The so-called Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) and Preventing Violent Extremism (PVE) programs are counterterrorism programs based on the false assumption that certain communities, particularly those with Muslim, refugee, African-American and Latinx members, are more prone to “radicalization” and violence.
CVE is a nationwide program and PVE is a California state-based version (other states have their own forms of the program).
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) provides funding for CVE; the California Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) doles out DHS funds for PVE.
CVE and PVE programs rely on community groups to root out extremists under the guise of providing mental health and social services. The programs essentially have community organizations surveil those they serve, especially students of color, immigrants and refugees who have experienced trauma.
Despite well-documented flaws and public opposition, Cal OES has disbursed nearly $625,000 in funds to implement the PVE program.
CAIR-California and Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles (Advancing Justice-LA), along with other coalition groups including Vigilant Love and the ACLU, have been at the forefront of fighting CVE and PVE programs’ implementation in California.
Sixty-five California-based and national organizations have signed on to a letter demanding that the governor of California reject and dismantle the state’s PVE program and all related CVE programs throughout the state.
“We are proud to be a part of the effort that fights against nonprofit monitoring of the most vulnerable people in our society,” said Mahmoud Zahriya, CAIR-Sacramento Valley/Central California policy & advocacy manager. “Nonprofits should have no part in doing DHS’s dirty work.”
Here’s an in-depth breakdown:
What is CVE?
- It stands for Countering Violent Extremism and it started in 2014 when the US government announced a new anti-terrorism initiative
- This initiative aims to deter people from joining “violent extremist” groups by bringing community and religious leaders together with law enforcement, health professionals, teachers, and social service employees.
- The program gives major grants to community and law enforcement organizations in exchange for information about potential or suspect individuals who are exhibiting warning signs of “radicalization.”
- CVE pilot programs began in Boston, Los Angeles, Minneapolis and Montgomery County, Maryland.
Why is CVE Dangerous and Problematic?
- CVE is operating under unqualified and unsupported science. There are no scientifically proven indicators that a person might be “vulnerable to radicalization” or violence
- Instead, CVE depends on racialized indicators that often and primarily target the Muslim community
- Growing a beard
- Wearing hijab
- Going to the mosque
- On the flip side, some of these so-called indicators have been so broad that they begin to label people as “radicalized” for doing just about anything
- Being on social media for 3.5 hours a day for youth 16-24
- Mistrust of law enforcement by Somali young men and teenagers
- Academic failure
- Engaging in unidentified “concerning behaviors”
- There is a level of “commitment” or compliance that grantees will have to uphold to law enforcement and other government officials. http://www.caloes.ca.gov/GrantsManagementSite/Documents/UPDATED_May8_FY18_PVE_Request_for_Proposals.pdf: Applicants must collaborate with at least one local or county government in California … support/cooperation from the applicant’s appropriate local or county government must identify: The most senior government executive supporting the project. The role of the local or county government in achieving the project narrative of the proposed project. … Awardees must have a willingness to participate in an academic evaluation in order to identify best practices, shall an evaluation occur.
How to Spot CVE?
- Funding – CVE funds typically come from DHS, DOJ or law enforcement, but sometimes the money is hidden/embedded through community organizations
- Branding – CVE is often marketed as “building resilience,” or community-driven approaches to violence prevention. These programs claim to teach the community how to identify suspects based on “indicators.”
- Participants – Typically the participants include law enforcement and either schools, mental health specialists, or religious leaders
- Targets – If the target audience of the program is for the Muslim community or communities of color, it more likely than not a CVE program
- Information Exchange – The program includes a mechanism to gather data about the community members such as afterschool sports programs that collect rosters of team members or mental health specialists that provide information of people that might be “at risk” of radicalization
CVE and Surveillance
- The programs involve recruiting teachers, youth workers, health care workers, religious leaders, and others to help identify Muslim community members, especially people who “could be attracted to terrorism.”
- By including the community in CVE programs and efforts, CVE relies on community trust and essentially creates community informants that could share information to the government.
- There is also a risk that information about people who are not suspected of wrongdoing will wind up in the hands of the government, and there are few safeguards to keep that from happening.