Scott Noll at WREG-TV in Memphis had a fascinating story earlier this week, following up on last summer's deadly rampage by two sovereign citizens, Jerry and Joe Kane, that left two police officers dead and several other wounded:
Tonight there are new questions about how much the feds knew about an anti-government activist, accused in the deadly attack against police officers in West Memphis.
WREG On Your Side Investigators have uncovered the secret FBI files showing Jerry Kane was the target of a federal investigation five years before that deadly day last May.
The 19 page file was released this week, following our Freedom of Information Act request last June.
Tonight, West Memphis's police chief believes if his officers had known what was inside last May they'd still be alive today.
"I felt like I let this department down May the 20, 2010 when I didn't have the information I should have had," said Paudert recalling the shooting that left his son, Sgt. Brandon Paudert, and Officer Bill Evans dead.
The chief finds it disturbing to know the FBI knew about Jerry Kane years before that deadly day.
Paudert had no idea what was in the file until we showed him.
"You could become very angry very quickly when you lose your son and a fine officer like Bill Evans thinking this information was stored away someplace in someone's file and they didn't want to share it," explained Paudert.
The incident was yet another reminder that one of the most significant ongoing threats to law enforcement officers in this country comes from right-wing extremists of the Patriot/"sovereign citizen" variety -- people who take Republicans' government-bashing rhetoric to its illogical extreme and declare themselves free of federal laws and functionally laws unto themselves. There are constant reminders of this threat -- from the Hutaree Militia to the Richard Poplawskis out there.
Of course, we all were witness to the right-wing shrieking over that Department of Homeland Security bulletin warning police officers around the country about the nature of this resurgent threat. That's because conservatives are more concerned about whitewashing away these embarrassments than they are with the lives of police officers. They like to use dead cops as props to attack liberals while loudly arguing, as Glenn Beck did a couple years ago, that even paying attention to such right-wing threats is a smear of mainstream conservatives.
Ironically, Glenn Beck was nattering at length on his Fox News show this week claiming that left-wing extremists are about to start killing police officers en masse, which is why they need to destroy their unions. Right.
The unfortunate reality is that federal officials are almost certainly not sharing this vital intelligence with police officers because, whenever they do, they're viciously and loudly attacked by right-wing pundits for allegedly smearing mainstream conservatives. Amazingly, no one in the mainstream media seems to have yet cottoned to the fact that this really is a near-outright confession of complicity.
Indeed, domestic terrorism is sharply increasing in the past two years, as evidenced by the 22 incidents and counting we've documented involving right-wing extremists committing acts of violence against "liberals" and government targets.
But because right-wing talkers only want to discuss terrorism as a "Muslim" phenomenon, we're getting a badly skewed understanding of the nature of terrorism. As Rep. Bennie Thompson explained in Politico a few weeks back:
While I agree that homegrown terrorism and the jihadist threat deserve continuing attention, a single-minded approach ignores all other threats.
Today’s terrorists do not share a particular ethnic, educational or socioeconomic background. Recently, when state law enforcement agencies were asked to identify terror groups in their states, Muslim extremist groups ranked 11th on a list of 18.
Law enforcement agencies identified neo-Nazis, environmental extremists and anti-tax groups as more prevalent than Muslim terrorist organizations. The sophisticated explosive device found along a parade route in Washington on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, an act of domestic terrorism clearly motivated by racist ideology, should prove that other groups are just as willing and able to carry out horrific attacks on Americans.
In addition, terrorist groups are not our only threat. According to the Department of Homeland Security, “lone wolves and small terrorist cells” may be the single most dangerous threat we face. Attacks are just as likely to come from lone-wolf extremists — like James Wenneker von Brunn, the Holocaust Memorial Museum shooter, or Jared Lee Loughner, who is charged with the tragedy in Tucson, Ariz. — as they are from Muslim extremist groups.
And what do von Brunn and Loughner have in common with Muslim extremists like Nidal Hasan, the Fort Hood shooter, and Colleen LaRose, also known as Jihad Jane? All allegedly espoused radical views on the Internet through extremist websites, chat rooms and popular sites like Facebook.
This starkly illustrates what should be common sense: The most effective means of identifying terrorists is through their behavior — not ethnicity, race or religion.
But that was all washed away by the right-wing shrieking over the DHS bulletin, even though the report was an important heads up about the very real danger for law-enforcement officers out there posed by right-wing extremists:
The Department of Homeland Security more than likely couldn't give a rat's patoot about today's right-wing Tea Tantrums, because they're mostly exercises in futility and stupidity anyway.
But I'll tell you who they do care about: the people in uniform who go out every day and put their lives on the line to keep you and I and our families and neighborhoods safe -- that is, the men and women in law enforcement. People like those three officers in Pittsburgh, who had no reason to suspect a killer was about to ambush them.
A recent study by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism lays out in painful detail the very real threat that right-wing extremists pose to people in law enforcement:
Research led by Dr. Joshua D. Freilich (John Jay College, CUNY) and Dr. Steven Chermak (Michigan State University) and funded by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) has revealed a violent history of fatal attacks against law enforcement officers in the United States by individuals who adhere to far-right ideology.
* In the United States, 42 law enforcement officers have been killed in 32 incidents in which at least one of the suspects was a far-rightist since 1990.
* 94% of these incidents involved local or state law enforcement. Only two events—high-profile attacks at Ruby Ridge and at the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City—involved federal agents. Much more common are events like the tragic Pittsburgh triple slayings.
* Attacks on police by far-rightists tend to occur during routine law enforcement activities. 34% of the officers killed by far-rightists were slain during a traffic stop, and a number of law enforcement officers have been killed while responding to calls for service similar to the domestic violence call that precipitated the Pittsburgh murders.
* Firearms were the most common type of weapon used during these fatal anti-police attacks. 88% of the incidents involved guns, while only 6% involved explosives and 6% involved knives. 81% of the victims were killed by guns.
* Only 12% of the suspects in these attacks were members of formal groups with far-right ideologies. The vast majority—like Poplawski—acted alone. This greatly complicates law-enforcement efforts to anticipate which individuals might pose a threat to police officers.
* Beyond these law enforcement murders, far-right violence presents a broader threat to national security and American citizens. Since 1990, far-rightists have been linked to more than 275 homicide incidents in 36 states. These crimes have resulted in the more than 530 fatalities, including the 168 victims murdered by Timothy McVeigh when he bombed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. The vast majority of these suspects are white and male, with almost 70% being 30 years old or younger.
Back then, Beck and Malkin and the rest couldn't be bothered to express even a scintilla of concern about the safety of law-enforcement officers:
This is where I wonder about the grotesquely skewed priorities of the conservative movement and its leading pundits. Because all the yammering has been fearmongering about the DHS potentially targeting ordinary conservatives -- especially VETERANS!!!! -- when in fact there is not a scintilla of evidence they have done so or are considering it.
Yet in the meantime, as we just pointed out, these right-wing extremists who are the subject and the raison d'etre of this bulletin are also known lethal threats for the men and women who work in law enforcement ...
So while the folks at Faux News fearmonger for the sake of yet-unharmed veterans and conservatives, they're completely turning their backs on the interests of the men and women who risk their lives each day serving as law-enforcement officers.
But if you can convince them instead that the real threat they face is the fact that they belong to those creatures of progressivism, the unions -- well, that would be right-wing nirvana right there.