You can’t han­dle the truth about ter­ror

Pakistan Observer - - OPINION - Er­roll Southers

AN­OTHER home­grown at­tack in­volv­ing an Amer­i­can killing other Amer­i­cans. This comes at a time when po­lice of­fi­cers are be­ing killed, gov­ern­ment prop­er­ties oc­cu­pied, and im­mi­grants threat­ened. And the re­sponse is pre­dictable. We are fix­ated on a for­eign threat in­stead of the di­verse ide­olo­gies breath­ing life into their ad­her­ents, and we ig­nore the fact that Amer­i­can cit­i­zens have com­mit­ted 80% of the ter­ror­ist at­tacks in the US since 9/11.

Be­fore the tragic mas­sacre in Or­lando, Demo­cratic Reps. Raúl M. Gri­jalva, and Ben­nie G. Thomp­son had sched­uled an in­for­mal hear­ing to oc­cur just days later about on the dan­gers of ex­trem­ism on pub­lic lands. The ses­sion co-spon­sored by the House Nat­u­ral Re­sources and Home­land Se­cu­rity com­mit­tees was meant to high­light the in­creas­ing fre­quency of at­tacks on fed­eral land man­age­ment of­fi­cials and events like the armed 41day siege of Mal­heur Na­tional Wildlife Refuge.

Re­search and re­ports on anti-gov­ern­ment move­ments have doc­u­mented trends and fore­cast events. How­ever, they have been all but ig­nored and even re­buffed. In 2009, the De­part­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity (DHS) re­ported that white su­prem­a­cist and vi­o­lent anti-gov­ern­ment groups, lever­ag­ing the real es­tate en­vi­ron­ment, un­em­ploy­ment, and the elec­tion of the first African Amer­i­can pres­i­dent, could cre­ate a fer­tile re­cruit­ing en­vi­ron­ment for right-wing ex­trem­ists and even re­sult in con­fronta­tions between such groups and gov­ern­ment author­i­ties sim­i­lar to those in the past. Amid an ag­gres­sive po­lit­i­cal at­tack on the re­port from the right, the DHS re­port was with­drawn.

Among other el­e­ments, the DHS re­port de­scribed the Sov­er­eign Cit­i­zens, a move­ment based on con­spir­a­to­rial be­liefs about the le­git­i­macy of the found­ing of the United States. The re­port con­tained valu­able law en­force­ment train­ing in­for­ma­tion use­ful for of­fi­cer safety. Un­for­tu­nately, the re­port never reached West Mem­phis, where Arkansas of­fi­cers Bran­don Paud­ert and Bill Evans were killed by sov­er­eigns dur­ing a traf­fic stop. Over the past decade, of­fi­cers died in the line of duty at a rate of one ev­ery 59 hours, and many of those mur­ders were pre­cip­i­tated by a vi­o­lent ide­ol­ogy.

In a 2015 sur­vey of state and lo­cal law en­force­ment, the threat from anti-gov­ern­ment ex­trem­ists ranked higher than the threat from rad­i­calised Mus­lims. In fact 74% of 382 law en­force­ment agen­cies rated anti-gov­ern­ment ex­trem­ism as one of the top three ter­ror­ist threats in their ju­ris­dic­tion. By com­par­i­son, 39% listed Mus­lim ter­ror­ist or­gan­i­sa­tions as a top-3 ter­ror­ist threat.

The con­gres­sional fo­rum shed a light on 998 ac­tive ex­treme anti-gov­ern­ment groups in 2015, as com­pared to the last high of 858 groups in 1996, the year af­ter the Ok­la­homa City bomb­ings com­mit­ted by Ti­mothy McVeigh. Coin­ci­den­tally, 2015 was also the dead­li­est year for do­mes­tic ter­ror at­tacks in Amer­ica since McVeigh’s at­tack. While we re­main con­cerned about the Is­lamic State group and sleep­ers who would en­ter Amer­ica as im­mi­grants, a 2015 re­port of the do­mes­tic ex­trem­ist-re­lated killings in the US by per­pe­tra­tor af­fil­i­a­tion re­vealed 38% white supremacy, 37% do­mes­tic Is­lamic ex­trem­ism, 19% anti-gov­ern­ment ex­trem­ism and 6% anti-abor­tion ex­trem­ism.

In the bomb­ings of the Bos­ton Marathon by Dzhokhar and Tamer­lan Tsar­naev, the San Bernardino mas­sacre by Syed Fa­rook and Tash­feen Malik, and now the Or­lando mas­sacre by Omar Ma­teen, the at­tack­ers had no for­eign fighter train­ing, ex­pe­ri­ence, or di­rec­tion. These are con­sid­ered Mus­lim-inspired at­tacks, yet facts re­gard­ing Tamer­lan Tsar­naev’s anti-gov­ern­ment con­spir­a­to­rial be­liefs and Holo­caust de­nial, for ex­am­ple are rarely mentioned, fur­ther demon­strat­ing the com­plex­ity of rad­i­cal­i­sa­tion.

Lit­tle could we know that a man born on Long Is­land would en­ter a night­club in Or­lando and come close to match­ing the do­mes­tic ter­ror death toll for an en­tire year in one night. As we con­tinue to focus on the threat of ISIS and its al­leged nexus to im­mi­gra­tion and con­cern re­gard­ing re­turn­ing for­eign fight­ers, per­haps re­cent events would sug­gest oth­er­wise. The cold hard truth is that Amer­ica has a home­grown ter­ror­ism prob­lem, and holding up a mir­ror to our coun­try of­fers a sober­ing no­tion of who to­mor­row’s sus­pects may be. With­out data, you are just an­other per­son with an opin­ion. The writer is a former FBI Spe­cial Agent and Di­rec­tor of Home­grown Vi­o­lent Ex­trem­ism Stud­ies at the Univer­sity of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia Sol Price School of Pub­lic Pol­icy.

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