DHS Report

Flashback: Conservatives Shut Down DHS Unit Combating Far-Right Domestic Terrorism

Last night, a shooter who held white supremacist and extreme anti-government, anti-feminist views “allegedly killed two people and wounded nine others who were watching the new comedy ‘Trainwreck,’ a film written by and starring the feminist comedian Amy Schumer.”

As the Southern Poverty Law Center pointed out in wake of the Lafayette, Louisiana, shooting, “in the last five years, an attack from the radical right was carried out or thwarted on average every 34 days and that the overwhelming majority of those attacks, 74 percent, were carried out by a single person, or a group of no more than two people.”

However, the Department of Homeland Security’s ability to monitor anti-government fanatics, who have carried out far more lethal attacks on Americans in recent years than Islamic extremists, was severely crippled after a 2009 dispute over a Department of Homeland Security report [PDF] on domestic right-wing terrorists.

As we’ve reported, Republican politicians and conservative activists alleged that the report focused on a nonexistent threat and would be used by the government to mark all conservatives, particularly Christians, gun owners and veterans, as terrorists.

The Right saw an opportunity to stir up a fake controversy in order to raise money, reinforce the narrative of conservative activists as victims and provoke animosity toward President Obama. In the process they helped make it harder for DHS to investigate a very real threat to American security.

Under pressure, Homeland Security retracted the report and ended up “gutting” the very unit combating such threats. Ironically, the author of the report was actually a conservative Republican Mormon who saw his team “dissolved” due to the criticism.

The report [PDF] specifically assessed “lone wolves” who hold “violent rightwing extremist ideology” as “the most dangerous domestic terrorism threat in the United States” bent on “commit[ing] violent acts,” noting that “white supremacist lone wolves pose the most significant domestic terrorist threat because of their low profile and autonomy.”

But apparently the disbandment of Homeland Security’s team combating such violent extremists was worth it so right-wing groups could raise money and whip up completely unfounded fears of anti-conservative persecution.

Will The Right Reject (Again) A Report on the Threat of Far-Right Extremism?

A new report from New America, released a week after a white supremacist gunned down nine people in a black church in Charleston, finds that since the September 11, 2001, attacks, “nearly twice as many people have been killed by white supremacists, antigovernment fanatics and other non-Muslim extremists than by radical Muslims.”

The New York Times reports that this threat is “familiar to police officers,” three-quarters of whom list antigovernment extremism as a greater threat to their communities than “Al Qaeda-inspired” violence:

If such numbers are new to the public, they are familiar to police officers. A survey to be published this week asked 382 police and sheriff’s departments nationwide to rank the three biggest threats from violent extremism in their jurisdiction. About 74 percent listed antigovernment violence, while 39 percent listed “Al Qaeda-inspired” violence, according to the researchers, Charles Kurzman of the University of North Carolina and David Schanzer of Duke University.

“Law enforcement agencies around the country have told us the threat from Muslim extremists is not as great as the threat from right-wing extremists,” said Dr. Kurzman, whose study is to be published by the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security and the Police Executive Research Forum.

We haven’t heard any right-wing reaction to this report yet. But we aren’t incredibly optimistic that it will be reasonable.

Back in 2009, when the Department of Homeland Security issued a report on countering violent right-wing extremism, the Right went ballistic, with groups including the American Family Association, the American Center for Law and Justice and Concerned Women for America denouncing it as an attack on Christians and veterans.

Liberty Counsel, the Religious Right legal group, even went so far as to print out cards for its members to show their solidarity with the violent right-wing extremists supposedly attacked by this report:

Other right-wing groups started an ad campaign demanding that then-DHS chief Janet Napolitano resign for supposedly having labeled George Washington, Ronald Reagan, Mother Teresa and the pope as “the new terrorists”:

Under pressure, DHS ultimately retracted the report and cut back its team investigating non-Muslim violent extremism, infuriating the self-described conservative Republican analyst who had written the report.

Since then, conservative activists have repeatedly referred back to the report to claim that President Obama is treating all conservatives as potential domestic terrorists, a suspicion that has fed into a number of right-wing conspiracy theories about DHS. Liberty University’s Matt Barber even started defending violent extremists groups just because groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center reported on their activities.

As recently as February, Rep. Ted Poe, Republican of Texas, was complaining on the Family Research Council’s radio program that the Obama administration is “more aggressive toward Americans, Republicans, conservatives, Christians, and concerned about them being threats to the country, which they’re not, than they are about the real threats to our country.”

Never mind that the report focused exclusively on the actual threat of violent, far-right extremism — something that even their strongest detractors aren’t accusing groups like Liberty Counsel and the AFA of being involved in. The Right saw an opportunity to stir up a fake controversy in order to raise money, reinforce the narrative of conservative activists as victims and provoke animosity toward President Obama. In the process they helped make it harder for DHS to investigate a very real threat to American security. But they ended up with a meme that lives to this day.

Flashback: When The Religious Right And Republicans Quashed An Investigation Into Right-Wing Extremism

Reports that the married couple who shot and killed two police officers, a bystander and themselves in Las Vegas this week were motivated by right-wing extremism have highlighted one of the more troubling trends in even the “mainstream” Right — denial that violent right-wing extremism even exists.

As Brian mentioned earlier today, a conservative pundit’s claim on the same day as the shooting that far-right violence is a “complete and total bogeyman” echoes the objections the attacks that many right-wing groups lobbed at a 2009 Department of Homeland Security report on domestic extremism. Right-wing groups and their allies in Congress created a fuss about the report, claiming that it was an attack on conservatives, Christians and veterans.

The American Family Association, Concerned Women for America and the American Center for Law and Justice piled on. Republicans in Congress demanded an investigation into how the report had come to pass. Spotting a good fundraising opportunity, Liberty Counsel even printed out “Proud to be a Right-Wing Extremist” cards to distribute to its members.

Eventually, the pressure led DHS to retract the report and later to cut back the team that produced it. Two years later, speaking publicly for the first time, the analyst who wrote the report — who happened to be a conservative Republican Mormon —  said that the attacks on his unit’s work had undermined law enforcement’s ability to address the “growing and dangerous problem” of violent right-wing extremism.

What happened at DHS as a result of the criticism?
My team was dissolved. All training courses and briefings presentations were stopped. DHS leaders made it increasingly difficult to release another report on this topic.

Why would DHS leaders dissolve your team and stop these analytic activities?

The subject had become too politically charged. As a result, DHS leaders adopted a risk adverse approach toward this issue. Perhaps they thought it was a matter of organizational preservation.

Do you think the dissolution of your unit that you discuss has negatively affected State and local law enforcement?

Certainly. There is one less agency to assist state and local law enforcement with this growing and dangerous problem at a time of heightened activity.

Yet, as recently as last year, Religous Right groups were still using their bogus criticism of the report as a talking point against the Obama administration.

The DHS Conspiracy Reaches the Illogical Nadir

Remember back in 2009 when the entire Religious Right movement began falsely claiming that the Obama administration was targeting conservatives by labeling them potential domestic terrorists based solely on a footnote in a Department of Homeland Security report ... a report that was written during the Bush administration by a gun-owning, anti-choice Republican Mormon?

This ridiculous claim has long been an established belief among the Religious Right, so it was only a matter of time before they started warning that National Defense Authorization Act is really a way for Obama to round-up anti-abortion activists and imprison them indefinitely without trial:

Constitutional experts warn a new law that allows the president to permanently detain U.S. citizens without trial could be used against pro-life activists, who have already been defined as potential terrorists in documents by some government agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security.

“This law can apply to pro-lifers, yes,” said John W. Whitehead, a constitutional attorney and founder of The Rutherford Institute. Whitehead told LifeSiteNews.com the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012 (NDAA) “would allow the military to show up at your door if you’re a ‘potential terrorist,’ and put you in military detention where seeing a lawyer is difficult.”


[Dana Cody, president and executive director of Life Legal Defense Foundation] who told LifeSiteNews.com her organization is currently studying the NDAA, added that the law states “enemy territory is anywhere.” The Senate rejected an amendment from Dianne Feinstein limiting permanent detention to those captured “abroad.”

“If it’s within the discretion of the government under the National Defense Authorization Act, of course it will be used by the government to intimidate and silence pro-life people, especially those who are in the public forum,” Cody said.

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