KIMERY: DHS Disputes Claims it Stopped Producing Intel on Rightists

Posted: June 15, 2011 by BlackNETintel-2 in BlackNET Intelligence
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DHS Disputes Claims it Stopped Producing Intel Reports on Rightwing Extremists

By: Anthony Kimery
06/09/2011 ( 8:44am)

In a recent emailed fundraising plea by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a generally respected group that monitors and often advises law enforcement on rightwing extremist activity, the group claimed that the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) controversial 2009 report on rightwing extremism that was disavowed by top DHS officials following the furor it created after it was leaked, was done so only “after conservative groups and politicians complained it maligned the political right,” and that DHS also “virtually dismantled its unit responsible for investigating homegrown extremists.”

SPLC further quoted the former senior analyst primarily responsible for the report as claiming in an upcoming interview to be published in SPLC’s magazine, Intelligence Report, which focuses on rightwing extremists, that “DHS has not released a single report of its own … dealing with non-Islamic domestic extremism” since then – a claim that also was reported by the Washington Post on June 7.

DHS and other officials Homeland Security Today interviewed said the claims are not true, especially the assertions that there have been no reports produced on domestic and rightwing extremists. Officials pointed to a number of reports they said have been distributed to law enforcement, and added that DHS has conducted numerous briefings regarding domestic threats.

The numerous federal and other officials familiar with the matter Homeland Security Today interviewed frankly said the April 7, 2009 DHS report that generated so much outrage, Right-wing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment, was the most “poorly constructed” analytical “product in DHS history,” and that numerous reports dealing with rightwing extremists have in fact been produced by DHS since it disavowed that one report.

Rep. Pete Hoekstra, R-Mich, while he was the ranking member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence at the time, wrote DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano to complain that the report was “a shoddy, unsubstantiated and potentially politicized work.”

That the assessment was flawed was further pointed out at the time by the Major Cities Chiefs Association, which said in a statement that the “document … was poorly researched and produced, deeply flawed and an embarrassment to the Department of Homeland Security.”

DHS records obtained by Homeland Security Today under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) in June 2009 indicated that the report was wrongly disseminated to law enforcement agencies because of problems with it that were identified by DHS’s Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties.

The records turned over to Homeland Security Today under the FOIA indicated apparent violations of the Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties’ procedures for the handling of the controversial threat assessment of rightwing extremists. Homeland Security Today had asked for all of the civil rights office’s records concerning its objections to the assessment.

While not all of the documents pertaining to the matter were released, descriptions of the documents DHS deemed exempt from public disclosure under the FOIA  implied that concerns were raised by the Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, and they tended to dovetail with communications about these concerns at the time between Napolitano and then House Committee on Homeland Security Chairman, Bennie Thompson, D-Miss.

“The wheels came off the wagon because the vetting process was not followed,” Napolitano told the Committee on May 13, 2009 during a hearing on DHS’s FY 2010 budget request. “An employee sent it out without authorization,” she stated.

The descriptions of the withheld Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties documents indicated someone did not comply with the procedures for releasing the assessment to the law enforcement community despite the office’s concerns.

Napolitano acknowledged after the report was made public that the unresolved problems with it that were identified by the civil rights and civil liberties office were supposed to have prevented it from being distributed.

At the May 13 DHS congressional budget hearing, when asked whether the employee who incorrectly distributed the threat assessment had been fired, Napolitano said “appropriate personnel action is being taken.”

SPLC stated that Daryl Johnson, the former DHS analyst and principal author of the disavowed report who said he voluntarily left DHS in the wake of the controversy the report generated, said DHS dismantled his intelligence team that studied the threat from rightwing extremists, and that the department no longer produces its own analytical reports on that subject – a claim DHS and other officials said isn’t true.

“When the 2009 report was written, there were six analysts in the unit, including Johnson. Today, he said, there is one,” SPLC wrote.

SPLC quoted Johnson saying “DHS stopped all of our work and instituted restrictive policies. Eventually, they ended up gutting my unit. All of this happened within six to nine months after the furor over the report. Since our report was leaked, 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 said in an interview with the Washington Post that “reports written by DHS about Muslim extremists … got through without any major problems,” but “ours went through endless reviews and edits, and nothing came out.”

In its report on SPLC’s claims, the Washington Post reported that DHS “held up dissemination of nearly a dozen reports on extremist groups … officials and others said,” adding, “multiple current and former law enforcement officials who have regularly viewed DHS analyses said the department has not reported in depth on any domestic extremist groups since 2009.”

Continuing, the Post reported that “the analytical unit that produced [Johnson’s disputed report] has been effectively eviscerated,” and that “much of its work – including a digest of domestic terror incidents and the distribution of definitions for terms such as ‘white supremacist’ and ‘Christian Identity’ – has been blocked.”

“Strategic bulletins have been minimal, since that incident,” Mike Sena, an intelligence official in California who presides over the National Fusion Center Association, told the Post, adding, “having analytical staff, to educate line officers on the extremists, is critical … This is definitely one area” where DHS needs to place more emphasis.

“Similar frustration was expressed in interviews with current and former officials at fusion centers in Missouri, Virginia and Tennessee,” the Post reported.”

A former law enforcement and fusion center official who works closely with fusion centers across the nation in an advisory role told Homeland Security Today that “from our work with many law enforcement agencies and fusion centers around the country, we don’t see any lessening in the amount of staff or time dedicated to collecting intelligence and/or investigating right wing extremist groups involved in criminal activity.”

The source also compared the disavowed DHS report to the “poorly written analytical report” by the Missouri Fusion Center two years ago that was leaked “that made problematic references to rightwing extremists and Presidential Candidate Ron Paul.”

Law enforcement sources who work with fusion centers who spoke to Homeland Security Today on background agreed, saying they still receive DHS “alerts and bulletins” about rightwing and homegrown extremists.

Speaking to Homeland Security Today on background with regard to the charges made by SPLC and Johnson in his interview with the group, a senior DHS official said with respect to non-Islamic homegrown terrorism analysis, DHS’s “I&A [Office of Intelligence and Analysis] has federal intelligence analysts assigned to issues covering a wide range of violent extremist groups, including non-Islamic domestic terrorism threats such as violent militia movements and violent sovereign citizen movements.

“In addition to regular coordination and collaboration with state fusion center analysts regarding state and local domestic terrorism bulletins, intelligence briefings and threat assessments, since January 2010, I&A has provided several non-Islamic domestic terrorism briefings and participated in roundtable discussions to include non-Islamic domestic terrorism at Fusion Centers in Tampa, Fla.; Hartford, Conn.; Des Moines, Iowa; Baton Rouge, La.; Nashville, Tenn.; Monterey, Calif.; Spokane, Wash.; Lexington, K.Y.; Helena, Mont.; Kansas City, Kansas; and Austin, Texas.”

The DHS official added that “I&A has also conducted violent domestic extremism presentations for the National Monuments and Icons and Critical Manufacturing sectors of critical infrastructure in Washington, DC.”

The Post reported that “multiple briefings for state and local officials on extremist groups such as the sovereign citizens movement — composed of those who reject American legal supremacy — were also blocked, according to internal DHS messages,” and that “Johnson and others said intelligence reports on the resurgence of militia groups in Michigan and Kentucky are among those being withheld by the agency, which [Johnson] said was ‘screening for politically sensitive phrases or topics that might be objectionable to certain groups.’”

The DHS official told Homeland Security Today that “I&A analysts have … completed detailed case study work carried out by both Islamic and non-Islamic violent extremists to determine possible common indicators of terrorism that could be observed by state, local and private sector partners.”

The official said that with regard to “analytic products, today, I&A has a structural process in place for the review and clearance of all intelligence products, and our analytical tradecraft has been brought into line with that of the wider Intelligence Community as mandated by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Since April 2009, I&A has released ten products that specifically mention non-Islamic homegrown violent extremists and 50 products that discuss the general terrorist threat to the homeland or terrorist tactics, techniques and procedures, regardless of motivation or ideology, to state, local and tribal partners. This includes 24 Roll Call Releases and three Joint Intelligence Bulletins. I&A has also published 31 Snapshots, DIH articles, and Homeland Security State and Local Intelligence Community of Interest messages on violent non-Islamic extremism and violent extremist tactics, techniques and procedures describing current intelligence issues.”

Some examples of titles of these dozens of relevant products include:

  • Austin Plane Crash a Deliberate Act:”
  • Pentagon Shooting: Plans, Motives Yet to Be Discovered;”
  • Identifying Homegrown Violent Extremists Before They Strike;”
  • Active Shooter Targets Congresswoman’s Constituent Event in Tucson, Arizona; and”
  • Arrest of Suspect Connection with Viable Improvised Explosive Device Found in Spokane, Washington

Continuing, the DHS spokesman said “the primary mission of this department is to prevent terrorist attacks on our nation, and we closely monitor the risks of violent extremism taking root here in the United States. We don’t have the luxury of focusing our efforts on one group; we must protect the country from terrorism whether foreign or homegrown, regardless of the ideology that motivates its violence. We have federal intelligence analysts assigned to issues covering a wide range of violent extremist groups, including non-Islamic domestic terrorism threats such as violent militia movements and violent sovereign citizen movements.”

The DHS spokesman said “in the past two years, we have released ten products that specifically mention non-Islamic homegrown violent extremists and 50 products that discuss the general terrorist threat to the homeland or terrorist tactics, techniques and procedures, regardless of motivation or ideology, to state, local and tribal partners. As Secretary Napolitano has emphasized consistently in the past two years …we face a threat environment where violent extremism is neither constrained by international borders, nor limited to any single ideology. The persistent threats we face continue to evolve and we remain concerned about individuals – both connected to groups and acting independently – that may undertake violence.”

Continuing, the spokesman said “DHS’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis partners with the FBI, state and local law enforcement and fusion centers to study and analyze domestic terrorism related reporting. I&A operates under the notion that any violent extremist could pose a danger to local communities regardless of why their beliefs have led them to violence. Accordingly, I&A prioritizes threats based on risk, and offers state and local partners information about tactics and indicators of homegrown violent extremists regardless of ideology. This information sharing has prevented acts of terrorism across the country, including the recent arrest of non-Islamic domestic extremists that attempted to attack Spokane, Wash., earlier this year.”

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