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Right Wing Terrorism is Happening Right Now in the US

Right Wing Terrorism is Happening Right Now in the US: Why Is It a Low Priority for the US Government?

Bill Berkowitz
July 6, 2011

Daryl Johnson, a former senior domestic terrorism analyst with the DHS, says that his 'greatest fear is that domestic terrorists in this country will somehow become emboldened to the point of carrying out a mass-casualty attack, because they perceive that no one is being vigilant about the threat from within.'

In the wake of 9/11, law enforcement officials ramped up their efforts to prevent domestic terrorism. During the past two years, while energy of the expanded Department of Homeland Security has been focused on Muslims -- either American born or those coming from outside the country - according to a former DHS official, the DHS has basically put the kibosh on analyzing homegrown terrorist threats by white supremacists, militias, the patriot movement, and anti-abortion fanatics.

In 2009, a DHS report titled Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment, that was aimed at law enforcement officials, was leaked. The report stated that "Right-wing extremists have capitalized on the election of the first African American president, and are focusing their efforts to recruit new members, mobilize existing supporters and broaden their scope and appeal through propaganda, but they have not yet turned to attack planning."

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The report maintained that "The current economic and political climate has some similarities to the 1990s [during the Clinton administration] when right-wing extremism experienced a resurgence fueled largely by an economic recession, criticism about the outsourcing of jobs and the perceived threat to U.S. power and sovereignty by other foreign powers."

"Rightwing Extremism" also pointed out that "Proposed imposition of firearms restrictions and weapons bans likely would attract new members into the ranks of right-wing extremist groups . . . The high volume of purchases and stockpiling of weapons and ammunition by right-wing extremists in anticipation of restrictions and bans in some parts of the country continue to be a primary concern to law enforcement."

In the blink of an eye, rightwing groups mobilized to discredit the report, and call for the resignation of DHS head Janet Napolitano. A remarkably well-organized chorus of conservative voices argued that their movement was being smeared by the Obama administration, and that legitimate administration critics were law-abiding citizens exercising their First Amendment rights.

"Rightwing Extremism" was written by a team of DHS analysts headed by Daryl Johnson, who in 2004, became the senior domestic terrorism analyst at the newly created Department of Homeland Security. Johnson told the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) that his "greatest fear is that domestic terrorists in this country will somehow become emboldened to the point of carrying out a mass-casualty attack, because they perceive that no one is being vigilant about the threat from within. This is what keeps me up at night."

In a recent interview, published in the Summer 2011 edition of the SPLC's Intelligence Report, Johnson acknowledged that the "Rightwing Extremism" report came about as a result of four questions asked of his team by Napolitano: "Are we seeing a rise in domestic terrorism? If so, is it related to the election of a black president? What are the chances of it escalating to violence? And what are we going to do about it?"

Johnson "has been battling extremist groups for two decades," having got "his start in the field in 1991, when he worked on counterterrorism for the U.S. Army."

In its introduction to the interview, the SPLC pointed out that although the report was "intended for law enforcement only, [it] was quickly leaked and caused a firestorm among the political right who accused DHS of painting all kinds of conservatives as potential Timothy McVeighs." Conservative columnist Michelle Malkin dubbed it Obama's "hit job" to target conservatives; others said it called everyone "on the right" a terrorist.

Conservative pushback against the report succeeded in not only getting DHS officials to claim that the report was unauthorized, but it wound up virtually eviscerating DHS' "domestic terrorism analysis unit."

According to the Washington Post, the DHS "has stepped back for the past two years from conducting its own intelligence and analysis of home-grown extremism, according to current and former department officials, even though law enforcement and civil rights experts have warned of rising extremist threats.

"The department has cut the number of personnel studying domestic terrorism unrelated to Islam, canceled numerous state and local law enforcement briefings, and held up dissemination of nearly a dozen reports on extremist groups, the officials and others said," the Post reported.

Johnson pointed out that since the 2009 report leaked, "DHS has not released a single report of its own on this topic. Not anything dealing with non-Islamic domestic extremism-whether it's anti-abortion extremists, white supremacists, 'sovereign citizens,' eco-terrorists, the whole gamut."

Upon further review, especially in the wake of the May 2009 murder of abortion provider George Tiller by an anti-abortion zealot; the June 2009 murder of a security guard at the U.S. Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. by neo-Nazi James von Brunn; and a number of other planned - but stymied -- attacks, it appears that the report's conclusions were dead on.

The former senior DHS analyst is concerned with "the fact that our country is under attack from within, from our own radical citizenry. There have been a lot of small-scale attacks lately, whether it's three mail bombs sent to U.S. government facilities in Maryland and D.C., or a backpack bomb placed near a [Martin Luther King Jr. Day] parade in Spokane, Wash., or two police officers gunned down at a traffic stop in West Memphis, Ark., [by antigovernment extremists in May 2010]."

In the Intelligence Report interview, Johnson, who says that he "personif[ies] conservatism" and acknowledges that he is a registered Republican and a Mormon, said that the mission of the DHS - as laid out in the 2002 Homeland Security Act - included "identifying and assessing possible terrorist threats to the homeland and notifying law enforcement officers of those threats." This included studying "how a law-abiding person becomes radicalized to the point of being willing to hurt people."

A 2010 DHS study concluded that a majority of the 86 major foiled and executed terrorist plots in the United States from 1999 to 2009 were unrelated to al-Qaeda and allied movements.


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