Domestic Terrorism Threats...
Check your political identity at the door
Here at home, we need to have a frank talk about domestic terrorism. At the moment, authorities and leaders from the local to the leaders of congress and US agencies, are failing US citizens, at risk from domestic terrorism. Please, “mute” your political identity during reading and see this as straightforward, expert analysis, devoid of a political agenda and informed by the most credible facts.
The last three quarters of my military career were spent in the CT/ Counterterrorism community, both at home and deployed in combat zones. To declare that CT, extremism, Preventative programs are complicated, would be a gross, understatement. Still, it must be addressed. When it came to Islamic extremism, radicalization and terrorism, especially post-911, the US spared no cost, support or engagement with US citizenry. Now… it’s crickets. This equals failure and the facts support my conclusion. The question is… “what are we going to do about it?”
Today’s TAT will touch on the highlights of the topic but quickly zoom in on the current domestic landscape of extremism and its largely unaddressed threat to the US populace.
First, a couple of basics about terrorism, domestic or otherwise.
Terrorism, extremism, radicalization etc. are all somewhat defined in US law but are complicated as a “chargeable offence.” This doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, but the law to a large extent, ignores the ideological component of these terms. For the record, if ideology that inspires and/ or enables a threat to the American people, it’s time for Congress to get busy and give LE/ law enforcement the tools required to, “protect and serve.” Also, for the record, they have contributed regarding the type of terrorism that initiated the “War on Terror” but… then they stopped.
When Congress stopped doing their job, other agencies also substantially reduced their pursuits of other types of extremism, often violent extremism too. Now, 21 years post 9-11, domestic terrorism is little more than a political football that includes the right side of the aisle, obstructing effective mitigation of our most serious domestic terror threat… RWE or Right-Wing-Extremism.
Now before those in the Republican party reach for their political hats rather than their analytical hats, let me break this down for everyone. Yes, no less than the ODNI, Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the FBI and other LE have definitively stated that RWE is the most serious and lethal domestic extremism threat to the US. All known credible reporting and analysis supports their assessment. This includes some of our nation’s very best, non-partisan think tanks like Brookings and CSIS. I am in complete agreement with them. This doesn’t mean that other extremist threats don’t exist, but they are not the primary threat. US domestic extremist movements, groups, organizations and otherwise span the spectrum of beliefs. It’s just that “other” types of extremism are minor players as pertaining to actual threats and occupy roughly 4% of all collected data on domestic extremism.
The IC assesses that domestic violent extremists (DVEs) who are motivated by a range of ideologies and galvanized by recent political and societal events in the United States pose an elevated threat to the Homeland in 2021. Enduring DVE motivations pertaining to biases against minority populations and perceived government overreach will almost certainly continue to drive DVE radicalization and mobilization to violence. 1cwcr sociopolitical developments- such as narratives of fraud in the recent general election, the emboldening impact of the violent breach of the U.S. Capitol, conditions related to the COVID-19 pandemic, and conspiracy theories promoting violence-will almost certainly spur some DVEs to try to engage in violence this year
- Executive Summary, 1st paragraph
Federal Bureau of Investigation, Department of Homeland Security
Strategic Intelligence Assessment and Data on Domestic Terrorism
To make matters worse, during the Trump era, radical RW ideology infected large portions of US LE and the military with the viruses of false narratives, conspiracy theories and other forms of hate-motivated extremism and violent extremism. While that during the Spring and Summer after George Floyd’s death, left-wing violence accounted for 40% of violent encounters and RWE, 58%, there is/ was a significant difference in methods, plots and the weapons used. Left Wing violence was manifested primarily in what is described in reporting as “melee” or basically, a very large-scale, street fight and accounted for one lethal attack. RWE employed primarily firearms and bombs/ incendiary devices. The lethality of RWE attacks, far exceeds one. Let’s be very clear, no violence is acceptable, especially when it’s driven by a rigid, narrow, radical ideology, regardless of type.
Also, of interest is reporting from George Washington University’s program on extremism which attempts to place “Anarchist/left wing violent extremism, often referred to in United States government parlance with the catch-all term “anarchist violent extremism” (AVE), which has a long-standing history in the U.S.”
Now that we have a better understanding of the US domestic terror threats, let’s take a look at why we came to mostly succeed against Islamist violent extremism post 9-11 and fail to even slow the threats emanating from our current threats, most severely, from RWE.
1. We were unified post 9-11 and this was based on our natural unity when faced with a threat. This no longer exists due to many factors but exponentially more dangerous during the Trump era, supported by Russia.
a. Russia must be included in this due to the fact that for over 70 years, their primary influence campaigns were to find and exploit social divisions in US and Western society in order to destroy unity and allowing the then, Soviets to expand their own rigid ideology. These campaigns were called, Active Measures by the Soviets and have continued under Putin, a career, mid-level KGB agent of insignificant proportions.
b. Russian Active Measures tactics saturate the campaign and later presidency of Donald Trump. In fact, the five volume SSCI report on Russian Interference during the 2016 election, details countless examples of conspiracy between the campaign and Russian operatives.
c. The tactics used by Trump during his presidency and beyond are exemplary of Russian tactics
2. We developed reporting procedures to assess threats from a multitude of federal, state and local LE. These reporting procedures are now only adhered to inconsistently or not at all due to organizations like the “Constitutional Sheriffs” who overtly refuse to participate or enforce laws in conflict with their RWE beliefs.
3. We had daily, color-coded threat warnings available via concerted outreach to all citizens.
1. We educated the nation on terrorism, radical ideology and only one type of domestic terror threat… Islamic.
2. We literally went to war for a generation against one form of violent extremism
3. We effectively collaborated with foreign partners whose nations also suffered from transnational violent extremism
a. For the record, RWE is a transnational threat as evidenced by the recent election of Meloni in Italy, a far-right politician, Viktor Orban in Hungary where CPAC welcomed his speech at their annual meeting, parts of other nations across Europe and especially in Russia where RWE goes hand-in-hand with Putin’s government.
b. We also must remember that far right also includes Hindutva in Modi’s India, Bolsonaro’s movement in Brazil, Iranian theocracy etc.
4. Finally on this short list of actions taken post 9-11 is engagement with the American people. By engagement, I mean, a sustained effort by credible US authorities actually talking at, to and with the American people at every opportunity. In my core specialty of narrative, the government was serving as the narrator of the threat, our actions and why we were taking the actions we did. This last critical piece is absolutely absent in government now and has been since 2016.This absence of proactive, sustained engagement domestically is substantially driven by the partisan divide between the controlling MAGA faction of the Republican party and all other Americans, including, truly principled conservatives who refuse to follow the MAGA crowd, dining daily on a variety of RW conspiracy theories.
Today’s piece has covered a lot of ground so I’ll try and succinctly offer a conclusion. Domestic extremism is a prominent and continuing threat to all Americans. By all data and reporting, RWEs are currently the far more serious version in this threat group. The US national security community is capable of “walking and chewing gum” so I will offer no excuse for them failing to address this most dangerous threat.
Politicians on the US right, supported by transnational leaders, nations and movements and big money donors here in the US have to date, managed to keep elected Republicans from enabling action against the threats, which is the current version’s “base.” For a nation of prestigious and honorable values, their intransigence is far beyond disgraceful. That both sides of the aisle use this threat for their own political pursuits is also unconscionable. This is up to voters to put a stop to, no matter how intertwined everyone’s political identity is with their lives. To fail to act, is as unpatriotic as it gets.
It's long overdue that the US national security community stopped kowtowing to political pressure and began addressing at a minimum, the points made above. None of this will work though until we learn how to employ, narrative-centric campaigning that rekindles our true patriotic underpinnings. The simplest form this campaign could take would sound something like: “it’s un-American to not come together to protect our nation of values from any and all threats.” No one side has a claim to great American principles. They stand outside of party politics. That’s where resiliency and our national strength lives and that must be triggered in audiences right, left or otherwise. That my friends, is the “American way.”
E Pluribus Unum