While much of the media attention, driven by congressional hearings, on terrorism issues focused this week on events in Libya, there was another Senate hearing that took a good look at terrorism on our own shores.
Chaired by Sen. Dick Durbin, it was titled "Hate Crimes and the Threat of Domestic Extremism," and much of it was focused on last month's horrific shooting rampage at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, as well it should.
But the most riveting testimony was provided by a former Department of Homeland Security analyst named Daryl Johnson, who had this to say:
The threat of domestic terrorism motivated by extremist ideologies is often dismissed and overlooked in the national media and within the U.S. government. Yet we are currently seeing an upsurge in domestic non-Islamic extremist activity, specifically from violent right-wing extremists. While violent left-wing attacks were more prevalent in the 1970s, today the bulk of violent domestic activity emanates from the right wing.
Of course, we've been writing about this for some time now, particularly in light of the fact that Johnson was driven out of the DHS by the witch hunt that ensued after he authored that bulletin on right-wing extremism that has turned out to be all too prescient.
We have seen the results, as dozens of police officers have died in the line of duty while confronting right-wing extremists for whom they were largely unprepared.
Johnson was the focus of a Washington Post piece examining how the DHS eviscerated its capacity for adequately analyzing the threat of right-wing extremism, and Johnson recently provided more details for Spencer Ackerman. After the mess in Wisconsin, all Johnson could say was that he had tried to warn them.
Johnson explored a sampling of the record in his testimony:
Since the 2008 presidential election, domestic non-Islamic extremists have shot 27 law enforcement officers, killing 16 of them. Over a dozen mosques have been burned with firebombs – likely attributed to individuals embracing Islamaphobic beliefs. In May 2009, an abortion doctor was murdered while attending church. Two other assassination plots against abortion providers were thwarted during 2011 and six women’s health clinics were attacked with explosive and incendiary devices within the past two years.
Further, in January 2010, a tax resister deliberately crashed his small plane filled with a 50-gallon drum of gasoline into an IRS processing center in Austin, Texas. In January 2011, three incendiary bombs were mailed to government officials in Annapolis, Md., and Washington, D.C. Also, in January 2011, a backpack bomb was placed along a Martin Luther King Day parade route in Spokane, Wash. Finally since 2010, there have been multiple plots to kill ethnic minorities, police and other government officials by militia extremists and white supremacists.
In August 2012 alone, a white supremacist killed six worshipers at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wis. Sovereign citizens shot four sheriff’s deputies, killing two, in St. Johns Parish, La. And, four active-duty Army soldiers, who had formed an anti-government militia group and were hoarding weapons and ammunition in an alleged plot to overthrow the government, were charged in the deaths of two associates who, they worried, might tip law enforcement to their clandestine activities.
And as I say, that's just a sampling. The bigger picture is even more disturbing: In reality, right-wing domestic terrorism is occurring at a remarkable rate, more than twice that of the "Islamist" domestic terrorism that has so preoccupied people like Rep. Peter King and the House Homeland Security Committee in the past couple of years.
It's not just Congress. As Johnson's example shows, it's also true of the official response. See, for instance, the testimony in the same hearing of DHS spokesman Scott McAllister and the FBI's Michael Clancy:
McAllister touted the work of their intelligence analysts:
MCALLISTER: The Department's efforts to counter violent extremism are threefold. We are working to better understand the phenomenon of violent extremism through extensive analysis and research on the behaviors and indicators of violent extremism. We are bolstering efforts to address the dynamics of violent extremism by strengthening partnerships with local, state, and international partners. And, we are expanding support for information-driven, community-oriented policing efforts through training and grants.
The DHS is claiming that its analysts are working hard to examine the problem of this violence, but the reality is that it has been eviscerating its ability to do so for any kind of extremism except Islamist. Properly analyzing .
And when McAllister was confronted by Durbin about this, he simply evaded by saying that the number of analysts it employed in such given endeavors was "sensitive". Yes, we can imagine it is.
Not much better was the overview from the FBI's Clancy:
CLANCY: On September 10, 2012, the FBI disseminated its National Terrorism Assessment on Domestic Terrorism. In the formulation of this assessment, the overall threat ranking considers intent, capability, and posture in its determination of the threat domestic extremist movements pose in the United States. The FBI assesses that economic and political events – foremost among them the coming Presidential election – are likely to provoke domestic extremists into a more active state, although this is unlikely to drive an increase in large-scale violence. Smaller, localized acts of violence committed by domestic extremists, however, cannot be dismissed. The FBI further assesses that domestic extremist movements pose a medium-to-low terrorism threat. Specific political and economic events scheduled in 2012 create the potential for greater volatility within domestic extremism than existed in the previous year.
The FBI may want to reassess this conclusion, given that we have in fact had fifteen cases of domestic terrorism in the United States over the eight months since December of 2011, with three significant cases in the month of August alone.
Meanwhile, Johnson responded to the DHS's vague answers sharply:
JOHNSON: Well, you've already outlined in your testimony that when I was the team leader at the Department of Homeland Security, we had five analysts directly under my supervision. But we also had additional analysts that supplemented us. So we had as many as eight analysts looking at this issue. Today, there's one. And that's a fact.
The problem isn't going away. Crooks and Liars readers will recall that we were trying to track these kinds of cases for awhile, but the numbers have become large enough that we've taken this to another level of reportage. We'll have more information on this soon, but take our word for it: Johnson's warning that we are seeing a significant increase is not exaggerated in the least.