnic markers, or revamped mental health markers. Funding should be targeted towards social services and support for people in psychological distress, not for law enforcement targeting.”
Lakshmi Sridaran, Executive Director, South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), pointed out that “more than twenty years after 9/11, our communities continue to experience violence in many forms. We must focus on the root causes of this violence, including the Global War on Terror, whose surveillance and policing infrastructure has cost so many lives here and abroad. We are disappointed that instead of committing to reversing the policies of the Global War on Terror, the Biden Administration continues to reinforce the infrastructure that has always criminalized our communities in their “United We Stand” summit. We deserve better and we will demand it.”
Sahar Aziz, Executive Director, Center for Security, Race and Rights pointed out the tension underlying this summit. “A nation cannot be united if some of its members are targeted by law enforcement on account of their religious or racial identities,” she said. “ The U.S. government must end its biased counterterrorism programs that make minorities less free and all Americans less safe.”
Alex Marthews, National Chair, Restore The Fourth, which also signed the letter said, “We can counter racially and religiously motivated violence together, but not through yet more policing, surveillance and suspicion, which only fuel the fires of division. Every dollar spent on these programs represents a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, from people who need education, homes, jobs, and hope for the future. Two decades after 9/11, we need to try another, better way.”