6 Ways to Counter Violent Extremism


The Brennan Center for Justice has published a report titled “Countering Violent Extremism” written by the center’s very own Faiza Patel and Meghan Koushik. The report makes six bold recommendations stating that it is “…critical that government agencies, particularly at the state and local levels, heed the recommendations set out above and dismantle, or at the very least substantially reconfigure, their CVE [Countering Violent Extremism] programs.” The six recommendations within the 72 page report are as follows:

First, counterterrorism and law enforcement officials should focus on what has been proven to work, rather than trying to identify pre-terrorists based on disproven criteria. This means vigorously investigating any suspicion of criminal activity, a tactic that has a proven track record of leading to counterterrorism successes. Communities should feel comfortable sharing information when they suspect criminal activity, rather than pressured to detect nebulous markers of radicalization.

Second, although American Muslims have a strong record of assisting law enforcement, these relationships have been frayed by 15 years in which their communities have been the primary focus of counterterrorism efforts, most recently by CVE. To increase mutual trust, government agencies should reset engagement efforts with American Muslims to cover a broad range of issues, rather than focusing resources on contentious counterterrorism programs. Law enforcement officers should not lead engagement efforts and there should be strict protocols for the sharing of information gathered in the course of community outreach.

Third, to the extent that the federal government continues to conduct or provide funding for CVE programs, it should ensure that the agencies running CVE programs, as well the groups and agencies that receive federal dollars, have in place public and robust safeguards against the manifest risks posed by these programs before they are implemented.

Fourth, while there is no evidence to suggest that providing funds for social and educational programs helps prevent terrorism, these initiatives are generally beneficial and could be continued. However, to 4 | Brennan Center for Justice avoid the risks associated with CVE, these programs should be conducted outside the counterterrorism and law enforcement umbrella, and include safeguards to prevent them from turning into vehicles for intelligence gathering.

Fifth, with respect to CVE measures relating to the Internet — i.e., monitoring and removal of content and counter-messaging — this report recommends greater transparency and the development of procedural safeguards.

Finally, government funding of terrorism research should adhere to scientific protocols, measure the effectiveness of CVE programs, and pay close attention to their impact on community relations and constitutional norms. Even if the federal government pulls back from its active sponsorship of CVE or renames it to make clear that the target is “radical Islam,” the infrastructure for these programs has already been developed at the local level. It is therefore critical that government agencies, particularly at the state and local levels, heed the recommendations set out above and dismantle, or at the very least substantially reconfigure, their CVE programs.”

The report claims a “course correction” is needed for existing CVE programs many of which were established by the Obama administration. Currently, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has CVE “Lines of Effort” which essentially are five objectives to “support and enhance efforts by faith leaders, local government officials, and communities to prevent radicalization and recruitment by terrorist organizations” which includes training and technical assistance to develop CVE prevention programs.  The five DHS Lines of Efforts are:

1) Community Engagement

2) Field Support Expansion and Training

3) Grant Support

4) Philanthropic Engagement

5) Tech Sector Engagement

Each of these Lines of Effort are defined in detail on the DHS website. For more information on Countering Violent Extremism and Islamic Extremism please visit the Homeland Security Digital Library (HSDL). Please note some content my require HSDL login.