By Mackenzie Walz
Associate Editor, Vol. 24
Through the Homeland Security Act of 2002, Congress established the prevention of domestic terrorist attacks as one of the Department of Homeland Security’s primary missions and appropriated ten million dollars “for a countering violent extremism (CVE) initiative to help states and local communities” combat these threats. Pursuant to the Act, in 2011 the Obama Administration created and implemented the “first national strategy” to prevent domestic violent extremism, entitled “Empowering Local Partners to Prevent Violent Extremism in the United States.” Taking a community-based approach, the program was designed to distribute federal funds to local organizations – educational institutions, non-profits, or law enforcement agencies – which would provide community members with the requisite resources and education to identify signs of extremist radicalization. The ultimate goal was for community members and local leaders to develop relationships of trust through this engagement, which would empower community members, once educated, to report any identified signs of extremism.
While the program was designed to combat all types of violent extremism, in operation and effect it targeted Muslim-American communities. Instead of building relationships of trust between community members and these local leaders, as it was intended to do, it bred mistrust, as the program in some communities “appeared to be doubling as a means of surveillance.” This mistrust made some members of the Muslim-American community hesitant to reach out to law enforcement officers to report signs of radicalization, rendering the outreach program less effective.