With the tragic shooting and bombing in Norway, we once again have the impetus to take a critical look at all movements that pose threats to our safety and democracy.
A recent article in the Washington Post reports that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has ignored domestic terrorism for the last two years. After a 2009 report entitled “Rightwing Extremism” was leaked, DHS caved to pressure from conservatives that the report could lead to monitoring of anti-immigrant or anti-abortion groups. That same year (2009) saw the murder of abortion provider George Tiller and the shootings at Fort Hood and at the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC.
In the same Washington Post article, Daryl Johnson, formerly the senior domestic terrorism analyst at DHS said intelligence reports on the militia groups in Michigan and Kentucky as well as multiple briefings on extremist groups such as the Sovereign Citizens Movement are being blocked by DHS, which he said was “screening for politically sensitive phrases or topics that might be objectionable to certain groups.”
It is disconcerting that, while more American deaths since 2001 have been caused by non-Muslim extremists than by Muslims, the DHS has all but stopped investigating violent home grown extremism in favor of focusing all its attention on the Muslim community, many of whom have had their civil rights violated or worse.
In an interview with the Southern Poverty Law Center, Johnson said, “My greatest fear is that domestic extremists in this country will somehow become emboldened to the point of carrying out a mass-casualty attack, because they perceive that no one is being vigilant about the threat from within. That is what keeps me up at night.” SPLC reports that 2010 saw the number of hate groups top 1,000 for the first time in more than 20 years.
The London Telegraph reports that the suspect in both Norway attacks plagiarized much of his manifesto from the writings of another domestic terrorist, American Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber. Politicians and pundits talk of these extremists as acting alone, but they are most certainly not alone. While Anders Behring Breivik may have lit the fuse and pulled the trigger all by himself, he was no more alone than James von Brunn, the white supremacist who opened fire inside the Holocaust Museum. Von Brunn had a long history of associations with prominent neo-Nazis and Holocaust deniers.
By caving to anti-Muslim and anti-Arab political pressure the DHS leaves us all vulnerable to extremist violence.