Department of Homeland Security Targeting the Wrong Enemy

by A.J. Caschetta
July 26, 2016

Anyone surprised by President Barack Obama’s recurring attempts at exploiting jihadist attacks in his efforts to restrict gun ownership should read the earliest known document concerning terrorism assembled by his administration. The unclassified assessment by Department of Homeland Security (DHS), titled “Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment,” is dated April 7, 2009 — a mere 77 days after Obama’s inauguration.

The document was leaked shortly after its release to law enforcement officials across the country and made public by Roger Hedgecock on April 13, 2009. It laid out the new president’s legislative and executive priorities on terrorism, guns and immigration. Uniquely combining these three issues would become a predictable, coordinated pattern during Obama’s two terms in office.

The assessment boldly delineated the Tom Ridge and Janet Napolitano eras at the DHS. As Eli Lake wrote the day after the document was leaked, “Since its inception in 2003, the department has focused primarily on radicalization of Muslims and the prospect of homegrown Islamist terrorism.” Under Obama’s leadership, attention was directed away from Muslims and Islamist terrorism and redirected towards limiting the Second Amendment, scrutinizing military veterans and expanding both legal and illegal immigration.

Contrary to criticism of the Obama administration as uninterested in the plight of military veterans, the DHS assessment shows that vets were very much a priority. The document’s authors, in fact, were worried that “military veterans facing significant challenges returning into their communities could lead to the potential emergence of terrorist groups or lone wolf extremists.”

The only significant acts of domestic terrorism perpetrated by veterans lately have not been inspired from the right, however: Micah Xavier Johnson and Gavin Long are products of a “left wing,” anti-police, anti-establishment ideology. The assassinations they carried out fit the pattern of the so-called “New Left” wave of terror carried out in the 1970s by the Weather Underground and the Black Panthers.

The language of the document also foretells the Obama story. In its brief seven pages of text there are 25 references to gun control, weapons and ammunition-hoarding. Terrorists motivated by “anti-immigration” and “white supremacist” ideologies are mentioned 11 times, and veterans returning home from Afghanistan and Iraq are mentioned 9 times. Variations of “extremism,” which would become Obama’s preferred euphemism, occur 42 times.

Timothy McVeigh is the model terrorist in the document. DHS spokeswoman Sara Kuban said a goal of the report was “to prevent another Tim McVeigh from ever happening again.”

The 1990s figure prominently in the DHS prognostication, meriting 17 references. The “poor economic climate,” the Clinton “assault weapon” ban and “a perceived threat to US power and sovereignty by other foreign powers” are envisioned as parallel to the situation in 2009. Looking back at the 1990s and predicting similar troubles in the age of Obama, Napolitano’s DHS made no mention of the most significant development in the evolution of political violence to occur in the 1990s: the rise of Al-Qaeda.

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