In what is surely unwelcome news to right wing extremists everywhere, the Department of Justice reported Wednesday that Assistant Attorney General John P. Carlin spoke at an event co-sponsored by the Southern Poverty Law Center and the George Washington University Center for Cyber and Homeland Security’s Program on Extremism, and “announced the creation of a new position within the Justice Department that will coordinate the fight against domestic terrorism, reflecting a renewed and long-overdue focus on violent homegrown extremism.”
The new position is the “Domestic Terrorism Counsel” and this person will serve as the “main point of contact for U.S. Attorneys working on domestic terrorism matters.”
The new DT Counsel will not only help ensure that DT cases are properly coordinated, but will also play a key role in our headquarters-level efforts to identify trends to help shape our strategy, and to analyze legal gaps or enhancements required to ensure we can combat these threats. The new counsel will also play an important role with the DTEC [the Attorney General’s Domestic Terrorism Executive Committee] by providing its members with insights from cases and trends from around the country.
Carlin noted that “violent extremism is neither a new phenomenon, nor one that is limited to any single population, region or ideology,” a fact which runs counter to the conservative insistence that extremism is something other people engage in, not “real Americans.” When it happens here, it is always liberalism’s fault and we are told it is always somebody who is mentally unstable and acting alone.
Never mind that acting alone does not mean you’re not a terrorist; as Carlin makes clear, extremist embrace of “the Internet and through social media” is “an alarming new trend,” both by ISIL and by domestic terrorists and extremists:
“Sovereign citizens continue to communicate and recruit through the use of YouTube and Twitter. White supremacists post to social media, and studies now posit that mass killings are contagious. Violence begets violence, and through the power of the internet, a meeting hall is no longer needed. Formal organizational structures are unnecessary. Connections are made, and messages spread, through the push of a button.”
The FBI claimed that Dylann Roof’s mass shooting in South Carolina was not an act of domestic terrorism, but Carlin cited this “senseless, racist act” in his remarks, and he made clear that the Islamic State is not the only terrorist enemy threatening Americans, that “no single ideology governs” when it comes to hate and intolerance:
The Department of Justice’s highest priority is combatting terrorism, both international and domestic, and other threats to our national security in order to protect the American public, and we strive to remain nimble so we can adjust to current threats as they evolve and new threats that emerge.
The range of national security threats is staggeringly broad. We work every day to adapt and improve our approaches to address the dangers posed by ISIL, Al Qaeda, AQAP and other terrorist groups; the threats posed by foreign terrorist fighters intent on waging Jihad abroad; and the threat of fighters who may seek to return home, trained and willing to die for their extremist cause.
Yet, while we continue to address this evolving international threat of violent extremists, we have not lost sight of the domestic terrorism threat posed by other violent extremists. Terror and extremism do not always originate elsewhere or take place outside our borders. Homegrown violent extremists can be motivated by any viewpoint on the full spectrum of hate. Anti-government views, racism, bigotry, anarchy and other despicable beliefs. When it comes to hate and intolerance, no single ideology governs.
In America, harboring extremist views is not itself a crime, nor is the expression of even a hateful ideology or association with a hateful group.
According to Carlin, “the line between speech and violence is crossed too often, resulting in heartbreaking tragedy. The list includes”:
- Plots and attacks on government buildings, synagogues and mosques, businesses and public infrastructure;
- Assassinations and planned assassinations of police officers, judges, civil rights figures, doctors and others;
- Stockpiles of illegal weapons, explosives and biological and chemical weapons; and
- Killing sprees that have terrorized local communities.
The disturbing truth is that, as Carlin pointed out, in what is surely the understatement of the year,
“Looking back over the past few years, it is clear that domestic terrorists and homegrown violent extremists remain a real and present danger to the United States. We recognize that, over the past few years, more people have died in this country in attacks by domestic extremists than in attacks associated with international terrorist groups.”
Richard Cohen, president of the SPLC had this to say in response to the DOJ’s decision:
The decision to create a new position within the Justice Department to coordinate the fight against domestic terrorism is a wise one, reflecting a renewed and long-overdue focus on violent homegrown extremism.
After 9/11, the federal government’s attention to domestic terrorism was largely pushed aside as our nation understandably focused on the threat posed by overseas groups like Al Qaeda.
But since that time, we’ve seen a strong resurgence of the radical right. And as we’ve seen over the last several years – in Wisconsin, in Kansas and, particularly, in Charleston this summer – this resurgence has produced a significant increase in violence and terror plots.
Regardless of whether violence is inspired by radical Islamism or domestic extremism, the results are the same: innocent lives lost and entire communities living in fear.
We applaud the Justice Department and Attorney General Loretta Lynch for taking this important step forward to combat the homegrown extremists who use violence in pursuit of their ideological goals.
Conservative hate groups like to portray the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group. As Bryan Fischer said last February, “They falsely accuse of us hate, but we accurately and truly accuse these groups of anti-Christian bigotry.” And according to people like Scott “Kill the Gays” Lively, the SPLC is “inciting” people to kill him – a peculiar claim from a guy who openly espouses killing gay people. A year ago he demanded an apology from SPLC for accurately reporting the truth about him.
However, Carlin made clear that the DOJ understands the true state of affairs in this country with his closing remarks: “We are grateful to have the Southern Poverty Law Center and the George Washington Program on Extremism on our side, working with us to tackle some of today’s most pressing national security threats.”
Domestic terrorism is a national security threat. The government understands this, and the American people must understand it. Unfortunately, Fox News and other right wing organizations, including hate groups like the American Family Association and Family Research Council, spread the idea that the government is the enemy – hardly surprising given that the federal government is our last line of defense against the domestic terrorism they have played such a prominent part in spawning.
Hrafnkell Haraldsson, a social liberal with leanings toward centrist politics has degrees in history and philosophy. His interests include, besides history and philosophy, human rights issues, freedom of choice, religion, and the precarious dichotomy of freedom of speech and intolerance. He brings a slightly different perspective to his writing, being that he is neither a follower of an Abrahamic faith nor an atheist but a polytheist, a modern-day Heathen who follows the customs and traditions of his Norse ancestors. He maintains his own blog, A Heathen’s Day, which deals with Heathen and Pagan matters, and Mos Maiorum Foundation www.mosmaiorum.org, dedicated to ethnic religion. He has also contributed to NewsJunkiePost, GodsOwnParty and Pagan+Politics.