CVE: Making a Bad Program Worse

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During the Obama administration, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security created the Countering Violent Extremism, or CVE, program, whose goal, ostensibly, was to identify and oppose any and all forms of violent extremism in the United States, whether homegrown or foreign, from white supremacist groups to Islamic jihadists.  Despite that goal, the CVE program has targeted Muslim Americans almost exclusively, but that isn’t good enough for the Trump administration. It wants to narrow the focus of CVE, starting with changing its name.

As Reuters reported, the possible new names for the program are Countering Islamic Extremism or Countering Radical Islamic Extremism. Can we safely assume, therefore, that there is no longer reason to fear that anyone other than a Muslim will ever carry out a bombing or a shooting in the U.S.? Can we say that there will never be another Dylann Roof?

Reaction to the Trump administration’s take on CVE has been swift and dramatic.  As reported in The New York Times, “Community groups in Michigan and Minnesota have decided to reject hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal aid to fight violent extremism because of what they call the Trump administration’s vilification of Muslims.” Defending Rights & Dissent has written about the problems with CVE before. Now, add to those problems that “We are ignoring a massive domestic terrorism problem that already exists in our borders,” as Christian Picciolini, the founder of Life After Hate, a Chicago group devoted to countering right-wing extremism, said in the Times article.

It’s a case of making a bad program worse, and you can read more about it in a comprehensive report on the Countering Violent Extremism program that has just been released by the Brennan Center for Justice. As the report’s Executive Summary states, “It recommends a shift away from CVE to a framework that focuses on viewing American Muslims as a source of strength rather than suspicion.” Now that’s a program we can get behind.