In Post-9/11 Rush to Focus on Foreign Terrorists, Domestic Terrorism Was Ignored

May 23rd, 2015 - by admin

Bill Berkowitz / Buzzflash @ TruthOut & Jonathan Strickland / How Stuff – 2015-05-23 02:23:17

(May 19, 2015) — Twenty years ago, the Oklahoma City bombing that killed 168 people caused law enforcement to pay much more attention to right wing domestic terrorists. After 9/11, however, attention quickly shifted to focusing on Muslims — both American born and/or those coming from outside the country.

According to a former Department of Homeland Security official, the DHS basically put the kibosh on analyzing homegrown terrorist threats by white supremacists, militias, the patriot movement, and anti-abortion fanatics. “[T]oday, while the number of violent incidents committed by domestic extremists is actually increasing, the holes in the net to catch them are growing larger,” the Kansas City Star discovered during its extraordinary one-year investigation of domestic terrorism published this year.

Right-wing domestic terrorists have killed more than 50 people since 9/11, the Kansas City Star reported. The list includes police officers in Arkansas and Nevada, a sheriff’s deputy in Florida, two sheriff’s deputies in Louisiana, law enforcement officials in Oregon, three police officers in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, a teenager and his grandfather in Overland Park, Kansas, and two West African immigrants murdered in Brockton, Massachusetts.

Especially discouraging is that “the focus and some funding for preventing terrorism at home have dissolved,” the Star‘s report pointed out, either because of a change in focus, and/or in some cases, the result of aggressive right-wing campaigns critical of government reports on the dangers of domestic terrorism.

The most blatant example of the latter occurred in 2009, after a government report “warned that the economic downturn, combined with the election of America’s first African-American president and the potential passage of new firearms restrictions, could trigger a surge in extremist violence, particularly in the white supremacist and militia movements,” the Star noted.

The report asserted that returning veterans were being targeted for recruitment by extremists and that fact could have dangerous ramifications. The Star noted that “the most significant domestic terrorism threat, the [government’s] report concluded, was white supremacist lone wolves and small terrorist cells that embraced violent, right-wing extremist ideology.”

A leaked copy of the report drew the attention of the right wing echo chamber. A coordinated campaign bashing the report forced Janet Napolitano, then head of the Department of Homeland Security, to apologize to veterans and withdraw the report from circulation. The backlash also caused the DHS to cut back staff time devoted to investigating potential domestic terrorists.

“We are five years into the largest resurgence of right-wing extremism that we’ve had since the 1990s,” Mark Pitcavage told the Kansas City Star. Pitcavage is the director of investigative research for the Anti-Defamation League, which trains more than 10,000 law enforcement officers a year about domestic terrorism, extremism and hate crimes.

“When it comes to domestic extremism, what tends to happen is that a lot of it goes under the radar, and a lot — including murders and what you would think would be major incidents — only gets reported locally and regionally,” Pitcavage said. “So unless it happens in your backyard, the average American doesn’t quite realize how much of this is happening.”

“Twenty years ago, after the shocking wake-up call of the Oklahoma City bombing, authorities began cracking down on a subculture of extremist groups, many arming themselves in preparation for a showdown with what they saw as an oppressive federal government,” the Kansas City Star‘s Judy Thomas wrote in one of her stories headlined “Only a matter of time.”

“The numbers of such groups sharply declined. But today, at a time when much of law enforcement’s focus has shifted from domestic to foreign terrorism, a network of extremism is again spreading throughout the land,” Thomas pointed out.

“Anti-government groups are more loosely organized, making them more difficult to infiltrate,” Thomas reported. “White nationalist groups have few strong leaders and are splintering. And while groups sometimes seem to fight one another as much as their perceived enemies, that only adds to the noise that law enforcement tries to monitor.”

According to Leonard Zeskind, president of the Kansas City-based Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights, who has monitored extremist groups for decades, “There’s no head to this thing. Without leaders, they’re out there under no one’s control.”

The Kansas City Star‘s investigation resulted in an extraordinary series of reports. The headlines cover stories that haven’t been given nearly enough attention by the mainstream media. Each of the listed articles is well worth reading:
“Ignoring the terror within”;
“Kansas City’s fusion center stays cautious about revealing specifics on its role combating terrorism”;
“Multiple studies find focus shifting away from domestic terrorism at ‘ineffective’ fusion centers”;
“Ex-police chief in Arkansas warns others about sovereign citizens by telling of son’s death”;
“Las Vegas officials knew of anti-government couple before fatal 2014 shooting spree”;
“Only a matter of time?”;
“Where are they now? Tracking militias and others who surfaced after Oklahoma City”;
“Landscape of white nationalist groups is changing”;
“Little has changed at Elohim City, including the beliefs of the residents”;
“Sovereign citizens seek to undermine government, sometimes with violence.”

Focusing on domestic terrorists does not appear to have the same cache with the mainstream media, or the general public, as focusing on the threat from foreign terrorists. Far too often, the media has not bothered pursuing the connective tissue between many of America’s anti-government terrorists. Thanks to the Kansas City Star, we have a better picture of the reality of that threat.

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