So it was a surprise that was no surprise that the SPLC just reported on the disconnect between the general perception of who terrorists are, and the truth, and the consequences of that disconnect.
the organization reports that Daryl Johnson, a former terrorism analyst for the Department of Homeland Security, told SPLC that the department had eviscerated the unit investigating non-Islamic domestic terrorism, after receiving complaints from conservatives over a 2009 DHS report on right-wing extremism in the United States.
Excerpting the SPLC report can’t do it the justice it deserves. Here, then, some hearty chunks of the interview between Johnson and SPLC’s Heidi Beirich, an interview whose central points haven’t seen that much light of day in the mainstream media:
Daryl Johnson has been battling extremist groups for two decades. He got his start in the field in 1991, when he worked on counterterrorism for the U.S. Army. In 1999, Johnson left the Army for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, where he was a subject-matter expert on violent antigovernment groups. In 2004, officials at the newly created Department of Homeland Security (DHS) approached Johnson to take a key post as the senior domestic terrorism analyst. He accepted and, for six years, Johnson led a team of experts on domestic extremist groups.
While at DHS, Johnson and his team wrote the April 7, 2009 report, "Right-wing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment." The report, which was intended for law enforcement only, was quickly leaked and caused a firestorm among some on the political right who accused DHS of painting all kinds of conservatives as potential Timothy McVeighs.
JOHNSON: The report evolved in a complicated way. It began after a phone call from the U.S. Capitol police in January 2007. They wanted help with then-Sen. Barack Obama's announcement of his candidacy for president. We monitored the Internet for about a month or so looking for threats to Obama. We didn't see anything threat-related, but I started thinking, "What if the U.S. elects a black president? What impact will this have on extremism in this country?" ...
When Obama looked as though he was going to win the nomination [in August 2008], we started an outline. Between April and October 2008, we were immersed in collecting data. My team was still writing a draft of the report when Janet Napolitano became the new DHS secretary in January 2009.
Three months into Obama's administration, Napolitano asked us four questions: Are we seeing a rise in domestic right-wing extremism? If so, is it related to the election of a black president? What are the chances of it escalating to violence? And what are we going to do about it?
I got a tasking from the secretary, which demanded a quick turnaround. We went through all the necessary coordination; many people reviewed the draft and made comments. Several people signed off on the report: two supervisors, the Office of General Counsel, multiple editors, etc. The Office of Privacy signed off, and the Office of Policy had no suggestions.
One office raised issues — the Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties [CRCL]. At the time, we weren't required to give them the report, but my boss thought we should run it past them. They had edits, but the main issue related to the definition of right-wing extremism. That office wanted a narrow definition limited to violent groups and individuals. Our subject-matter experts and management felt the definition needed to be broader.
Under CRCL's definition, if you were in the Klan, burned crosses, had a terrorist in your house and donated money to groups advocating violence, you still would not qualify as a right-wing extremist.
SPLC: Any idea who leaked it?
JOHNSON: The report went to the fusion centers [joint federal, state and local terrorism task forces] and various law enforcement agencies. They, in turn, blasted it out to many more people. It's virtually impossible to know who leaked it, though I have some hunches. Obviously, the person who leaked the report didn't agree with it and had a political agenda.