A recent DHS/FBI/NCTC “U.S. Violent Extremist Mobilization Indicators” booklet warns law enforcement that violent domestic extremists are just biding their time to attack them and our democracy.
The first sentence in the extremist indicator booklet claims that the U.S. and ‘other Western nations’ face a heightened threat of violent extremists but never backs up those claims.
The latest extremist indicator booklet differs greatly from previous ones by attempting to flag a person(s) based on their ideology.
“Previous editions of this booklet have focused solely on the indicators of homegrown violent extremist mobilization to violence; this edition has been expanded to include indicators that apply to multiple ideologically-motivated US-based violent extremists, given the evolving complexity and variety of factors influencing the domestic threat landscape.”
By asking law enforcement to look at a person’s ideology and flag anything they deem suspicious, we run the risk of becoming like China and Russia; countries who arrest people based on those very things.
The second paragraph describing the types of indicators law enforcement should be looking for raises all kinds of red flags.
“These indicators were developed and updated based on a review of information derived from dozens of FBI terrorism investigations, peer-reviewed academic studies, and analytic exchanges among Intelligence Community and law enforcement professionals. The indicators of violent extremist mobilization described in this booklet are observable behaviors that could help to determine whether individuals are preparing to engage in violent extremist activities.”
Something is amiss when an extremist indicator booklet admits that the information on how to identify potential domestic extremist is based on ‘analytic exchanges’ or discussions between like-minded cops.
Last weeks’ story about the FBI pressuring agents to create domestic terrorist cases and tag people as White supremacists to meet internal metrics gives one reason to question the validity of the violent extremist threat.
"The demand for White supremacy" coming from FBI headquarters "vastly outstrips the supply of White supremacy," said one agent, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "We have more people assigned to investigate White supremacists than we can actually find."
DHS’s claim to have used information gleaned from peer-reviewed studies without including a single footnote to substantiate that claim would make most people question everything in the booklet, but as you will see, that is not the case.
The extremist indicator booklet warns law enforcement to be on the look out for ‘unusual’ indicators or abnormal behavior in people. Whatever that means.
“We have incorporated 'unusual’ into many of the indicators because we are looking for behavior that is different enough from the individual’s normal behavior to cause concern.”
The list of six ‘unusual indicators’ that law enforcement is told to watch out for are listed as “financial, ideology, intent, relationship, tactics and travel.” And the people who are supposed to help law enforcement watch for these unusual indicators are family members!
“Family members and peers, social media users, community authority figures and members, commercial sector representatives” are all asked to watch for unusual indicators.
The extremist indicator booklet also lists things like “preparation and motivation indicators” as being indicators of domestic extremism.
Some of the indicators listed are purchasing a one-way ticket or using a burner phone, which by themselves are totally innocent. But because we are now fighting a new war, those and other indicators means an innocent person could be flagged as a domestic extremist.
Things like “deleting, hiding, or manipulating social media or other online accounts to misrepresent their location or hide group membership, contacts, or activities” are all signs a person could be an domestic extremist.
When law enforcement ties misrepresenting your location or using a VPN to mask your IP address to violent extremism, you know something has gone wrong. Hiding your group membership or your phone contact list from law enforcement is not a crime, so why is DHS claiming it is?
Perhaps the most chilling indicator of being a domestic extremist can be found under the “Motivation Section”.
“Engaging in outbursts or fights with or condemning behavior of family, peers, community, or authority figures…”
Is DHS saying that condemning police violence is now an indicator that you could be a domestic extremist? Wouldn’t that mean that the 26 million Americans who took part in the Black Lives Matter protests could also be considered domestic extremists?
The “Risk Factors” section takes ‘observing potential indicators’ of extremism to a whole new level.
The so-called risk factors cover ‘noncompliance with restrictions, boundaries or laws’, to a “presence of real or perceived injustice.”
DHS’s “Indicator Index, By Type” section seemingly justifies targeting anyone for just about any reason.
Things like adopting more than one (violent extremist) ideology to changing their vocabulary, style of speech or behavior are now considered red flags.
Perhaps the most-striking indicator of someone being a violent domestic extremism is this sentence:
“Engaging in a threatening interaction or violently refusing to comply with law enforcement based on violent extremist ideology.”
It is fairly obvious that DHS is implying that verbally abusing law enforcement or refusing to comply with violent policing is now an indicator of extremism. (Just look at the picture at the top of the story.)
When the government publishes an extremist indicator booklet that justifies monitoring and flagging Americans based on ‘unusual indicators or a person’s ideologies’ how are we any different than any other authoritarian government?
I will leave you with this gem of a quote, that seemingly justifies monitoring Americans based on their “contextual behaviors”:
“This resource is provided to inform law enforcement, terrorism prevention practitioners, other first responders, community leaders, as well as the general public about both threats of violence and contextual behaviors that suggest an individual is mobilizing to violence.”
DHS has succeeded in keeping the War on Terror going by turning violent domestic extremists into America’s version of Al-Qaeda.
image credit: public intelligence