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Tag: domestic terrorism

Domestic Terror Threats Have ‘Exploded’ Since 2020

FBI Director Chris Wray told members of Congress on Tuesday that the number of domestic terror cases in the United States has "exploded" over the past year and a half, confirming many suspicions surrounding the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

On Tuesday, Wray told members of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee that the FBI's domestic terrorism caseload has "more than doubled" since the spring of 2020, "from about 1,000 to around 2,700 investigations."

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Homeland Security Renews Warning On Right-Wing Terror Threat

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

A national terrorism alert was released on Friday to warn about the possibility of extremists striking as COVID-19 restrictions easing in various states across the country.

According to ABC-13, the latest National Terrorism Advisory System alert released by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) serves as an extension of the previous warning of possible civil unrest before the insurrection on the U.S. Capitol. The previous alert regarding January 6 was set to expire on Saturday, May 15.

While the alert does not offer details about any isolated threat, it warns of "potential danger from an increasingly complex and volatile mix that includes domestic terrorists inspired by various grievances, racial or ethnic hatred and influences from abroad," per the publication.

Those types of threats are said to have intensified since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic due to "conspiracy theories and deepened anger at the government in some quarters over the shutdown of the economy."

"Violent extremists may seek to exploit the easing of COVID-19-related restrictions across the United States to conduct attacks against a broader range of targets after previous public capacity limits reduced opportunities for lethal attacks," the bulletin said.

DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas weighed in on the latest alert and the present-day terroristic threats in the United States. "Today's terrorism-related threat landscape is more complex, more dynamic, and more diversified than it was several years ago," Mayorkas said.

In wake of the growing concerns about domestic terrorism, DHS has incorporated a new domestic terrorism monitoring division within its Office of Intelligence and Analysis. Approximately 7.5 percent of the federal agency's grant funding has been designated for monitoring terroristic threats.

Far-Right Terrorist Sought To Infiltrate Federal Law Enforcement Agency

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Ethan Collins had it all figured out. Like a lot of far-right extremists, he fantasized a lot about committing various acts of terrorism—bringing down the power grid, bombing police stations, that sort of thing—and thought about ways to make them happen. The Colorado man decided his best shot was to try to infiltrate a federal law enforcement agency and pull off his crimes from within its ranks.

Fortunately, Collins is a terrible liar. In order to join that unnamed federal agency, he had to take a polygraph test. He failed it. Three times. And his answers to agents the third time around became grounds for a search warrant that produced a store of illegal silencers Collins says he made himself. He's now under arrest.

Collins' story was revealed this week in a Daily Beast article by Pilar Melendez and Seamus Hughes. He is currently being transported to Colorado to face multiple weapons charges—all of them related to the silencers. Investigators reportedly also found a substantial cache of legal weapons in his home, including a high-powered sniper-type rifle and an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle.

According to the affidavit filed by the FBI this week, Collins—who makes his living as a pilot—had applied to the federal agency in May 2020 for work, and was required to take a polygraph exam. Collins failed three times—likely because of his reactions during the portion of questions devoted to terrorism, because after the third blown exam, on Jan. 11, the polygraph examiner questioned him further about his responses to those portions of the exam.

His answers were hair-raising. Among the many things the Collins confessed:

  • He had carefully plotted out an attack on the Colorado energy grid that would leave the Denver metropolitan area without power for an extended period. He thought the best time to carry out such an attack was in the winter.
  • His plan would have entailed recruiting over 70 people to participate in the scheme, carefully coordinated by him but with minimal contact with each other.
  • The high numbers of recruits eventually sidelined his plan, because he realized he lacked the manpower to pull it off.
  • Among his other potential targets for attack were the Federal Reserve—which he blamed for his economic woes—and Data Centers for the state of Colorado, as well as local police stations.
  • He approved vigorously of the plot by 14 Michigan militiamen to kidnap Governor Gretchen Whitmer that was disrupted last fall by the FBI. Collins told the examiner that "those plotting to kidnap the Governor would be justified in doing so if they arrested her and put her on trial for violating their rights as American citizens."

"Collins considers himself as a patriot, not a terrorist, but at one point during the interview did state he felt he was a terrorist. Collins said he has spent a lot of time thinking about how easy it would be," the affidavit explained.

Based on his replies, law enforcement officers executed a search warrant on Collins' home in Centennial, a Denver suburb, nearly three weeks later. In addition to the silencers and guns, investigators also found ballistic gear.

While the Collins arrest is a reassuring reminder that federal law enforcement's processes intended to catch such would-be infiltrators are working, it also leaves the ominous sense that there likely are men who are better liars capable of eluding detection by polygraph who have gained access to the ranks of federal agencies.

After all, the FBI itself recently warned that law enforcement generally was being targeted for infiltration by right-wing extremists of a variety of ideological stripes, including white supremacists and "Patriot" conspiracists. And very few such agencies outside of the federal government even create an emphasis to screen for such extremists, let alone require polygraph tests to detect them.

House Cancels Thursday Session Due To Warnings Of Possible Capitol Attack

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. House of Representatives canceled a session scheduled for Thursday following law enforcement warnings of intelligence pointing to a possible plot by a militia group to breach the U.S. Capitol, the Washington Post reported on Wednesday. (Writing by Mohammad Zargham; Editing by Tim Ahmann)

Republicans Conceal Fascist Terror Threat -- By Blaming BLM And Antifa

Republicans rolled out their narrative response to Democrats who were intent to see a law enforcement crackdown on the far-right extremist elements who assaulted the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 during Wednesday's hearing of a House Judiciary subcommittee on "The Rise of Domestic Terrorism in America." It resembled a team version of the "let's throw shit at the wall and see what sticks" strategy, but beneath it all was a thread: Blame everything on Black Lives Matter and left-wing antifascists.

The presence of right-wing pseudo-journalist Andy Ngo—whose entire body of work has portrayed left-wing and anarchist political protests as terrorism—as the Republicans' only witness was emblematic of the approach. Florida Congressman Greg Steube encapsulated the narrative by showing a video of anti-police brutality protests from the summer and then demanding that the Democratic witnesses label it terrorism.

Ngo's testimony was indistinguishable from one of his talks promoting his "wildly dishonest" book, in which he depicts "antifa" as an existential threat to America. He repeatedly described last summer's 120 day-long string of protests against police brutality in Portland—none of which he actually attended, but instead relied on others' reports for his coverage—as "riots," and insisted that this was terrorism and fundamentally no different than the Jan. 6 insurrection in nature:

For more than 120 recurring days, Antifa carried out nightly riots targeting federal, county, and private property. They developed a riot apparatus that included streams of funding for accommodation, travel, riot gear and weapons. This resulted in murder, hundreds of arson attacks, mass injuries, and mass property destruction. To put that into context for those here today, similar actions that occurred at the Capitol Hill riot on January 6, 2021, were repeated every night months on end in the Pacific Northwest.

This remained his thesis when questioned by Republican committee members, notably Congressman Andy Biggs of Arizona, one of the key planners of the Jan. 6 "Stop the Steal" event that became the insurrection. Biggs asked him: "If we don't talk about antifa, is antifa going away?"

Ngo, true to his running thesis, replied that antifa wasn't going away, and actually it's dedicated to the destruction of American democracy and willing to use terrorism to achieve that. He then described multiple instances of the summer protest violence as fitting the legal description of terrorism.

In reality, domestic terrorism is an entirely different phenomenon from protest violence, which has never been included in any terrorism database. Protest violence is usually—as it was last summer—an outcome of interactions between protesters exercising their free speech and police forces using aggressive tactics against them; this summer's protests were acutely so because the police themselves were the primary object of the protests, particularly in Portland.

Terrorism, in contrast, comprises preplanned acts of violence directed at political targets with the intention of striking fear into the larger populace. Both protest violence and terrorism are political in nature, but their core nature is fundamentally very different, particularly when it comes to intent.

Steube, a former Judge Advocate General officer who represents the Sarasota area, either didn't grasp this distinction or was intent on obliterating the committee's ability to do so. After setting out a self-servingly incomplete definition of domestic terrorism, he played a video showing scenes from the summer protests—focusing at one point on a bonfire set by protesters in Portland that in fact was not any kind of arson—and then proceeded to harangue the Democrats' witnesses, which included national security expert Michael German of the Brennan Center for Justice, MSNBC intelligence expert Malcolm Nance, and Wade Henderson of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.

Steube demanded of each of them: "Do you believe that what you saw on that video meets the definition of domestic terrorism?" He also insisted on a yes or no reply.

Nance was blunt: "No, it's civil disobedience. We have codes for that."

Steube pounced on this, pointing to his exculpatory conclusion: "So that's civil disobedience, burning down—creating $80 billion worth of damage across our country, but what occurred here on January 6 was domestic terrorism."

Steube, of course, ignored that the motive for whatever violence occurred this summer was anger at police brutality and a demand for change in American policing, while the motive for the Jan. 6 insurrection was to overturn the outcome the 2020 presidential election by stopping American democratic processes from occurring. In defining terrorism, motivation and intent are the determinative factors. (Also worth noting: Steube outrageously inflated the costs of the summer's civil disturbances, which are estimated in the $1-2 billion range.)




Texas congressman Louie Gohmert—who in fact advocated insurrection and mass protest to overturn the election during a Nov. 14 "Stop the Steal" rally—was now adamant that the people who invaded the Capitol were criminals and should face consequences, but then he tried flinging a different turd at the wall: The whole incursion inside the Capitol was actually the fault of a single antifa/Black Lives Matter activist named John H. Sullivan—a theory that was referenced by other Republicans at the hearing as well.

There's just one problem with this claim: It's been thoroughly debunked. Sullivan, as The Washington Post reported in detail, is a man who initially attempted to organize BLM protests in Utah outside of the existing African American protest community. In short order, a person was shot during one of his events and then Proud Boys began showing up to support his protests. Among BLM activists, he was widely regarded as a duplicitous "double agent." His last organized protest of the summer was a pro-gun rights rally featuring large numbers of far-right militiamen, including Oath Keepers.

The constant comparisons of BLM activists and antifascists to white nationalist terrorists wore down the patience of everyone else involved in the hearing. After all, a 2020 domestic terrorism database found that between 2017 and 2019, right-wing extremists committed a total of 49 acts of terror that resulted in 145 deaths. Antifascists, in contrast, were responsible for exactly one case of domestic terrorism, and the only death that resulted from that case was the perpetrator's. Black Lives Matter activists were connected to zero cases of domestic terrorism.

As Tennessee congressman Steve Cohen noted: "It's like comparing a forest fire to someone with a match."

The most pointed retort came from Missouri congressman Cori Bush, who was appalled by the constant comparisons of white supremacists to BLM protesters. She ripped into her Republican colleagues at the hearing.

"Equating a righteous movement for justice with hateful and racist white nationalism is outright ignorant and disingenuous on your part," she said. "But for white supremacy, in which you benefit, we would not be in the streets demanding to be heard."

Why The QAnon Cult Is Now Fixated On March 4

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

The startling impacts of former President Donald Trump's presidency and conspiracy theories reach deep into the lives of many families. With the disgraced president out of office, many people are sharing how the QAnon conspiracy theory — built with him at the center and with his support — has torn apart close relationships. And despite the fact that Trump has lost the presidency, which many QAnon believers never thought would happen, many have moved the goalposts and started hoping for his return. In this way, adherents to the delusion believe its vindication is always just a little further in the future.

According to The Washington Post, family members feel that relatives who fall for QAnon become like "cult members or drug addicts, sucked in by social media companies and self-serving politicians who warped their views of reality."

Only identified as "Tyler" of Minneapolis, Minn., one 24-year-old man said that he noticed a distinctive change in his mother during the critical time leading up to the presidential election, and "it kept growing until it felt like she was preaching the Bible to me":

At first, she insisted that Trump, not Biden, would be inaugurated on Jan. 20, and for a while, Tyler held out hope that Biden's swearing-in would jolt his mother back into reality. She would put away her gun and life would return to normal. But, the ceremony in Washington seemed to make little difference at his house in Minnesota.

Now, Tyler has revealed his mother is waiting for March 4 — another date being circulated by QAnon believers. So what does the date signify?

Apparently, QAnon believers are convinced it is the date Trump will become the "new world president," according to Tyler.

Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash), who also serves as chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, recently expressed concern about the impending date as the conspiracy theory poses another national security threat.

"Some of these people have figured out that apparently 75 years ago, the president used to be inaugurated on March 4," Smith said, according to Business Insider. "OK, now why that's relevant? God knows. At any rate, now they are thinking maybe we should gather again and storm the Capitol on March 4 … that is circulating online."

During the interview, Tyler also expressed concern about the upcoming date because he does not believe his mother will snap out of it anytime soon.

Police Leadership Confronts Far-Right Extremism In The Ranks

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

American policymakers face a real conundrum when it comes to tackling the spread of right-wing extremism and its attendant terroristic violence, a problem that became self-evident amid the January 6 Capitol insurrection and its aftermath: How can law enforcement effectively curtail the illegal activities of right-wing extremists when so many officers are themselves participants in these movements?

The answer — which is that it cannot — suggests that effectively confronting far-right extremism must begin with police reform, and particularly the task of weeding extremists out of our police forces. The public cannot expect agencies tasked with enforcing the laws that prohibit extremist violence to do so seriously when those same extremists permeate their ranks.

The issue became self-evident when it emerged that some 31 law-enforcement officers in 12 states have been linked to the January 6 Capitol siege. Police departments around the country are now struggling with the enormity of the job, as the Los Angeles Times recently examined, focusing on the efforts of Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore to confront extremism within the force he oversees.

The most difficult aspect of the problem for police is the extent to which far-right views have been normalized within the mainstream, and particularly within the ranks of police officers. The issue gets to the heart of a police culture that has become increasingly penetrated by right-wing politics and is simultaneously hostile to accountability for its officers' behavior. When cops are also far-right extremists who engage in discriminatory policing, American police officials have a history of closing ranks and defending the status quo.

Moore, in an interview with the Times, voiced some of these cultural tensions when asked whether he would drum out officers who were found to be members of the Proud Boys, a far-right hate group. He at first suggested that the Proud Boys were part of a broad category of groups that included Black Lives Matter with which the public was still grappling.

"America is struggling today with understanding whether the Proud Boys, some aspects of BLM, other groups including Heritage Foundation and others, represent ideology that's counter to this democracy," Moore said. "What I know is that this democracy is made best when there is discussion and there's dialogue and debate."

However, he clarified that he personally considers the Proud Boys an organization that "runs counter to this democracy," and does not believe that "there is any place for a law enforcement officer to be a member of such organization or advocate for their existence."

Moore added that he is unaware of any Proud Boys or members of any other extremist group within the ranks of current LAPD officers, but is prepared to investigate any such claims, indicating he would fire anyone who "crosses the line" of what is acceptable.

LAPD officials were driven by last summer's anti-police-brutality protests, Moore said, to examine how best to comb their ranks for extremists and weed them out, suggesting they were especially motivated by the realization that the presence of such police would seriously undermine efforts to rebuild trust within the city's diverse neighborhoods. Moore rejected any suggestion that extremism was prevalent among his officers, noting that the LAPD is a diverse department, both ethnically and politically.

"What's really critical I believe going forward is for America to ... recognize extremes and have no place for them in this democracy, but also to recognize views that are different from their own and not vilify or call them extremist," Moore said.

Extremism within the ranks of law enforcement, however, is not just a community relations problem. Much more broadly, it also affects what laws are enforced and how. And it has a direct impact on the broader national effort to push back the incoming tide of white nationalist and other far-right extremist violence.

The primary problem with domestic terrorism in America is that our law-enforcement apparatus at every level—federal, state, and local—has failed to enforce the laws already on the books that provide them with more than enough ability to confront it. The ongoing presence of officers sympathetic to their cause—and for whom, in fact, their radical extremism is invisible—is one of the major proximate causes of this failure.

It is already, for example, a federal crime to share bomb-making recipes on the internet. It's also a federal crime to advocate the assassinations of public officials or to otherwise threaten them with violence. Yet what began as a few angry voices on the fringes of the internet—and thus easy for law-enforcement authorities to ignore—has grown into a massive flood in large part because these laws are only selectively and lightly enforced.

As Moustafa Bayoumi observed at The Nation:

[T]here is already plenty of prosecutorial power on the books to deal with far-right violence. The problem is not that we need to expand our laws. Rather, the problem is making sure we use our laws, and that we use them fairly, consistently, and to the full extent possible. The real scandal here is not the lack of a domestic terrorism statute. The real scandal is the free pass white supremacy has had from law enforcement for all these years.

National security expert Michael German of the Brennan Center for Justice, in a paper for Just Security, has explored in detail why new laws are not necessary to confront the problem. As he explains, the problem for federal law enforcement has not been a lack of tools to deal with domestic terrorism, but an utter lack of prioritization of the issue by high-level officials.

"While Justice Department officials have used notorious incidents of white supremacist violence to push for a new domestic terrorism statute, the Department itself continues to de-prioritize far-right violence and focus its most aggressive tactics instead against environmentalists, political protesters, and communities of color," he wrote. "It isn't hard to guess who would likely be targeted with new domestic terrorism laws."

The presence of ideologically sympathetic extremists within law enforcement also poses a security threat to any agency dealing with their criminal activities, particularly officers who keep any fascist affiliations secret and work to implement a far-right agenda from within the force.

"Police officers have access to sensitive information," explains associate Georgetown Law professor Vida Johnson. "For example, they might know if they're looking into the Proud Boys or the Three Percenters or the Oath Keepers, so they can tip them off. That's one reason why careers in law enforcement are so appealing to people who hold far-right belief systems. They get this opportunity to not only police people of color, to control their goings and comings and how they live their lives, but also they get this inside information about whether [far-right groups] are in fact being investigated."

American law enforcement has never systematically addressed the problem of extremism within its ranks, which historically speaking is not a new phenomenon at all, but has worsened dramatically in the past few decades. "It's clear that extremist groups on the right and white supremacists have been agents of chaos, of violence in our community, and the fact that police are just now interested in training on this, I find more than disturbing," Johnson told the Times.

Johnson, in a 2019 academic paper titled "KKK in the PD: White Supremacist Police and What to Do About It," found that police departments across the country exhibited evidence of white supremacist ideology, citing "scandals in over 100 different police departments, in over 40 different states, in which individual police officers have sent overtly racist emails, texts, or made racist comments via social media."

She observed to the Times it should be a cause for concern when officers become followers of such conspiracy theories as QAnon, or the claim that COVID-19 is a hoax, or theories that Trump's reelection was fraudulently stolen from him.

"People who can't separate fact from fiction probably shouldn't be the ones enforcing laws with guns," Johnson said.

Johnson has a roadmap for rooting extremists out of police departments: stricter and more diligent hiring practices, social media checks that could reveal extremist beliefs or organizational membership, periodic background checkups for all police veterans, and a review apparatus that is fully independent.

"They're supposed to be protecting and serving us," Johnson told Mother Jones. "But unfortunately it seems like a lot of departments see themselves at odds with or even at war with the rest of the community. That's a culture within policing that needs to change."

Riot Inciter Louie Gohmert Is The Face Of The Republican Party

I'm no big fan of AOC. Some of her ideas aren't bad, but Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez burdens the progressive cause by waving the socialist label like it's some kind of fashion brand. That has enabled Republicans to make her the face of the Democratic Party in a country where the S-word can scare off even moderates.

At least AOC believes in the democracy. We just witnessed the spectacle of Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert suing Vice President Mike Pence to force him to overturn Electoral College results that will deliver a decisive victory to Joe Biden. When the Texas judge, a Donald Trump appointee, brushed the suit off, Gohmert urged people to "go to the streets" and be "violent."

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