HOLTON: Rhetoric, Reality And The Domestic Terror Threat

While the latest Homeland Threat Assessment from the Department of Homeland Security describes white supremacists as the “most persistent and lethal threat,” not a single one of the FBI’s most wanted domestic terrorists is linked to a white supremacist or right-wing group.

Adding to the confusion over the perceived threats was a bulletin issued by DHS in the last week in January warning about the threat from what it termed “domestic violent extremists.” Once again, the bulletin warns of violent extremism, but makes no mention of Antifa, despite the group once attacking an ICE facility in Portland recently. Given Antifa’s record of violence over the past few years one might think that DHS would include them as a relevant threat. Portland and Seattle have been plagued by unrest for months. In a Washington, DC protest over the weekend Antifa and BLM supporters chanted “Burn it down.” The DHS bulletin makes no mention of these potential threats.

With all the dire warnings of white supremacist/right-wing terrorism, one would assume that threat would manifest itself in other government terrorism communications.  Yet a review of the FBI’s list of Most Wanted Terrorists shows that 24 of the 26 terrorist suspects listed are in fact jihadists connected to foreign terror groups.

One of the two others is Joanne Chesimard, better known as Assata Shakur, a former member of the Black Liberation Army, a Black separatist group with ties to urban communist guerilla movements active in the early 1980s. Shakur remains a popular icon on the left, and the is described as a mentor by founders of BLM.  The other non-jihadist is Daniel Andreas, affiliated with the Animal Liberation movement.

The FBI lists 12 suspects wanted in connection with Domestic Terrorism. Three listed terrorists are tied to the May 19th Communist Organization, an urban guerrilla group from the 1980s with links to today’s Antifa movement.

One is a member of the Black Liberation Army, one is a Black Panther, and one is a member of the Puerto Rican terrorist organization the FALN. One is affiliated with the Animal Liberation Front. Four are hijackers with no known ideology, though most seem to have fled to Cuba.

Despite the rhetoric about the threat from white supremacist or right-wing terrorism, not a single name on the FBI’s terrorism wanted lists belongs to a person in those categories. Now one might argue that there are no right wing terrorists on the Most Wanted List because the FBI is more successful at disrupting or investigating white supremacist or right-wing terror plots.

But if the government is adequately addressing these threats, why the need to such extensive and immediate action?

Meanwhile left-wing NGOs have cited the DHS assessment to call for Congressional action to combat the white supremacist threat. One area of emphasis has been demands for investigating alleged white supremacist subversion of the US military and law enforcement. The new Secretary of Defense, Lloyd Austin called a stand down in the armed forces in order to address the alleged threat. This is based largely on the theory that active-duty military personnel participated in the “storming” of the U.S. Capitol on January 6.

Yet there was no such stand down to address the recent arrest of a U.S. Army private with the 3rd Infantry Division at Fort Stewart, Georgia for attempting to  aid ISIS in attacking U.S. troops in the Middle East, and plotting against targets in New York City.

Nor is this the first time a U.S. service member has been found involved in jihad. In 2015 an Army National Guard specialist was arrested for conspiracy to provide material support for ISIS. In 2009, Major Nidal Hasan opened fire on fellow soldiers, killing 13 and wounding 30 at Fort Hood. Prior to the attack the FBI noted that Hasan was in contact with Al Qaeda leader Anwar Awlaki, but described Hasan’s conversations with the terrorist ideologue as “research.” In 2003, as Operation Iraqi Freedom was getting underway, Sergeant Hasan Akbar of the 101st Air Assault Division threw four fragmentation grenades into a tent, killing one and wounding fifteen.

Despite the history of evidence of jihadists in the ranks of the U.S. military, there has never been a stand down order such as the one that Secretary Austin has now ordered.

Clearly there is a disconnect between the politicized rhetoric which insists U.S. counterterrorism efforts focus exclusively against right-wing or white supremacist terrorism and the actual documentable threats that face this country. It is particularly worrisome the length some are willing to go to blame law enforcement and military members, while excusing larger threats.

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