How the Right Undermined DHS’ Ability to Combat Terrorism

In the wake of another terrorist attack by a right-wing, anti-government, anti-feminist extremist, Brian Tashman looks back at how conservatives undermined the ability of the Department of Homeland Security to combat right-wing terrorism by flipping out over the report the department issued on that threat.

As the Southern Poverty Law Center pointed out in wake of the Lafayette, Louisiana, shooting, “in the last five years, an attack from the radical right was carried out or thwarted on average every 34 days and that the overwhelming majority of those attacks, 74 percent, were carried out by a single person, or a group of no more than two people.”

However, the Department of Homeland Security’s ability to monitor anti-government fanatics, who have carried out far more lethal attacks on Americans in recent years than Islamic extremists, was severely crippled during the 2009 dispute over a Department of Homeland Security report [PDF] on domestic right-wing terrorists.

As we’ve reported, Republican politicians and conservative activists alleged that the report focused on a non-existent threat and would be used by the government to mark all conservatives, particularly Christians, gun owners and veterans, as terrorists…

Under pressure, Homeland Security retracted the report and ended up “gutting” the very unit combating such threats. Ironically, the author of the report was actually a conservative Republican Mormon who saw his team “dissolved” due to the criticism.

The report [PDF] specifically assessed “lone wolves” that hold “violent rightwing extremist ideology” as “the most dangerous domestic terrorism threat in the United States” bent on “commit[ing] violent acts,” noting that “white supremacist lone wolves pose the most significant domestic terrorist threat because of their low profile and autonomy.”

This is spot-on. Conservatives hate it when anyone talks about right-wing terrorism, but there have been more, and more deadly, terrorist attacks from right wing extremists since 9/11 than from Muslim extremists. They blame Muslim terror on their ideology but refuse to blame ideology for the actions of right-wing terrorism. Those are just “lone wolfs” who are mentally ill, not extremists following ideology to its logical conclusion.

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  • Modusoperandi

    We don’t “need” the Government to “protect” us from Patriots. At most, all you need is a Confederate flag and an Atwater dogwhistle.

  • D. C. Sessions

    Those so-called “right-wing extremists” aren’t terrorists. For one, they’re not Muslims. For another, they’re not brown. But most of all, they’re just disturbed individuals. It’s really impossible for us to know why they do what they do, as distinct from the radicals who (for instance) shot up Fort Hood or the Navy Yard.

  • Nemo

    I hate to say it, but I don’t blame the Right for this, I blame Obama. Let the idiots rant — he never should’ve caved. It was a gesture of appeasement that bought him nothing, AFAICT.

  • macallan

    The DHS isn’t supposed to fight terrorists, it’s supposed to harass People We Don’t Like.

  • Marcus Ranum

    But… But… BENGHAZI!!!

  • sigurd jorsalfar

    To be fair, Barack Obama had just been sworn in as president. So right-wing terrorism had to be allowed to increase, for the good of the country.