Countering Violent Extremism


What is Countering Violent Extremism (CVE)?

In 2014, the U.S. government announced a new anti-terrorism initiative in the United States called Countering Violent Extremism (CVE). The program was intended to prevent U.S. residents from joining "violent extremist" groups by targeting individuals’ believed to becoming radicalized. Individuals’ on the path to radicalization were identified by law enforcement with the help of community leaders, members, and teachers.

In part due to the field's recent expansion, there is no consensus definition of CVE, including from the administration. One working definition put forth by Humera Khan is "the use of non-coercive means to dissuade individuals or groups from mobilizing towards violence and to mitigate recruitment, support, facilitation or engagement in ideologically motivated terrorism by non-state actors in furtherance of political objectives."

According to the Brennan Center, CVE intervention programs are framed as community-led efforts to counsel young Muslims. In reality, however, these programs are largely led, funded, and administered by law enforcement agencies including the Department of Justice, Homeland Security, and the FBI.

CVE components include intervening in an individual's path toward violent extremism, interdicting in criminal activity and reintegrating those convicted of criminal activity into society.

Isn't CVE a good thing?

Many CVE programs label people as potential terrorists using disproven criteria and methods. The first is that extremist ideology is a precursor to, and driver of, terrorism.
— Report on CVE from the Brennan Center for Justice

The government's CVE initiative raises many issues. They include concerns that government-led CVE is not an effective use of public resources, that it often relies on subjective measures and its efficacy is questionable. Observers note that CVE is generally driven by news events, that the current program exclusively targets American Muslims and find that claims that the government is targeting all forms of violent extremism are inconsistently supported. There are arguments that the current CVE initiative undermines our national ideals, such as government not having a role in the free exercise of religion.

Additionally, there is a need for the government to acknowledge and reform its pattern of constitutionally-questionable law enforcement practices targeting the Muslims. Finally, any honest discussion about countering the appeal of violent extremism must include a very public component addressing relevant U.S. foreign policy choices.

Opposition to violent extremism is consistent among American Muslim leadership. Al-Qaeda, ISIS and their ideological allies kill more Muslims than people of any other faith. At the same time, violent extremist recruiters troll the internet seeking to conscript Americans to their mindset.

Actions demonstrating this opposition have been acknowledged by former U.S. Attorney General Holder, former FBI director Mueller and former National Counterterrorism Center Director Leiter. CAIR is a natural enemy of violent extremists. Our positive track record of success fully discredits violent extremist arguments that minorities cannot receive fair treatment in our nation.

The Problems with CVE

CVE programs promote disproven theories that are not grounded in science, as noted by the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee in their report on CVE programs. The CVE framework is based on concepts such as the “radicalization theory” that posits that there is a discernible path that an individual follows to become radicalized and ultimately commit a violent act. Another theory is rooted in the concept of “indicators”. The idea that certain identifiable characteristics in an individual can determine whether or not they are on the path to commit a violent crime. These theories have been debunked by numerous academics and politicians yet still provide the framework for the CVE program.

CVE in the Trump Era

The problems inherent in the CVE approach were only exacerbated under the Trump administration. According to a report from the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU, the Trump administration has nearly tripled the amount of CVE funding that feeds directly to law enforcement agencies—an increase from $764,000 to $2,340,000. Moreover, despite the mental health effects of surveillance and opposition from teachers, 14 out of 26 programs funded by the DHS target schools and students, some as young as five years old.

The Trump administration has provided funding to surveil Muslim communities, Black Lives Matter activists, LGBTQ Americans, immigrants, and refugees. CVE programs are rooted in unscientific, discriminatory beliefs and practices that have a substantial impact on the communities they target.