The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has issued an ambitious agenda for the Biden administration’s first 100 days in office. Prominent in the plan is a call for defunding the Department of Homeland Security’s countering violent extremism programs, rejecting any new domestic terrorism statutes and repealing the Trump administration’s travel ban from countries with security concerns.
. @CAIRNational puts out its 100 day agenda for new Adminstration. Calls for defunding countering violent extremism programs, opposing any proposed domestic terrorism statutes, and “end the FBI’s use of informants to spy on American Muslim communities”https://t.co/QSnGb63t0Y pic.twitter.com/1RENFsVgYT
— Seamus Hughes (@SeamusHughes) December 22, 2020
The 33-point program targets many homeland security programs and laws including:
President Trump’s Travel Ban
CAIR is calling on the Biden administration to fulfill its commitment to revoke the Trump administration’s travel ban. The ban included the following countries: Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Chad, North Korea and Venezuela.
The ban was designed to temporarily restrict immigration from these countries where chaos and terrorism is widespread and recognized that the U.S., as well as the countries listed, did not have adequate vetting processes to ensure that terrorists would not be entering the U.S. from these countries.
Critics of the ban, like CAIR, called the measure a “Muslim ban” since six of the countries on the list are Muslim-majority countries.
During the presidential election campaign, Biden vowed to cancel the “vile Muslim ban” on “day one” of his presidency.
The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015
The original VWP allowed citizens of 38 countries to travel to the United States for business or tourism for stays of up to 90 days without a visa. The 2015 act established new eligibility requirements for those who have been in Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia or Yemen since March 2011. The 2015 act also included individuals who were citizens of the 38 allowed countries if they were also nationals of Iraq, Syria, Iran or Sudan.
CAIR wants the 2015 provision repealed, a re-evaluation of all countries currently designated by the act and an end to “all other discriminatory anti-Muslim ‘extreme vetting programs.’”
CAIR wants the Quiet Skies program of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) dismantled as well as its international counterpart, Silent Partner.
Quiet Skies is a TSA program designed to fight terrorism on airlines. The program involves enhanced screening procedures of suspicious individuals who are not on terror watchlists and are not under investigation by any agency. The programs also allow for undercover U.S. air marshals to trail and monitor such individuals.
The Terrorist Screening Database
According to the FBI, following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the president and Congress mandated that federal executive departments and agencies share terrorism information with those in the counterterrorism community responsible for protecting the homeland.
Part of this program is a terror watchlist, a database of individuals who are known or reasonably suspected of being involved in terrorist activities. This watchlist is used when these individuals try to obtain visas, enter the country, board an aircraft or engage in other activities. The “no-fly list” is a subset of the terror watchlist.
The issue has long been the subject of lawsuits brought by CAIR due to the fact that the list not only regularly mistakenly puts non-terror suspects on it but is shared with various government agencies, foreign governments and even private entities.
A U.S. district court judge ruled that the constitutional rights of people placed on the watchlist are being violated and requested more information before deciding what should be done about it. The ruling came in response to a lawsuit brought by CAIR for close to two dozen Muslim citizens who were on the list.
Due to the fact that many people are put on the list in error (particularly because innocent conduct can be misinterpreted), the judge ruled that these travel difficulties are significant and that those encountering them have a constitutional right to due process.
Lawyers for the FBI argued the travel difficulties were a necessary consequence to prevent terror.
CAIR wants the Biden administration to reform the program.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s 2020 Targeted Violence and Terrorism Prevention (TVTP)
CAIR wants this program defunded.
The TVTP program was Trump administration’s revival of the Obama administration’s Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) program, which the DHS shut down three years ago.
Interestingly, both Islamist groups such as CAIR and groups fighting Islamism agree that the program is flawed, albeit for different reasons.
Islamists claim that the program targets vulnerable Muslims and ends up putting more Muslims into the prison system. Those groups that fight Islamism argue that the program is “deeply flawed.”
Currently, government efforts to prevent terrorism focus on terrorists who have already embraced violence, and not on the extremists who engender this violence and are busy radicalizing the next generation. In other words, the government spends its time fighting the symptoms, and not the cause.
This is not an oversight; it is the CVE industry’s prescription. And the Trump administration’s TVTP program, as with every other Western government’s CVE program, appears committed to this ineffectual course of treatment.
In its agenda, CAIR is also requesting that the Biden Administration:
- Stop all detentions of asylum seekers and “other abusive practices” and “invest in refugee resettlement programs”
- “End the FBI’s use of informants to spy on American Muslim communities”
- “Reject any new domestic terrorism statutes”
- “Close the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and ensure those detainees already cleared for release are repatriated, and those that remain in U.S. custody are provided due process and a day in court”
- “Oppose Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian territories”
- “Establish strict new oversight rules to severely limit and publicly detail the Pentagon’s use of drone warfare to engage in targeted killings overseas”
The government programs above targeted by CAIR address the very real problem of terrorism, both in the homeland and in the skies. Some certainly need revision; however, a wholesale cancellation of these programs by the Biden administration is fraught with real danger.