The shooting at the synagogue in Pittsburgh.
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The pipe bombs mailed to Democratic members of Congress and to the media deemed “fake news” by President Trump.
The murder of counter-protestor Heather Hayer at the Charlottesville neo-Nazi march.
The shootings at an Orlando night club, a Las Vegas country music concert, churches in Charleston and in Texas, a Thousand Oaks bar, schools in Parkland, Florida and across the country,
The specter of domestic terrorism has been threatening the nation with increasing frequency, driven by a surge of attacks motivated by right-wing ideologies. Yet the response of the Trump administration — never shy about fear-mongering over a supposed invasion at the southern border by people that they consider international terrorists — is to disband the Homeland Security Department’s group of intelligence analysts focused on domestic terrorism, according to an article in The Daily Beast.
The decision goes beyond the counter-intuitive to land decisively in the realm of idiotic dereliction of duty given the rise in overall terror incidents in the United States over the past 15 years, the vast majority of which were perpetrated by right-wing extremists.
According to The Daily Beast, many current and former DHS officials are worried about the decision, saying that it has resulted in a significant drop in the number of analytic reports produced by DHS about domestic terrorism.
“’It’s especially problematic given the growth in right-wing extremism and domestic terrorism we are seeing in the U.S. and abroad,’ one former intelligence official told The Daily Beast.”
The move to eliminate the domestic terrorism focus of the DHS’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis (I&A), as the analysts’ department was called, stems from a reorganization of the department by the Trump administration’s new I&A chief, David Glawe, who last year reassigned to other projects the staff responsible for sharing information with state and local law enforcement to help them protect their communities from domestic terror threats.
“We’ve noticed I&A has significantly reduced their production on homegrown violent extremism and domestic terrorism while those remain among the most serious terrorism threats to the homeland,” one DHS official said
When contacted by The Daily Beast to respond to the reports of the shift in focus away from the all-too-real domestic threats, Glawe issued this statement:
“DHS/I&A routinely works with federal partners, including the FBI, state and local law enforcement, and the National Network of Fusion Centers to gather Homeland threat information regardless of a threat actor’s ideology. I&A has invested heavily in interagency relationships to enhance analysis on Homeland threats, including domestic terrorism, where I&A lacks access to relevant case data and information held by other federal agencies. I&A is also focused on ensuring intelligence production is not duplicative of other agencies and focused on areas where DHS I&A can add the most value through unique data and access within the Department. When DHS/I&A identifies domestic terrorism threats or related information of value, DHS/I&A immediately coordinates it and shares it as widely as possible.”
Another unnamed senior DHS official also tried to dispute the idea that the agency’s focus had been deliberately shifted.
“The same people are working on the issues,” the official said. “We just restructured things to be more responsive to the I&A customers within DHS and in local communities while reducing overlap with what the FBI does. We actually believe we are far more effective now.”
Local officials who had relied upon reports received from DHS/I&A tell another story. Sgt. Mike Abdeen of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department noted that the previously frequent communications with the DHS had shriveled down to practically nothing in recent months.
“It’s been very quiet lately,” Abdeen said. “It’s changed with the new administration. It doesn’t seem to be as robust, as active, as important—it is important, I’m sure, but it’s not a priority. It doesn’t seem like engagement, outreach, and prevention are seen as a priority as we used to see in the past. There were roundtable meetings in the past, there was more activity, more training, more seminars. Now it seems like it’s gone away.”
While former officials who have led the Office of Intelligence and Analysis believe that, if anything, the department should be ramping up its anti-domestic terrorism operations, current officials argue that any responsibility for preventing domestic terrorism belongs to the FBI.
A former DHS official who concentrated on violent extremism, Nate Snyder, believes that the DHS reorganization belies the Trump administration message that it takes domestic terrorism seriously.
“You hear the secretary and this administration say how domestic terrorism is a clear priority and how resources will be bolstered, but you can’t say that and then all of a sudden get rid of the unit that’s there to detect threats and share information with our first responders, law enforcement, and federal partners,” said Snyder. “You can’t have it both ways.”
Could it be that the Trump administration — which has been accused of catering to the large number of white nationalists in the president’s core base — is loathe to be seen as working against the violent purveyors of the same message that Trump tweets out every day? Perhaps it’s time for America to realize that this administration is not working in our own best interests.
Follow Vinnie Longobardo on Twitter.
Original reporting by Betsy Woodruff at The Daily Beast.