In 2009, Daryl Johnson, a senior analyst in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, authored a report on the threat of right-wing extremists in the United States. Johnson, who had spent 15 years studying white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups within the United States, seemed to think that the circumstances were right, given the economic downturn, and the fact that we had just elected our first African American president, for a surge in radical, anti-government activity. This, Johnson warned, could be particularly problematic, if groups on the far right began appealing to “disgruntled military veterans” in order to “exploit their skills and knowledge derived from military training and combat.” I think it’s safe to say that Johnson’s report, entitled Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment, did not receive a warm reception from Republicans.
Newt Gingrich said, “The person who drafted the outrageous homeland security memo smearing veterans and conservatives should be fired.” And the outrage escalated from there. Eventually, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano gave in to the political pressure and withdrew the report. Furthermore, according to Johnson, his unit within Homeland Security was gutted. “Since our report was leaked,” Johnson said last summer to a reporter from the Southern Poverty Law Center, “DHS has not released a single report of its own on this topic. Not anything dealing with non-Islamic domestic extremism — whether it’s anti-abortion extremists, white supremacists, ‘sovereign citizens,’ eco-terrorists, the whole gamut.” (Johnson eventually left the agency, and has since reported that Homeland Security now just has “one person” working on domestic terrorism.)
The reason I mention all of this tonight, is that I’m reading that the investigation into the anti-government militia which was being operated by current and former soldiers at the Fort Stewart Army base, has been broadened to include another five men. If you aren’t aware of the case, it looks as tough these men, now numbering nine, my have been engaged in numerous illegal enterprises in order to bankroll their anti-government militia activities. This underground paramilitary unit of theirs, referred to by members as F.E.A.R. (Forever Enduring Always Ready), came to the attention of investigators after the bodies of two executed individuals were found in Ludowici, Georgia, a rural town not far from Fort Stewart. Private Michael Burnett, who pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the case, told investigators that the two were killed because they intended to leave the group, which had been stockpiling weapons and plotting to assassinate the President and topple the United States government. (Investigators are also looking into the suspicious death of the wife of Isaac Aguigui, the founder and leader of the militia. It’s being speculated that she may have been killed by her husband last year, in order to secure $500,000 in insurance money, which could then be used to purchase weapons and property for the militia.)
I know it’s kind of a radical idea to express, especially today, on the anniversary of 9/11, but maybe now would be a good time to stop playing politics with national security, concede that domestic terrorism is a threat, and that anti-government rhetoric has consequences, and make the resources available to deal with the issue in a substantive way… regardless of whether doing so offends Newt Gingrich and the members of the aboveground radical right.
And, here, on that note, is video of Daryl Johnson, who appeared on Democracy Now earlier this summer, discussing his new book, Right-Wing Resurgence: How a Domestic Terrorist Threat is Being Ignored, and the fact that we’re pretending that the threat posed by anti-government extremists doesn’t exist.
[note: In related news, I just found out from my friend Pete that a fellow who was active around the periphery of the Ann Arbor noise scene back in the early 90s is now a leader in the California neo-Nazi movement. Fortunately, I never knew the guy, although we had several friends in common.]