The Washington GOP has filed an ethics complaint against S.O.S. Steven Hobbs. According to The Center Square, “The complaint arises out of a contract with an international cyber-security firm to monitor private citizens’ communications on social media.”

The complaint states,

"Secretary Hobbs has created, despite the legislature’s rejection of such a program, an Information Security & Response Division. This new division contracts with Logically, an off-shore artificial intelligence surveillance company, to scour the internet and suppress any statements by citizens critical of Secretary Hobbs, his office, or his policies."

The GOP is leading on this situation, and I am still garnering information. In the meantime, my article will address the "rejected program" referenced in the block quote above.

HB 1333

HB 1333 died in the 2023 legislative session. The idea is to assemble a commission in State Attorney General Bob Ferguson's office (AGO) to identify “domestic violent extremism” (DVE), including what is considered disinformation, and to then subdue them.

The legislation is based on the recommendations of the 2022 Domestic Terrorism Study by our AGO. This study was directed by the legislature for the AGO to review, “federal, state, and local laws relating to acts of domestic terrorism; state and local data collection, tracking, and reporting practices relating to acts of domestic terrorism; and state and local policies regarding responding to domestic terrorism.”

The study targets the political Right. Among other biases, it uses the narrative "insurrection" in referring to the events of January 6, 2022 at the US capitol; but never mentions Seattle's Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone — a three week action in 2020 touting and demonstrating secession.

The Study

The AGO contracted with Rich Stolz, who is director of the Washington State advocacy group OneAmerica — which is aligned with the Democratic Party.

Stolz reached out to other groups(i). The study finds reasonable attitudes among individuals interviewed which, “reflected a desire to more clearly name the rise of White supremacist, anti-government, violent extremism and the threat posed by these organizations against communities of color, government institutions, and institutions essential to a functional democracy”. Opinions reflected interest in, “looking beyond law enforcement and national security frameworks toward more holistic strategies for public safety and community well-being” (p. 5).

The interviewees, some associated with immigrant advocacy groups, are keen to the potential for abuse of power. They, “cited examples of how lack of due process and transparency had caused harm to individuals inaccurately labeled as terrorist threats”. In addition, “They raised concerns about providing new tools until there was accurate information on what federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies were currently doing to counter domestic violent extremism".

The AG’s office also contracted with The Raben Group to review federal, state, and local domestic terrorism laws. Raben says 26 other states and the District of Columbia have statutes dealing with terrorism while Washington does not — except for a law that allows for the decertification of police officers who affiliate with extremist organizations. It is not as Washington is unprotected; the study states, “the federal government has prosecuted all recent high-profile acts of domestic terrorism and anti-government violence under applicable federal laws” (p.6).

Commission

This study proposes the legislature create a two-year commission, composed of “diverse stakeholders and housed within the AGO’s office, with the broad goal of establishing a comprehensive public health and community-based framework for responding to DVE”. (p. 7)

HB 1333 codifies the commission. The legislation wants, "evidence-based solutions to combat disinformation and misinformation, address early signs of radicalization, and develop public health-style responses.” §1 (7)(a)

HB 1333 displays bias by charging the commission, "to evaluate any future data-tracking recommendations around DVE, including how data is collected, what triggers data collection, and how to ensure data is not disproportionately used against BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) communities or other communities". §1(7)(b)

I hope, “or other communities”, means, “everybody else”.

There’s more to the Big Brother identity politics.

“Voluntary” Clamp Down

A police state relies on informers and the Domestic Terrorism Study is no different, “families and others may refer someone they suspect may be on the path of radicalization to violence, recognizing that any intervention would need to be agreed to voluntarily by the referred person” (p.7).

If volunteering to get treatment for your domestic terrorist habit / problem does not work, Washington State is still here to clamp down. The study proposes to, "mitigate the impacts of already radicalized people and groups, primarily through surveillance, monitoring, arrest, interruption of plots, barricading of doors, hardening of soft targets, etc." (p.8)[My emphasis].

Civil Liberties

Attorney General Bob Ferguson was tasked by the legislature to write the report. The AGO gets to the bottom of what the Domestic Terrorism Study proposed to establish,

"[B]ecause effective State intervention to address these threats has the potential to implicate speech or association that may be protected by the First Amendment, or the individual right to bear arms protected by the Second Amendment, we include a recommendation that all stakeholders involved in the whole-of-society response outlined herein be trained to have a solid, high-level understanding of constitutional principles that may be implicated by the State’s response to DVE."

Good idea that proponents of legislation like HB 1333 be aware of civil liberties before they legislate all over us. The AGO also recommends a Journalism Fellowship program and protecting both election workers and elected officials as a way to support our civic institutions. (p.13)

People come to the United States to escape oppression. Let's heed the reservations expressed by people interviewed in the study.

Indeed, we need established law enforcement to protect us from real threats of violence. However, let's not perform surveillance on political speech.

A holistic approach to combating unrest and any resulting violence needs to be non-partisan.

We must foster civic groups and community solutions. WA FWD is an attempt to reignite political association by way of social networking. The idea is to empower people. WA FWD is also doing this by advocating inclusive democracy solutions like Top 2 PRO — which offers more Washington voters a stake in our governing process.

Secretary of Police State

HB 1333 sought to "combat disinformation and misinformation". The bill may have died at the last legislative session, however, reading the GOP ethics complaint, it appears police surveillance efforts are operating out of the Secretary of State’s office.

Stay tuned.

(Image: Seattle CHAZ 2020 David Ryder for Getty Images.)

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i The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Washington, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) Western Region, Asian Counseling and Referral Service (ACRS), Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) Washington, Gairson Law LLC, OneAmerica, Muslim Association of Puget Sound (MAPS) American Muslim Empowerment Network (AMEN), Partners for Change, City of Seattle Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs (OIRA), Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates, and representatives from the Snoqualmie Tribe.