This Freedom of Information Act lawsuit seeks records related to the federal government’s Countering Violent Extremism (“CVE”) program -- an expanding set of measures about which little has been publicly disclosed. The premise of the program is that the adoption of extreme or ‘‘radical’’ ideas places individuals on a path toward violence, and that observable ‘‘indicators’’ exist by which to identify those who are ‘‘vulnerable’’ to ‘‘radicalization’’ or ‘‘at risk’’ of being recruited by terrorist groups.
The lawsuit alleges that, based on publicly available information, the CVE initiative poses real risks to the freedoms of speech, religion, and association, and to the right of Muslims to freedom from religious, ethnic, and national-origin discrimination. The CVE initiatives implemented in three pilot U.S. cities are aimed almost exclusively at American Muslim communities.
A FOIA request to seven agencies (Homeland Security, DOJ, etc.) in May 2015 for relevant documents was met with something close to stonewalling. Months after the request was made, five of the agencies had either failed to respond at all or responded and released no records. Two agencies produced a small number of documents after insufficient searches, and improperly withheld other records. So in February 2016, we filed suit, together with the National ACLU. In response, the agencies began to take our FOIA request more seriously, and thousands of pages of responsive documents have so far been produced by DHS, DOJ, DOS and the DNI. Tens of thousands of pages remain to be processed and produced on a rolling basis.
Eventually, we received between 20,000 and 30,000 pages of documents, which are all available and searchable here. They underscore our key criticisms of the programs and are serving as a helpful tool for demonstrating how the government simply recycles these programs under different names. The case was closed in May, 2021.