Gohmert on Anti-Terror Bill: ‘It Never Mentions The Term Radical Islam’

Patrick Goodenough | June 20, 2016 | 4:22am EDT
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Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas speaking at the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland on March 14, 2013. (Photo: Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

(CNSNews.com) – In the aftermath of the Orlando terrorist attack, the vast majority of House Republicans voted in favor of legislation designed to enhance efforts to combat “violent extremism,” but one of the three who voted against it, Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas, said he did so because it fails to identify “radical Islam” as the problem.

“It never mentions the term ‘radical Islam,’ and after the Orlando shooting, we have an obligation when the administration won’t call it what it is, to start calling it what it is,” he said on the House floor on Thursday.

GOP leaders hailed the Countering Terrorist Radicalization Act (H.R. 5471), with Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy saying in a statement the House had “moved quickly and aggressively on legislation that will better protect our communities and the homeland.”

The bill, introduced by McCarthy and Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, essentially bundles three bills already passed by the House, in the hope that doing so will speed up the process of getting the through the Senate and onto the president’s desk.

The bill aims to push back on terrorist propaganda through counter-messaging, education and outreach; authorizes additional training for Department of Homeland Security and other personnel, with a focus on community awareness outreach efforts and the use of “fusion centers” nationwide; requires additional DHS assessment and reporting to Congress on the efforts; and establishes in law a counterterrorism advisory board with members from across relevant federal agencies.  

One thing H.R. 5471 does not do is mention “radical Islam,” “Islamist,” “jihad” or similar terminology. Instead it uses the administration’s preferred term for the threat – “countering violent extremism” or CVE.

The bill passed by a large margin – 402-15, with 14 members not voting. Three of the 15 “nays” came from Republicans – two were libertarian Reps. Justin Amash (Mich.) and Thomas Massie (Ky.), and the third was Gohmert.

Explaining his objections, he said, “Every Republican I heard speak on this issue, including those from Homeland Security, have acknowledged the president and our intelligence need to start talking about jihad, Muslim, Islam, radical Muslim, radical Islam, Muslim Brotherhood …”

“And they’re not allowed to talk about it without risking their career and that’s why I voted no on the bill today,” Gohmert added.

Noting several references in the bill to “violent extremism,” he argued that the measure “basically tells the Secretary of Homeland Security, you know, keep countering ‘violent extremism.’”

“It never mentions the term ‘radical Islam,’ and after the Orlando shooting, we have an obligation when the administration won’t call it what it is, to start calling it what it is,” he said. “And I think the bill really didn't do what we needed done.”

Earlier in his speech Gohmert pointed to the FBI’s counter-terrorism analytical lexicon, and said there were evidently terms that are “off-limits” for the administration.

Terms used multiple times in the 9/11 Commission Report, including jihad, Islam and Muslim, were absent in the FBI document, he observed. (Gohmert used a chart, compiled by Stephen Coughlin, an expert on Islamic jihad, contrasting terms used in the 9/11 Commission Report on the one hand with the administration’s National Intelligence Strategy and FBI lexicon on the other.)

“We want to make sure that we don’t want to offend the people who want to kill us and destroy our way of life,” Gohmert charged.

“You want a quick end to your career in the FBI or in our intelligence agencies, then all you have to use is the term jihad, Muslim, Islam,” he said. “If you talk about the Muslim Brotherhood, your career is pretty well over.”

Even though radical Islamists were “making clear they want an international caliphate,” he said, “you don’t want to say it in this administration.”

‘We have to define the enemy to defeat it’

Although the bill refers to “violent extremism” and not the other terms cited by Gohmert, McCaul and McCarthy in a joint statement did speak about “radical Islamist terror.”

“Our city streets have become the frontlines in the war against radical Islamist terror,” it said. “To honor the memory of the victims in Orlando, we must rededicate ourselves to preventing terrorists from gaining a foothold in our communities.”

In his own comments on the House floor, McCaul also stressed the need to “define the enemy.”

He noted that the attacks in Boston, Chattanooga, San Bernardino and now Orlando had all been “perpetrated by Islamist terrorists.”

“We have to define the enemy to defeat it,” he said. “That is a basic military strategy.”

In a recent article, Heritage Foundation scholar Robin Simcox wrote that the “violent extremism” term favored by the administration was first made popular in Britain.

“First mainstreamed by the British government, ‘violent extremism’ was dreamed up as a way to avoid saying ‘Islamic’ or ‘Islamist’ extremism in the months after the July 2005 suicide bombings in London,” he said. “The phrase swiftly traveled across the Atlantic and into the U.S. government’s vocabulary.”

Simcox described the CVE strategy as “the symptom of a craven approach to addressing the causes of terrorism.”

The three bills bundled into the new legislation were the Amplifying Local Efforts to Root out Terrorism (ALERT) Act (H.R. 4401), the Counterterrorism Advisory Board Act (H.R. 4407) and the Combating Terrorist Recruitment Act (H.R. 4820).

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