CIVIL RIGHTS and Muslim groups protested in three US cities yesterday against a secretive government project designed to monitor domestic “extremism.”
Co-ordinated protests were held in Boston, Los Angeles and Minneapolis, the three cities where the so-called “Countering Violent Extremism” (CVE) programme is being piloted.
Representatives of the groups, which include local chapters of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Council on American-Islamic Relations (Cair), spoke at Karmel Square in Minneapolis, in front of Boston City Hall and at Cair’s Los Angeles office.
They expressed concern that federal agencies continue to host invitation-only discussions about the scheme to the exclusion of dissenting groups.
In February, CVE organisers in the three cities released “framework” documents broadly describing their local objectives.
But despite months of planning, opponents say CVE organisers still refuse to share basic information about how the programmes will work in practice.
“It is deeply troubling that federal agencies are marching forward with CVE programme development while excluding dissent from the conversation,” said Cair chapter board member Nadeem Mazen, a city councillor in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
“Transparency and accountability are values worth protecting in a free society.”
The goal of CVE is for police and community leaders to work together to prevent “radicalisation” of young people and others deemed vulnerable to “extremist propaganda.”
Tactics include public meetings for Muslims, educational and training sessions for school staff and social workers and social media campaigns aimed at youth.
Yesterday’s protests took place as Congress considers a proposal by House of Representatives homeland security committee chairman Michael McCaul to create a dedicated CVE office in the Department of Homeland Security to co-ordinate all local efforts.
Boston police recently trumpeted their success in thwarting what they described as two credible terrorist threats this summer.
The first was the June shooting of Usaamah Rahim and the arrest of two others for allegedly planning an attack on police.
The second was the July arrest of Alexander Ciccolo, the son of a Boston police captain, who officials claim was plotting to bomb a university campus in support of Islamic State.