Countering Violent Extremism's “Soft” War on Terror

January 31, 2019 @ 12:00 pm 5:00 pm

The Civil Rights and Civil Liberties section of the BBA in collaboration with ACLU Massachusetts, Health Law Advocates and the Muslim Justice League present a CLE addressing representation of clients impacted by a program called Countering Violent Extremism (“CVE”). CVE raises many legal issues for attorneys whose clients it may target. The frame of this CLE will be to address how law enforcement agencies are using national security pretexts to advance this surveillance program, and its insidious impacts for clients’ health care access and online speech.

Background: Countering Violent Extremism (“CVE”) is a federal campaign messaged as helping redirect persons “at risk for”/“vulnerable to” potential “extremism” — an ill-defined and contested concept — using a range of tactics. Since the U.S. National Security Council announced the U.S. CVE campaign, federal agencies including DHS, the FBI, USAOs and others, and many local law enforcement agencies, have begun deploying the campaign first in three pilot cities (Boston, Minneapolis and Los Angeles) and now throughout much of the U.S. Federal outreach and grant allocations demonstrate that CVE is primarily concerned with Muslims, and that activists for Black lives (characterized by the FBI as “Black Identity Extremists”), LGBTQ communities, refugees, environmental activists and others are also likely targets. One prominent CVE tactic is to recruit civil society -- especially health care and education professionals, non-profits serving Somali-American communities, and Muslim religious leaders — to monitor civilians for ostensible risk factors, which are generally so vague as to invite use of implicit bias, or in some cases are proxies for religion or national origin. CVE in the U.S. mimics a British campaign called PREVENT (which, after a permissive period, was formalized such that certain social services providers’ participation is now statutorily mandated) and many other national governments operate or are developing CVE campaigns. 

Health Care Impacts of CVE:  This panel will be designed for practitioners who may represent individuals who are surveilled, watch-listed, referred for “interventions” and/or questioned by law enforcement as a result of CVE incursions into health services. The panel will also be useful for practitioners who represent health care or other social service providers who may be pressured to provide information about patients or clients to law enforcement or to engage in CVE “interventions.”

Social Media Surveillance: This panel will be targeted to practitioners who may represent individuals who could be prosecuted for offenses related to material support for terrorism (including attempt or conspiracy), citing social media speech as evidence of intent or as an alleged offense.

This program was sponsored in part by the Joan B. DiCola Fund.

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