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"The agency founded because of 9/11 is shifting to face the threat of domestic terrorism"

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#1 August West

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Posted 15 February 2021 - 12:34 PM

Who could've ever seen this coming?


"They may be the neighbor across the street who likes his steak a little too rare...or even likes steak at all. They may be the parent of your child's friend who wears that pro football jersey a little too proudly. They may even be sitting next to you at dinner. See something say something." - A message brought to you by Homeland Security.


Thankfully, the war on terror is just pliable enough to apply to anyone at any time. After all, how can a tactic ever be defeated? I'm so glad we no longer have to be boxed in by "The Cold War". I mean, who can operate perpetually with just a single, concrete adversary?





On a Saturday morning in August 2019, a 21-year-old White man with ear protectors, safety glasses and an AK-47-style rifle walked into a crowded Walmart in El Paso, his pockets bulging with ammunition. He had driven hundreds of miles across Texas, prosecutors say, because he wanted to kill Latinos.


Kevin McAleenan, the acting homeland security secretary, was at a Coast Guard picnic in Virginia that day, and soon the urgent messages began arriving. A sinking feeling of horror set in as the magnitude of the attack became clear. “It was devastating,” he said.


Twenty-three people were killed in the worst attack on Hispanic Americans in modern U.S. history.

About 5,000 U.S. Customs and Border Protection employees live in El Paso, and six lost family members that day. “To have an individual attack us, at one of the home bases of our agency and specifically going after Hispanic Americans who make up a majority­ of our employees in that area, was very personal for us, and it galvanized an effort that was already underway,” McAleenan said.

For years leading up to El Paso, the Department of Homeland Security — created to prevent another 9/11 — had been under growing pressure to do more to address domestic extremism. Within seven weeks of the El Paso massacre, McAleenan released a plan for “countering terrorism and targeted violence” that amounted to a road map for the department’s pivot from foreign threats to homegrown ones. It was the first time DHS had identified the extent of the danger posed by domestic violent extremists and white supremacists.


The plan got little attention or support from the White House, and even though DHS began speaking more directly about domestic threats, the effort made little difference on Jan. 6, when the department was one of several federal agencies caught flat-footed. Since that day’s attack on the U.S. Capitol, calls have intensified for DHS to emphatically turn its attention inward and do more to protect Americans from other Americans.


[‘Be ready to fight’: FBI probe of U.S. Capitol riot finds evidence detailing coordination of an assault]


The attack has left many lawmakers, and especially Democrats, insisting that domestic terrorism has eclipsed the threat from foreign actors such as the Islamic State and al-Qaeda. DHS and its agencies are responsible for securing the country’s borders, ports, transportation and cyber systems, generally leaving the monitoring of extremist groups and terrorism investigations to the FBI. But DHS and its agencies have nearly eight times as many employees as the FBI, and calls for the department to play a more muscular role in combating domestic extremism have policymakers looking at new ways to enlist its resources.


The proposals have revived some of the civil liberties concerns that arose after the creation of the department as a large, internal security bureaucracy with a broad mandate. And the possibility of the department scrutinizing Americans has added to the unease because providing homeland security is less controversial when the threats are foreign.


DHS used its National Terrorism Advisory System to warn the public about attacks by domestic groups for the first time last month, citing “a heightened threat environment across the United States” in a bulletin issued a week after President Biden’s inauguration.


“Ideologically-motivated violent extremists with objections to the exercise of governmental authority and the presidential transition, as well as other perceived grievances fueled by false narratives, could continue to mobilize to incite or commit violence,” the warning stated.


Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, has long insisted DHS should protect Americans from the gravest dangers they face, and he said that domestic extremists and white supremacists present the most urgent, lethal threat.


“A lot of them mask themselves under some guise of being patriots or some form of citizen, but the question is, what do they advocate? It’s violence. It’s overthrowing legitimately elected officials,” Thompson said in an interview.


“So in my mind, those types of individuals who want to exercise violence to bring change, they are domestic terrorists, and we have the obligation to identify who they are and prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law.”


During a hearing Thompson held earlier this month, lawmakers of both parties spoke favorably of new legislation to specifically address domestic terrorism, as experts warned the attack on the Capitol was viewed as a “victory” for extremists and a “watershed moment for the white-supremacist movement.”


Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Tex.), the committee’s former chairman, joined lawmakers calling for specific federal sanctions for domestic terrorism, potentially applying the same penalties as those that exist for terrorism that originates overseas. Such legislation could include penalties for providing material support to domestic groups and laws holding technology companies responsible for violent and extremist content on their platforms.


“I think it sends a strong message about where Congress is that we’re going to treat domestic terrorism on an equal plane as international terrorism,” McCaul said.

Preventive work

Contrary to some television portrayals, DHS does not have a standing contingent of armed homeland security agents with a specific mandate to stop domestic terrorism. But it has agencies and programs that could expand to devote more attention and resources to risks posed by homegrown extremists.


DHS’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis collects information from the FBI, private contractors and state and local law enforcement agencies to organize and disseminate threat reports. Its employees and contractors generally lack the training and experience of FBI investigators, and they rely on open-source material.


The office failed to generate a specific warning about the possibility of right-wing groups storming the Capitol in an attempt to keep President Donald Trump in power.


Homeland Security Investigations, a branch of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, has about 6,000 agents nationwide who investigate drug smuggling, human trafficking and illicit goods or currency. HSI has not focused on countering domestic extremism, but it is an armed component of DHS that, in theory, could have a more hands-on role stopping homegrown terrorists and white supremacists.


DHS’s most tangible institutional response is the Office for Targeted Violence and Terrorism Prevention, founded in 2019 to address “a growing threat from domestic actors — such as racially and ethnically motivated violent extremists, including white supremacist violent extremists, anti-government and anti-authority violent extremists, and others.”


[Seeking to combat extremists in ranks, the military struggles to answer a basic question: How many are there?]


Its work is primarily preventive, not investigative, providing grants to state and local law enforcement programs and issuing threat briefings and assessments. The office remains relatively small, with a staff of about 30, but it is expected to grow in the coming years with more congressional funding.

“In the post-9/11 world, the threat was foreign terrorism,” Tom Ridge, the first DHS secretary, said in an interview. “The CIA and the military were the tip of the spear, and we filled the defensive gap. But now there’s another adjective in front of terrorism: domestic terrorism.”


The well-known failure of law enforcement and security agencies to properly share information ahead of the 9/11 attack was a justification for the creation of DHS, Ridge noted. So an immediate challenge for DHS will be coordination among multiple federal agencies that collect and share information on domestic groups, he said.


Much of it arrives through state and local law enforcement agencies, and DHS’s biggest asset, Ridge said, “is its relationships with state and local authorities.”


Yet Ridge cautioned against DHS turning its attention away from foreign threats and other priorities. “What people don’t understand — and people need to understand — is that DHS has so many other tasks embedded in its mission,” he said. “It’s a multitask organization, and DHS has to be careful moving in that direction because I still don’t think it’s their primary job.”


Another risk is partisanship and the perception that DHS will be used to stigmatize or harass groups that don’t support the party in power.


In September, the former head of DHS’s Intelligence and Analysis Office, Brian Murphy, filed a whistleblower complaint that included allegations that senior DHS officials sought to play down warnings of the threat posed by white supremacists, while giving more prominence to left-wing antifascists and anarchists. Murphy told his supervisors it would constitute “censorship of analysis and the improper administration of an intelligence program,” according to his account.


His claims remain under investigation with DHS’s inspector general. Other former DHS officials, including some who are critical of Trump, insist the department did not water down the threats of right-wing and white-supremacist groups. They point to new DHS programs and strong language in recent reports clearly identifying the threat posed by domestic extremists.


McAleenan, the former acting DHS secretary, also noted a major increase in FBI investigations of domestic extremists and white supremacists in recent years.


“What was missing was a whole-of-government approach and an emphasis from the White House that it was a priority,”­ McAleenan said.


McAleenan had taken over DHS after Trump soured on Kirstjen Nielsen and removed her in April 2019. Nielsen directed her staff to develop plans for countering targeted violence and domestic hate groups, particularly after the 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas and the 2018 attack on the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh.

Then came El Paso.


“We’d been tracking domestic terrorist threats and increased threats from white supremacists, but El Paso brought it home in a visceral way,” McAleenan, the former CBP commissioner, said in an interview.


The gunman posted a missive before the Walmart rampage espousing racist theories of demographic replacement that echoed Trump’s statements about an immigrant “invasion.”

“El Paso made it clear we needed a reorientation of DHS towards the current threat, both with respect to white supremacy but also domestic extremism more broadly,” said Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, a counterterrorism consultant who worked with McAleenan to come up with the road map for DHS’s expanded role countering targeted violence and terrorism.


An effort by a DHS analyst in 2009 to identify white supremacists and other extremist groups as a growing threat had fallen apart amid a backlash from Republicans who viewed it in partisan terms. The chilling effect lingered for years and discouraged analysts from devoting time and resources to domestic threats that lacked a link to foreign groups.


The Strategic Framework after El Paso was a “green light” from DHS leadership, Gartenstein-Ross said, signaling that hateful, racist and violent Americans were an urgent threat and a priority for the department.

A persistent threat

In October, DHS identified violent extremism in the United States as the leading domestic terrorism danger, noting that white supremacists were responsible for more killings in 2018 and 2019 than any other type of attacker.


“The primary terrorist threat inside the United States will stem from lone offenders and small cells of individuals,” said the department’s first Homeland Threat Assessment. “Some U.S.-based violent extremists have capitalized on increased social and political tensions in 2020, which will drive an elevated threat environment at least through early 2021.”


The coronavirus pandemic was making matters worse, the report noted, by creating an environment that could “accelerate some individuals’ mobilization to targeted violence or radicalization to terrorism.”


It was a description, in general terms, of the anger and fury that fueled the Capitol attack.

Chad Wolf, the former acting DHS secretary who published the threat assessment, said DHS had a contingent of Customs and Border Protection officers and agents on standby on the day of the Capitol riot, but they were not called on by Capitol Police. “We don’t have jurisdiction for the protection of the U.S. Capitol,” he said.


During last summer’s street protests following the police killing of George Floyd, Wolf was criticized by Democrats and former homeland security leaders for sending DHS agents and officers to quell civil unrest and use force against sometimes violent protests targeting a federal courthouse in downtown Portland, Ore.


Trump was campaigning on a “law and order” message, echoed by DHS leaders, that fueled the politicization of the department’s domestic role. And the scenes of CBP and ICE tactical officers in military fatigues stuffing suspects into rental vehicles in Portland quickly became a symbol of heavy-handed federal law enforcement.


In an interview, Wolf said he welcomed the bipartisan calls in the wake of Jan. 6 for a greater DHS focus on domestic extremism. “On the same token, I get frustrated because when we were in the thick of it last summer in Portland, there were no huge calls, except for vocal Republicans, saying we have to call out violence,” he said. “I think there’s a fine line — and we dealt with it — between protected First Amendment speech and what is considered hate and criminal activity.”

In a sobering moment during the House hearing this month where lawmakers discussed new domestic terrorism legislation, former DHS adviser Elizabeth Neumann warned committee members the threat would probably persist for “10 to 20 years.”


Neumann, who was DHS counterterrorism adviser under Trump, helped oversee the creation of a new contingent of DHS “regional coordinators” who work with state and local officials to prevent radicalization and recruitment by hate groups.


The approach places a greater emphasis on the social and psychological factors that lead to extremist violence. DHS has a dozen regional coordinators across the country, but Neumann said the goal is to expand their presence to every U.S. state.


“What we have been seeing the last five to six years is individuals with unmet needs who quickly radicalize according to whatever ideology they stumble upon,” Neumann said in an interview.

“We’re dealing with a phenomenon in this country of vulnerable, disaffected individuals who are being preyed upon or seeking it out themselves. And when it comes to prevention, what we’ve learned is that law enforcement agencies aren’t necessarily the best to do interventions,” she said.

“If someone has planned an attack, that is law enforcement territory. That person is too far gone. But when a person is on that journey to radicalization, their family members and loved ones notice changes in their behavior.”


Neumann predicted it will take five to 10 years to build out a more robust effort at DHS to prevent radicalization and extremism. What’s challenging about the current moment, Neumann added, is the speed with which radicalization occurs, as individuals can quickly go from embracing an ideology to planning an attack.


“We have so many people talking online and using war metaphors,” she said. “Are they using those terms to actually mean war? It’s very hard to discern when you have so many people participating in angry rhetoric.”


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#2 TVCasualty


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Posted 15 February 2021 - 02:12 PM

I guess the non-offensive, politically correct way to refer to them would be "Terrorist-Americans."


I had an Orwellian shudder run down my spine back when I first heard the name "Dept. of Homeland Security" since it reminded me of Apartheid in South Africa (the impoverished settlements that black citizens were forced to live in under Apartheid were called "homelands" for those who might not be aware).



I recently found some blog posts that were pretty interesting that addressed the nature of modern threats of a terrorist or militant nature. The author I quote below is probably a senior Officer now (it's a quote from a blog he wrote before going off to OCS and is from ~2004). He brings up the under-appreciated reality of the kind of unprecedented power that individuals can wield now vs. in the past:


It may seem silly to say, but 100 men today with AK-47s could defeat a full Roman legion.


Silly, yes. But not as much as you think. An army of ancient Greek hoplites from 300BC could still fight Roman legions in 300AD. The Romans used more iron, but the battle would not have been absurdly lopsided. Even Middle Ages battles, such as Agincourt, would be more familiar to the ancient Romans than to us today. Some weapons barely changed at all – the composite bow used by Steppe Horseriders changed little from 1600BC to 1600AD.


Weapons in the past were inefficient. Swords, bows, spears, and armor exhausted the user and had limited range and effectiveness. In the worst battles, the losing armies only lost 15% of the men.


To compensate, states amassed large labor-intensive armies to achieve destructive goals. They had to create even larger logistical systems to materially support larger armies. Weapons were refined, but barely kept pace with similar refinements in armor and fortifications.


The widespread availability of AK-47s and cheap explosives gives incredible killing power to small gangs without the need for massive state-led armies.


Small city-states and tribes can resist a nation-state with networked insurgencies and 4GW tactics. Many groups fight for “independence” from central governments and may be joined by a variety of interests, ranging from tribes, global insurgents, and opportunistic criminals.


Open Source Warfare

John Robb describes “open source warfare” as one means to enable network insurgencies.


Network insurgents use a unique form of logistics to supply their wars. Robb calls it the “bazaar of violence.” So how do you get 50 different groups with different selfish interests to work together? Free markets. Independent insurgent cells and networks trade goods and services in this bazaar. They shop around for the best price and contract services as needed. They use capitalist markets to coordinate and cooperate rather than central management and distribution like conventional armies.


A bazaar of violence is a hallmark of global guerrilla warfare. When a state collapses, as it did in Iraq, global guerrillas quickly arrive with money and violence. Through this funding, terrorist violence, and infrastructure disruption; global guerrillas create conditions ripe for the establishment of a bazaar of violence. In essence, the bazaar is an emergent property of global guerrilla operations within a failed or collapsed state. Once established, it builds on itself and creates a dynamic that is almost impossible to disrupt.



These network insurgents are entrepreneurs, and Robb compares their behavior to the open source software community. They innovate and share concepts, test them, and modify them as needed. Their heavy reliance on the Internet facilitates this interaction. This is especially pronounced with bomb-makers. They are used to make IEDs and other types of bombs, but are engaged in a constant arms race against state forces.


This has been developing since the Cold War, back when the Soviet Union supported dozens of Communist insurgencies across the world. Insurgents today have matured and no longer need a state sponsor. Iraq is a prototype for this new style of warfare.


The Battle of the Commons

Once these network insurgencies and transnational criminal organizations collapse weak states on the periphery, they begin attacking the global trade on the Commons.

The Global Commons is the region where no state or corporation owns. The Commons provide access to other countries. These commons include the oceans, space, airspace, cyberspace, financial markets, ideologies, and cultures.


Globalization relies on the Commons to integrate multinational economies. Disrupting or severing access to the Commons could do more material harm to states than direct attacks on their territory.


The great danger may not come from other states. Great Power tensions will always exist, but the failure of states along the periphery can sever trade routes.


Criminals and radicals in failed states are already beginning to infest the commons. This includes traditional parasitism. Piracy – actually armed robbers on boats – is on the rise once again. Non-traditional attacks appear in other areas of the commons, like criminal activity and the spreading of propaganda on the Internet.


Quote from: https://netwar.wordp...ichneumon-wasp/


John Robb's "Global Guerillas" blog alluded to above (not updated since 2018): https://globalguerri...obalguerrillas/


It and Robb's blog provide some interesting insights into how the military thinks about these topics. While the blog posts are concerned about these developments in other parts of the world they are arguably relevant domestically, too.


So now we have the difficult task of figuring out how not to get shot or blown to bits by foreign OR domestic dumbfucks OR the well-armed government Agents who don't seem particularly accountable to anything or anyone. The difficult part is doing all that without also losing whatever civil rights we happen to have left. I've always been much more concerned about the domestic variety and that's even more the case nowadays, but they also tend to be stupid as hell so I'd rather take my chances with the dumbfucks and keep our civil rights intact. Or reinstate them, as it were.






#3 pharmer



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Posted 15 February 2021 - 03:29 PM

It's easiest to understand terrorists by understanding the people they oppose.


(copyright - pharmer)

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#4 bezevo



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Posted 15 February 2021 - 03:51 PM

KBG heh

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