Feb 23, 2021
Domestic terrorism in the U.S. was once again predominantly from far-right extremists in 2020
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We’ve known for some time that Donald Trump’s presidency unleashed a tide of right-wing domestic terrorism that was especially notable for its increasingly lethal effects in its first three years. Now, thanks to a government intelligence report, we know that the final year of his tenure featured a continuation of this trend, though with a different emphasis.
The report, from the Joint Regional Intelligence Center and distributed to law enforcement officials around the nation by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), says that right-wing extremists were responsible for the majority of fatal domestic terrorist attacks in 2020. Even though anti-government violence and civil unrest was the product of “non-affiliated, left-wing and right-wing actors,” the report found, “right-wing [domestic violent extremists] were responsible for the majority of fatal attacks in the Homeland in 2020.”
As Jana Winter at Yahoo News observes, the report marks a shift from the Trump administration’s long-running record of downplaying the threat of far-right terrorism. A whistleblower’s complaint in 2020 revealed that Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II, DHS’ second-highest-ranking official, issued orders to modify intelligence assessments so as to make the white supremacist threat “appear less severe.” He also wanted the assessments to include information on “left-wing” groups and antifa.
The JRIC’s analysis was based partially on data provided by U.S. Crisis Monitor, an organization with a full set of data on political violence that includes reporting on various protests around the nation.
Much of the most lethal domestic terrorism during the Trump years was the work of “lone wolf” extremists who committed mass killings on behest of various far-right causes. That situation shifted noticeably in 2020 due mainly to the COVID-19 pandemic, which reduced opportunities and targets for such terrorism—and also created new opportunities amid protests over public health restrictions and police brutality, the latter of which were left-wing protests that attracted far-right terrorists intent on amplifying the protest violence.
The most stark example of this was “Boogaloo Boi” Steven Carrillo’s shooting of two federal officers at the scene of an Oakland anti-police protest in June. Less than a week later, Carrillo also shot and killed a sheriff’s deputy attempting to arrest him.
Since the report only included data on fatal incidents, it did not include any of the many cases of far-right domestic terrorism in 2020 that involved preemptive arrests of would-be terrorists. This includes the arrests in early 2020 of members of neo-Nazi terrorism squads The Base and Atomwaffen Division (members of these organizations were also arrested during the year for similar activities) as well as the arrests in Michigan of 14 militiamen who planned both an attack on the state Capitol in Lansing featuring televised executions of state officials, and to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
News Source: dailykos.com
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US Shifts State Grant Focus to Extremism, Cyberthreats
By BEN FOX, Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — State and local governments will be required to spend a portion of nearly $1.9 billion in annual federal public safety grants on the fight against domestic extremism and improved cybersecurity, the Department of Homeland Security said Thursday.
The requirement reflects the security priorities of President Joe Biden's new administration as it confronts a growing threat from extremists and the fallout from a suspected Russian hack of government and private-sector computer networks.
Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas said it was the first time since the agency, which was created in response to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, had directed that domestic violent extremism be specified as a national priority in programs to help state and local law enforcement agencies respond to emergencies.
“Today the most significant terrorist threat facing the nation comes from lone offenders and small groups of individuals who commit acts of violence motivated by domestic extremist ideological beliefs,” Mayorkas said in announcing the shift.
State and local government agencies will still have leeway. DHS will require that 7.5% of the grants be devoted to detecting and protecting against domestic extremism and an equal portion for cybersecurity, including to conduct risk assessments and training.
DHS will also now prohibit using the grants to buy military equipment, including grenade launchers, bayonets and “weaponized” aircraft, Mayorkas said. The use of such weaponry, which became increasingly prevalent after the Sept. 11 attacks, has been criticized as unnecessary and leading to the militarization of local law enforcement.
Mayorkas said DHS will continue to support the purchase of equipment that has "demonstrable impact on enhancing the safety of law enforcement and members of the public," without specifying what that might entail.
About half of the money covered comes from two widely used grants: the State Homeland Security Program and the Urban Area Security Initiative. Both are administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
The set-aside requirement for cybersecurity comes as U.S. authorities and private security firms are still working to determine the scope of the suspected Russian hack, a breach detected in December of at least nine government agencies and about 100 companies.
Concerns about domestic extremism have been mounting in recent years. DHS listed domestic violent extremism, particularly by white supremacists, as among the top threats facing the nation late last year, and in January for the first time used a national terrorist advisory to warn about domestic extremism.
The agency was also accused by a whistleblower, in a complaint that is still being investigated by the Office of the Inspector General, of downplaying the danger to avoid angering then-President Donald Trump.
In the wake of the Jan. 6 insurrection, Republicans and Democrats in Congress have called for increased focus on domestic extremism.
“The irrefutable fact is that the threat of right-wing and, more specifically, white nationalist terrorism has been growing for years,” Rep. Bennie Thompson, the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said at a recent hearing. “The previous administration failed to address this threat appropriately, and on Jan. 6, we saw the result right here at the United States Capitol.”
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