In new draft documents, the Department of Homeland Security calls white supremacists the most “lethal threat” of domestic terrorism in America, and predicts that the threat will remain elevated at least into next year. Meanwhile, a new whistleblower complaint unveiled by the House Intelligence Committee on Wednesday, Sept. 9, alleges that senior DHS officials exerted pressure on subordinates to downplay the threat posed by far-right and white supremacist groups and their adherents.
Several versions of the DHS document, reviewed this week by Politico, describe the threat imposed by white supremacist groups as more immediate than that of foreign terrorist groups.
The most recent draft of the document, entitled DHS’ State of the Homeland Threat Assessment 2020, is based on an analysis of information from as recent as Aug. 27.
“Foreign terrorist organizations will continue to call for Homeland attacks but probably will remain constrained in their ability to direct such plots over the next year,” the three versions of the documents say.
“Lone offenders and small cells of individuals motivated by a diverse array of social, ideological, and personal factors will pose the primary terrorist threat to the United States,” a draft reads. “Among these groups, we assess that white supremacist extremists – who increasingly are networking with likeminded persons abroad – will pose the most persistent and lethal threat.”
None of the drafts reviewed by Politico cites the left-leaning movement Antifa as a threat to national security, although President Donald Trump has repeatedly purported it to be a domestic terror group. But on Wednesday whistleblower Brian Murphy, the former head of Homeland Security’s intelligence division, was revealed to have claimed in a whistleblower complaint that acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf and his No. 2 Ken Cuccinelli directed him to downplay both the threat of white supremacist violence to make it “appear less severe” and to underplay the threat of Russian interference in the upcoming general election, both directives in accordance with White House political desires, Murphy claimed. Murphy was reassigned from his post in DHS last month after it was learned his division had been sharing intelligence reports on protesters and journalists in Portland, Oregon, with police.
John Cohen, who served as DHS’ counter-terrorism coordinator and principal deputy under secretary, told Politico the conclusions and predictions in the draft documents are to be expected.
“This draft document seems to be consistent with earlier intelligence reports from DHS, the FBI, and other law enforcement sources: that the most significant terror-related threat facing the U.S. today comes from violent extremists who are motivated by white supremacy and other far-right ideological causes,” he said.
Ben Wittes, editor-in-chief of the national security site Lawfire that first obtained the documents, outlined to Politico how the way in which the documents address white supremacy is notable.
“It diminishes the prominence of white supremacy relative to other domestic violent extremism, and, without being inaccurate, puts it in a basket along with other violent activity that may be more palatable for the administration to acknowledge,” he said.
Two versions of the document directly address the counter-protesters and agitators who have shown up at anti-police brutality protests.
“Violent extremists almost certainly will continue their efforts to exploit public fears associated with COVID-19 and social grievances driving lawful protests to incite violence, intimidate targets, and promote their violent extremist ideologies,” two of the documents read. “Simple tactics – such as vehicle ramming, small arms, edged weapons, arson, and rudimentary improvised explosive devices – probably will be most common.”
According to the drafts, white supremacist extremists conducted half of all lethal domestic violent extremist (DVE) attacks in 2019, resulting in the majority of DVE deaths.
Last year was the most deadly year for domestic violent extremist attacks since 1995, the year of the Oklahoma City Bombing.