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July 27, 2017

The Honorable Ron Desantis

Oversight and Government Reform Committee
Subcommittee on National Security
United States House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515

The Honorable Stephen E. Lynch

Ranking Member
Oversight and Government Reform Committee
Subcommittee on National Security
United States House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Chairman Desantis, Ranking Member Lynch, and the Subcommittee on National Security:

On Thursday July 27, the Subcommittee on National Security will hold a hearing on
Combatting Homegrown Terrorism. Preventing terrorism in the United States is of course an
important goal, and it is entirely appropriate for Congress to examine ways to improve our
counterterrorism efforts and keep the public better informed about the threats we face.
Unfortunately, this hearing omits crucial voices necessary to a fair and complete examination of
domestic terrorist threats and the effectiveness of counterterrorism policies, and perpetuates the
false notion that Muslims present a singular terrorist threat in the United States. These omissions
will only help to reinforce a flawed counterterrorism narrative that misinforms the public,
amplifies unreasonable fear, and increases divisiveness, all of which undermine the social
cohesiveness necessary to build resiliency to terrorism and ensure the security of all Americans.

Domestic counterterrorism policies since the 9/11 terrorist attacks have focused on
radicalization as the primary driver of terrorism.1 Radicalization theories posit that adopting an
extremist ideology is a necessary first step on a pathway toward terrorist violence. Countless
empirical studies of actual terrorists have discredited this theory, however. The vast majority of
people holding extreme views never engage in or support terrorist violence, and many of those
who do commit acts of terrorism do not hold extremist beliefs.2 Most terrorism researchers today
acknowledge that there is no profile, pattern, predictive pathway or reliable indicators that can be

See: Faiza Patel, Rethinking Radicalization, Brennan Center for Justice, March 8, 2011, available at:
Randy Borum, Radicalization into Violent Extremism I: A Review of Social Science Theories. Journal of
Strategic Security 4.4 (2011): 7-36, available at:
used to accurately determine who will become a terrorist in the future.3 Despite this research, the
government has embraced the notion that suppressing radical ideologies called countering
violent extremism or CVE will be an effective method of reducing terrorist violence. There
is no evidence to support this proposition, yet CVE programs have proliferated in the U.S. and
around the world.

CVE programs are not new, and are as flawed in practice as they are in theory. CVE programs in
the U.S and around the world have been criticized for reinforcing anti-Muslim stereotypes,
facilitating surreptitious intelligence gathering, suppressing dissent against government policies,
and sowing discord in targeted communities.4 CVE programs are led by law enforcement and
homeland security agencies, which securitizes the relationship with the targeted communities and
taints the value of the social services provided. Government documents show that CVE
community outreach programs are often designed for intelligence collection rather than to
identify and serve the needs of the community. This undermines trust, stigmatizes those who
participate in government CVE programs, and alienates those who refuse them. These programs
often include a component to instruct teachers, social workers, medical professionals, and
community members to identify dubious indicators of extremism for reporting to law
enforcement. These indicators are not supported by scientific studies, and often include First
Amendment-protected activities like religious practice and political viewpoint. While all citizens
should feel empowered to report suspected criminal activity that poses a risk of violence within
their communities, using disproven criteria to identify and report supposed pre-terrorists can only
result in false reporting that wastes security resources and violates the rights of innocent persons.

CVE programs are also discriminatory. A 2017 Government Accountability Office evaluation of
CVE programs determined that far right extremists were responsible for 73 percent of extremist
attacks resulting in fatalities in the U.S. since 9/11,5 yet the Obama administrations CVE
programs focused almost exclusively on Muslim communities and the Trump administration has
made clear they will focus entirely on radical Islam in the future. This exclusive focus
mischaracterizes the actual terrorist threat Americans face today, and fosters anti-Muslim
sentiment among law enforcement and in the general public.

Unfortunately, the subcommittee did not invite any of the researchers or public policy advocates
who have evaluated these radicalization theories and the CVE programs they have fostered,
depriving members evidence challenging this approach. Most importantly, the subcommittee
invited no witnesses representing the Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim, Somali, South Asian and
See: Declaration of Marc Sageman in Opposition to Defendants Cross-Motion for Summary Judgement filed
August 7, 2015 in Latif et al. v. Lynch, Civil Case No. CV 10-00750-BR, available at:
See: Faiza Patel and Meghan Koushik. Countering Violent Extremism, Brennan Center for Justice, March 16,
2017, available at:; Arun Kundnani A
Decade Lost: Rethinking Radicalisation and Extremism, Claystone, January, 2015, available at:
David Timberman, Violent Extremism and Insurgency in Indonesia: A Risk Assessment, USAID, January 7, 2013,
available at:; How the United States Can Help Counter Violent
Extremism and Support Civil Society in Kenya Human Rights First, July, 2015, available at:
Countering Violent Extremism: Actions Needed to Define Strategy and Assess Progress of Federal Efforts,
Government Accountability Office, April, 2017, 4, available at:
Sikh communities that are often targeted by overbroad and ill-conceived counterterrorism
measures and are increasingly victims of acts of domestic terrorism we often call hate crimes
who could speak to the negative impacts of CVE programs. One of the purported goals of CVE
is to strengthen the relationship between targeted communities and law enforcement, but by
ignoring the input of community groups, CVE programs undermine this objective. Since
President Obama announced the program in 2011, a wide range of community groups and civil
rights organizations have expressed their opposition to CVE, particularly representatives of the
Muslim communities targeted by CVE.6 By silencing these voices the subcommittee further
alienates these communities from government officials who too often view them as suspects
rather than as citizens deserving equal protection of the law. Our nations security can only be
achieved by uniting, nurturing, and protecting all American communities.

By putting forth an incomplete narrative about CVE, this subcommittee is ignoring the scientific
research and first-hand experience of community members that challenges CVEs operating
principles. Law enforcement, intelligence, and homeland security resources should focus on
understanding and addressing all forms of criminal violence that threaten the lives and safety of
American communities. Singling out Muslims as the source of extremist violence polarizes
communities and undermines public confidence in government and law enforcement.
Counterterrorism programs and policies should be driven by objective data-driven analyses to
ensure they are lawful, effective, and an efficient uses of security resources. The government
should cease funding those policies and practices that are not supported by rigorous social
science research or cannot stand up to academic peer review.

Terrorists use horrible violence to stoke fear and divide society. Congress should ensure that our
counterterrorism policies dont do the same.


Faiza Patel
Co-director, Liberty and National Security Program
Brennan Center for Justice

Michael German
Brennan Center for Justice

See: online petition against CVE in Boston sponsored by ACLU of Massachusetts, CAIR Massachusetts, Jewish
Voice for Peace, Digital Fourth, Muslim Justice League, and Bill of Rights Defense Committee. Available at: