DHS Thinks Homeland Will Be More Secure If Two Federal Agencies Ignore Domestic Terrorists

from the all-threats,-but-really-just-the-foreign-ones dept

The Department of Homeland Security isn't all that interested in securing the homeland, it appears.

The Department of Homeland Security has disbanded a group of intelligence analysts who focused on domestic terrorism, The Daily Beast has learned. Numerous current and former DHS officials say they find the development concerning, as the threat of homegrown terrorism—including white supremacist terrorism—is growing.

This shift of focus away from a growing problem was a move made by the Trump administration. The head of this department, David Glawe, dissolved the branch handling domestic terrorism, even as acts of domestic terrorism continued to increase. The DHS likes securing the homeland, but only if it involves targeting people from other countries. The war at home can continue to be waged as far as its concerned.

The DHS apparently feels the FBI should handle the problem of securing the homeland against domestic threats.

Two former DHS officials, speaking anonymously because their current employers did not authorize them to speak to the press, said this change eliminates redundancy in the government. These officials argued that the responsibility for preventing domestic terrorism lies with the FBI, rather than with DHS.

This is as much the FBI's fault as anyone's. The FBI declared long ago it was now a counterterrorism agency, rather than a law enforcement agency. The problem with leaving this up to the FBI is the FBI is no more interested in combating domestic terrorism than the DHS.

[T]he FBI claimed for several years that far-right violence, though the most lethal, was not the top domestic terrorism threat. From 2004 through 2008, the FBI designated “eco-terrorism” the number one threat within the United States, despite not a single fatality attributed to environmental activists. The FBI still devotes substantial counterterrorism resources to tracking political activists protesting oil and gas pipelines at Standing Rock and elsewhere, and even harassing the lawyers that assist them. In 2017, FBI agents raided two animal sanctuaries as part of a multi-state investigation to locate two piglets rescued from a factory farm, reportedly cutting off a piece of one piglet’s ear to obtain DNA samples for testing. This seems a questionable use of resources, particularly when thousands of violent hate crimes against human beings are going unaddressed.

In another instance of taking its eye off the ball, weeks before the deadly white nationalist riot at Charlottesville, the FBI issued an assessment warning police that black activists protesting police violence posed a threat to them. It even invented a term for it — the “Black Identity Extremist” movement — to justify increasing scrutiny. Its first attempted prosecution of a prominent member of the Huey P. Newton Gun Club, an armed black self-defense group in Dallas, Texas, failed. The FBI continues to monitor and harass Black Lives Matter activists, visiting their homes in advance of protests, potentially chilling their participation.

The FBI's favored counterterrorism efforts are sting operations that utilize undercover informants to radicalize an assortment of weak and helpless people before handing them over to federal prosecutors. The FBI has probably created far more would-be terrorists during its counterterrorism efforts than social media. When the FBI deigns to examine domestic terrorism, it decides to go after people who threaten established industries or the justice system's status quo.

The FBI knows the domestic problem is growing:

Internal FBI figures reviewed by the paper show more domestic terror suspects were arrested in 2018 than “those allegedly inspired by international terror groups.”

According to FBI data, 150 Americans were arrested for planning to engage in acts of domestic terrorism in 2017, compared to 110 international suspects; in 2018, the ratio was 120 to 100.

Like many federal government agencies -- especially those tied to law enforcement -- the FBI and DHS have allowed terrorism to become an eye-of-the-beholder sort of thing. The DHS throws time and money at border security and hassling travelers at international airports. The FBI focuses on ISIS-inspired terrorism, conveniently forgetting plenty of other belief systems are capable of producing violent acolytes.

There's really only one conclusion to draw from this: domestic terrorism is ignored because it usually involves Good Americans™ with white skin and American flag bumper stickers. Foreign terrorism involves brown people of indeterminate origin. This may not necessarily indicate the agencies are filled with racists, but this selective distribution of talent and resources doesn't encourage many alternate theories.

These agencies are supposed to defend us from all threats foreign and domestic. It's just not happening. This is a continuation of the proud American tradition of implicitly viewing foreigners as a threat and white, male citizens as the personification of patriotic virtue. The world may have changed radically over the past several decades, but one narrative -- foreign threats -- still plays better to the home crowd than the idea their friends and neighbors may be planning to shoot up a mosque or drive a vehicle into a crowd of protesters. It's depressing enough that a significant percentage of the US population thinks only people who don't look like them can be dangerous. It's morally repugnant federal agencies reflect this mindset in their priorities.

Filed Under: dhs, doj, domestic terrorism, fbi, hate groups

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  1. icon
    Thad (profile), 8 Apr 2019 @ 12:37pm


    How then do we say it's "a growing problem" when the figures quoted clearly show that it's getting smaller over time?

    Two data points do not "clearly show" that a trend is happening "over time".

    Looking only at the two most recent data points is a poor way to draw long-term conclusions. Useful trend lines require more data; the Washington Post article that the Intelligencer links has some useful bar graphs.

    That the ratio between domestic terror and Islamist terror decreased between 2017 and 2018 doesn't really disprove the point of the article, which is that the government is not allocating anti-terrorist resources in a way that's proportional to the types of terrorist acts we're actually seeing.

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