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Exclusive: Trump To Focus Counter-Extremism Program Solely On Islam

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Exclusive: Trump To Focus Counter-Extremism Program Solely On Islam

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WASHINGTON/SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – The Trump administration wants to revamp and rename a U.S. government program designed to counter all violent ideologies so that it focuses solely on Islamist extremism, five people briefed on the matter told Reuters.

The program, “Countering Violent Extremism,” or CVE, would be changed to “Countering Islamic Extremism” or “Countering Radical Islamic Extremism,” the sources said, and would no longer target groups such as white supremacists who have also carried out bombings and shootings in the United States.

Such a change would reflect Trump’s election campaign rhetoric and criticism of former President Barack Obama for being weak in the fight against Islamic State and for refusing to use the phrase “radical Islam” in describing it. Islamic State has claimed responsibility for attacks on civilians in several countries.

The CVE program aims to deter groups or potential lone attackers through community partnerships and educational programs or counter-messaging campaigns in cooperation with companies such as Google and Facebook.

Some proponents of the program fear that rebranding it could make it more difficult for the government to work with Muslims already hesitant to trust the new administration, particularly after Trump issued an executive order last Friday temporarily blocking travel to the United States from seven predominantly Muslim countries.

Still, the CVE program, which focuses on U.S. residents and is separate from a military effort to fight extremism online, has been criticized even by some supporters as ineffective.

A source who has worked closely with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on the program said Trump transition team members first met with a CVE task force in December and floated the idea of changing the name and focus.

In a meeting last Thursday, attended by senior staff for DHS Secretary John Kelly, government employees were asked to defend why they chose certain community organizations as recipients of CVE program grants, said the source, who requested anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the discussions.

Although CVE funding has been appropriated by Congress and the grant recipients were notified in the final days of the Obama administration, the money still may not go out the door, the source said, adding that Kelly is reviewing the matter.

The department declined comment. The White House did not respond to a request for comment.

PROGRAM CRITICIZED

Some Republicans in Congress have long assailed the program as politically correct and ineffective, asserting that singling out and using the term “radical Islam” as the trigger for many violent attacks would help focus deterrence efforts.

Others counter that branding the problem as “radical Islam” would only serve to alienate more than three million Americans who practice Islam peacefully.

Many community groups, meanwhile, had already been cautious about the program, partly over concerns that it could double as a surveillance tool for law enforcement.

Hoda Hawa, director of policy for the Muslim Public Affairs Council, said she was told last week by people within DHS that there was a push to refocus the CVE effort from tackling all violent ideology to only Islamist extremism.

“That is concerning for us because they are targeting a faith group and casting it under a net of suspicion,” she said.

Another source familiar with the matter was told last week by a DHS official that a name change would take place. Three other sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said such plans had been discussed but were unable to attest whether they had been finalized.

The Obama administration sought to foster relationships with community groups to engage them in the counterterrorism effort. In 2016, Congress appropriated $10 million in grants for CVE efforts and DHS awarded the first round of grants on Jan. 13, a week before Trump was inaugurated.

Among those approved were local governments, city police departments, universities, and non-profit organizations. In addition to organizations dedicated to combating Islamic State’s recruitment in the United States, grants also went to Life After Hate, which rehabilitates former neo-Nazis and other domestic extremists.

Just in the past two years, authorities blamed radical and violent ideologies as the motives for a white supremacist’s shooting rampage inside a historic African-American church in Charleston, South Carolina and Islamist militants for shootings and bombings in California, Florida, and New York.

One grant recipient, Leaders Advancing & Helping Communities, a Michigan-based group led by Lebanese-Americans, has declined a $500,000 DHS grant it had sought, according to an email the group sent that was seen by Reuters. A representative for the group confirmed the grant had been rejected, but declined further comment.

“Given the current political climate and cause for concern, LAHC has chosen to decline the award,” said the email, which was sent last Thursday, a day before Trump issued his immigration order, which was condemned at home and abroad as discriminating against Muslims while the White House said it was to “to protect the American people from terrorist attacks by foreign nationals.”

(Reporting by Julia Edwards and Dustin Volz in Washington, Kristina Cooke in San Francisco; Additional reporting by Mark Hosenball in Washington; editing by Jonathan Weber and Grant McCool)

IMAGE: President Trump, flanked by Vice President Mike Pence and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, at the Homeland Security headquarters. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

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10 Comments

  1. Daniel Jones February 2, 2017

    Turning CVE into yet another racist and ideological truncheon to smack down the Islamic people in this country is bad, no denying it.

    That said: CVE can easily be said to be ineffective all along for one reason.
    Trump won, largely on the backs of the White Supremacist movement.

    Reply
    1. itsfun February 3, 2017

      President Trump won because he said he would protect our nation, not give it away to radicals.

      Reply
      1. ron February 3, 2017

        Face it, trump won, but you lost ! We lost ! Enjoy the ride down, if the first 2 weeks are any indication, the ride won’t be long, and the carnage will be devastating for all of us. We will no longer be the leader of the world, but the laughing stock of it. Putin must be having a good laugh, lol

        Reply
        1. itsfun February 3, 2017

          Have you seen what the President has gotten done in less then 2 weeks. We all won, unless you are a terrorists or a want a be terrorists. Obama made us the laughing stock of the world when he drew his red line, then backed down like a little girl.

          Reply
          1. ron February 3, 2017

            No, I’m not a terrorist, lol, just an average blue coller American. Yes , he has done a lot the last couple weeks, we are now truly the laughing stock of the world ! He’s managed to insult, several world leaders, who have there own people to answer too. England doesn’t want him to visit, Australia is pissed, Mexico ,list goes on, except for Putin, lol. His immigration policy, poorly thought out, and causing legal battles, not to mention possibly putting our military in harm’s way (let’s take their oil, crap, he spewed). His first military venture, total failure, because he failed to use all the resources available to him. He’s smarter than his generals, lol..we are losing more and more of our rights, and freedoms, as he quickly fires people in non partisan departments, and puts in his yes men. We are headed for a dictatorship, and the repubs, are going along with it ! We snowflakes are not going down this road, without a fight! We will demand truth, honesty and integrity of all or politicians, democrats and republicans alike. We will fight for all Americans, and for a fair and just government for all. Go out and open your eyes to what is going on, get informed, find the truth. If you honestly do that, you to will be joining us snowflakes, in our struggle to take America back from the coke brothers, the rich, and corporate interests.

            Reply
  2. Aaron_of_Portsmouth February 2, 2017

    In the meantime, racist groups in the US egged on by Bannon and Trump, continue to pump themselves up for a race war they believe will inevitably occur(as a result of the rhetoric blasting out of Bannon’s media outlets), while para-military chumps play war-games on weekends as they prepare to do battle against the government because they don’t like paying taxes or having the government do its job to maintain some semblance of order, or because there are enemies always waiting to jump them and so they have to be ready to start firing at the drop of a hat. Meanwhile, Congress has just decided to let the mentally ill have guns—-a gem of an idiotic train of thought.

    Aside from 9/11, Ft. Hood, and a few other incidents, home-grown red-blooded terrorists in such areas and places as the Northwest, Texas, Oklahoma, and on school campuses, have killed more citizens than “the other”.

    Reply
    1. CPAinNewYork February 3, 2017

      “Aside from 9/11….”? That’s your criterion for political correctness? More than 3,000 people died on 9/11, due solely to the actions of Muslims.

      We are under siege from a scurrilous enemy that we let in. When you make a mistake, you must correct it. We need to expel all Muslims from America by declaring their religion clear and present danger.

      Reply
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    Reply
  4. FireBaron February 3, 2017

    Why do I see this measure as encouraging Teflon Donnie’s more violent supporters to believe this will allow pogroms of the Islamic communities, and that they will not be held responsible for any personal injury or property destruction they perform? Could it be because these individuals believe they are now the top dogs of the universe and are immune to any repercussions?

    Reply
  5. itsfun February 3, 2017

    The radical Islamic Extremist are the ones who have vowed to kill all infidels. We are the infidels. What is President Trump suppose to do, invite them to the White House for coffee or tea?

    Reply

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