Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

March 29, 2010

Did DHS Get It Right?

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Mark Chubb on March 29, 2010

CNN‘s AC360º news magazine focused its Keeping Them Honest segment Monday night on the question of whether or not political criticism of the Department of Homeland Security’s ill-fated April 2009 report on the rise right-wing extremism led to its withdrawal. As we like to say in academic circles, “Duuuhh!”

Sadly, no one questioned whether the report was original work. I attended an educational conference organized by the Center for Homeland Defense and Security (CHDS) at the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) hosted by George Washington University’s Homeland Security Policy Institute in March 2009 during which Dr. Dave Brannan used almost identical language to describe the threat posed by rising right-wing militancy. He spoke plainly and passionately about signs he was witnessing that suggested the country’s deteriorating economy, the election of the nation’s first African-American president, the increasing disillusionment of the evangelical right, and the difficulties faced by veterans seeking to reintegrate following their return from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan created a perfect storm for ideologically motivated violence.

Today’s arrest of nine suspects in Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio on charges of seditious conspiracy is only the most recent evidence that some of our fellow citizens may be moved to violence. Whether they are linked to or took comfort from the overheated rhetoric surrounding the Tea Party Movement and mainstream opposition to the Obama Administration’s health insurance reform bill remains unclear, but it probably did not discourage them.

Other media outlets have questioned whether the steeped rhetoric of the right has become too astringent. At a minimum, some mainstream commentators have suggested, the right’s conspiracy of silence when it comes to disavowing extreme views, including those espousing violence, may all too easily be taken for silent assent.

What should we make of all the chest-beating and gnashing of teeth about the decision to withdraw the DHS report? Well, we are all familiar with 20/20 hindsight. Rather than questioning whether DHS was influenced to withdraw the report by political criticism or was motivated to issue it as a way of currying political favor with the new administration, we should question why its sources and methods could not withstand the scrutiny to which this work was subjected when it came to light.

We desperately need honest assessments of this sort and open sharing of information with state and local officials to detect and interdict genuine threats. But no one will condone the efforts required to produce such intelligence unless we can have confidence in the competence and independence of those those responsible for collecting the information and conducting the analysis.

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Comment by William R. Cumming

March 30, 2010 @ 12:11 am

I grew up in the fifties in Arlington County Virginia. Then home of the American Nazi Party headed by George Lincoln Rockwell. On Friday and Saturday nights could go by his house, drive or walk on opposite sidewalk and see a huge spotlighted Nazi flag inside the open front door guarded by two fully decked out American storm troopers. Eventually Mr. Rockwell was assasinated (is that the right word?) by one of his own men, an event that also took place in Arlington. Both Mr. Rockwell’s life and death prompted some interesting discussions among Arlingtonians then facing the worst of the “RED MENACE” McCarthy discourse to its local politics. The formation of the non-partisan ABC political faction (Arlingtonians For Better Government)and led to federal government Hatch Act reform for nonpartisan elections for its civil servants. By the 70’s when I returned from College, Law School and the ARMY (drafted by Local Board #9 in Arlington) to Arlington and its politics almost none of the young married couples with which my wife and I associated and were knew to Arlington had any idea that the history of American Nazism had come to rest in Arlington. “Vigilence is the Price of Liberty” but the threat comes in many different forms from left and right, IMO! Personally I believe the heated rehetoric currently in much of the MSM is creating real problems for civil and criminal law enforcement. Effective policing in a democracy (Republic) is a very difficult task. And the fully militarized policing function in many communities is not likely to result in sensitivity towards fine line drawing.

Comment by Dan O'Connor

March 30, 2010 @ 12:54 pm

A provocative post. Fear and ignorance combined make the deadliest of cocktails. One cannot dismiss these renegades. True, their attempt was amateurish and sophomoric, but if you take into account this, the DHS report, the IRS attack in Texas, and the gentlemen who bulldozed his own home, are these canaries in a coal mine? How much of this is indeed MSM versus reality? What/who will be our Visigoths?

I think it’s far too easy to point fingers at the fringe and label it mainstream. It’s reckless, as a matter of fact. If the proverbial squeaky wheel gets the grease than the extreme ideologues are well lubricated. People are angry and scared, by and large because every governmental function they’ve been taught to uphold and believe in has failed them. An overstatement? Perhaps. Was the alleged race bating and spitting the extreme exception? Was the radical left bombings, behavior, and protesting in the late 60’s the exception? The vitriol sells the news. Banks, jobs, war, race, wages, immigration, terrorism; everything is now open to intense emotional dialogue and pain.

It’s our inability to trust and communicate that fuels this. Trust for the government has leapt off the precipice. Look at the latest confidence polling on Congress; staggering. Polling and data aside, most people see the following; higher taxes, diminishment of service, pandering to the extreme ideologies, erosion of influence, and a monumental disconnect with their elected representation. In a society that has become expectant of a particular lifestyle and safety, both are now under attack. Is this the back side of exceptionalism or entitlement? How can any leader look into a camera and assure Americans we will bounce back? How can any elected official, most of them not being among the plebeians in decades, make the case for understanding? That’s the communications part. Do we have officials who take this obligation as sacrosanct and serve their constituents? Absolutely. So where are they?

Hard, hard decisions lie ahead. Unsustainable is an aphorism pitched about. How are we going to do this? If you find yourself in a hole the best course of action to take first is stop digging. There must be real dialogue and hard work and shared sacrifice to right this vessel. Are up to the task? How can we spend twice as much on health care as European counterparts and Canada and have the 50th worse life expectancy in the world? So we enact a partisan, expensive health care plan that never takes into account these aforementioned costs? If you don’t have the time to do it right the first time, how much time will you need to fix it? A trillion is a digit with twelve zeroes…1,000,000,000,000.00. It’s a number so large mathematicians avoid it because its cumbersome and virtually non existent in their field…and yet we continue to add that number to itself to fix ourselves… If we are not all to blame, clearly we all will pay. Again, staggering.

Also, this in not the first push back we’ve seen from the citizenry; it is however, the most televised.

Do we need more government or better government?

If all we have to fear is fear itself than I’ve seen the enemy; he is us. Are we fulfilling UBL’s prophesy? Our lifestyle and erosion of ethics has cost us much and the bill is/has come due.

There is no utopia or doomsday attitude here; just a simple pragmatism. Two quotes sum this up for me; “You are what you repeatedly do; excellence therefore is not an act but a habit”; Aristotle. The other is the definition of insanity; “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”. Albert Einstein

We are insanely doing the same thing over and over again and have become what we’ve repeatedly done.

I suspect that this is not the last we’ve seen of national extremism. Are there more
McVeigh’s out there? What’s next? We’ve seen encouragement to walk away from our commitments like homes and loans, because the banks did it. Until ideology is left out, it will only get worse. I don’t like being told my entire life and belief system is a lie; a falsehood. Multiply that my hundreds, thousands, and millions. Others do not like being told the same thing. Canaries in a coal mine?

What are we going to do about it?

Thanks for posting this. Perhaps this and other forums will begin a necessary dialogue to overcome our addictions and consumptions and move forward to achieve e pluribus Unum.

Comment by Desert Dweller

March 30, 2010 @ 1:47 pm

This is a good example of the ills that can come from sharing intelligence assessments with politicians. The relationship between politicians and the media too often results in sensitive information being shared with the American public that both are trying to please. This does not assist prevention practitioners. If we try and work smarter, not harder, politicians should explore gaining favor with the populace by focusing exclusively on disrupted plots and arrests. This would at least not work against counterterrorism efforts.

Comment by John Comiskey

March 30, 2010 @ 2:14 pm

In January 2010 I had the opportunity to engage two members of DHS’s Intellignce and Analysis (I& A) in a debate about the efficacy of the New York City Police Department’s Shield Intelligence Product. The I & A analysts claimed that NYPD’s intelligence was too preliminary and that DHS would not dare put their name to such. What then is the point of intelligence if it is not to be shared? The questioned April 2009 DHS intelligence product was just that ….an efficacious intelligence product that told the consumer i.e. the homeland security intelligence community what I & A knew, didn’t know, and thought about potential bad guys. I& A needs to strap its boots and withstand media,politician, and special interest group rancor.

Comment by Dan O'Connor

March 31, 2010 @ 11:20 am


good article on vigilantism

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