Like his former boss Barack Obama, Joe Biden began his presidency by using the executive branch to treat his critics as “domestic terrorists.” When it comes to counterterrorism, the Biden administration is proving to be the third Obama term.
Within months of his inauguration, Obama directed the Department of Homeland Security away from Islamist terrorism and towards “right-wing terrorism.” Biden is doing the same, but even more aggressively and with both the DHS and Department of Justice.
On April 7, 2009, Obama signaled a shift away from the counterterrorism policies he inherited in an unclassified assessment titled “Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment.” It was prepared by the DHS’s Extremism and Radicalization Branch, which had been focused on al-Qaida under the first DHS Director, Tom Ridge.
Under the second DHS director, former Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, Obama’s counterterrorism policy treated al-Qaida and ISIS fighters as though they were members of a nebulous crime syndicate or a cult. Terms like “jihad” and “Islamist” were purged from his administration’s lexicon, and the president himself asserted dismissively that ISIS was neither Islamic nor a state. The word “terrorism” was renamed “man-caused disaster,” George W. Bush’s “Global War on Terror” became “Overseas Contingency Operations,” and even “counterterrorism” was replaced with “Countering Violent Extremism” and then neatly assigned the abbreviation CVE. Under George W. Bush, it was “evil-doers” who had “hijacked Islam” that posed the greatest threats. Under Obama, the greatest threats came from “right-wing extremists … expressing concerns about the election of the first African American president.”
Donald Trump never articulated much of a counterterrorism policy, but in some ways, he reversed Obama’s reversal of the Bush policies. “The gloves are off,” he said, and indeed new, less restrictive military rules of engagement quickly degraded ISIS from a territory-holding, global threat to a mostly regional one. After U.S. forces killed the self-proclaimed ISIS caliph, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, Trump boasted that he “died like a dog,” and then feted Conan, the wounded Belgian Malinois involved in the operation. It was a welcome change from Obama’s feckless attempts to downplay ISIS as “the JV team.” And then came the high point of the Trump administration — killing IRGC’s Quds Force Commander Qassem Soleimani.
Joe Biden wasted no time after becoming president to return the nation’s counterterrorism policy back to domestic “right-wing” terrorism. First, a White House National Security Council “Assessment of the Domestic Violent Extremism Threat” came in March 2021, and then a “National Strategy for Countering Domestic Terrorism” came on June 15, 2021. These documents echo the Obama-era counterterrorism policies so closely that one might suspect another case of plagiarism from Old Joe.
Napolitano’s 2009 assessment warned that “xenophobia and antidemocratic ideals” were causing a “combination of environmental factors that echo the 1990s.” Her DHS warned about violence from “disgruntled military veterans” and concluded that “white supremacist lone wolves pose the most significant domestic terrorist threat.” Then came eight years of Islamist attacks and the rise of ISIS.
Biden’s national strategy announced that “the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has designated ‘Domestic Violent Extremism’ as a National Priority Area” and that “FBI field offices across the country have formally made domestic terrorism a top priority.” Of course, DHS does not mean that it will focus sharply on jihadi threats from Americans (like Omar Mateen, the ISIS fighter who killed 49 people at a nightclub in 2016) and from non-citizens in the U.S. (like Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani, the al-Qaida operative who killed three sailors at the Pensacola Naval Base in 2019). Rather, it means that henceforth, the nation’s counterterrorism experts will be occupied with “rooting out racism and bigotry,” especially “within our military and law enforcement ranks.”
On August 13, DHS released a “Summary of Terrorism Threat to the U.S. Homeland,” warning of a “heightened threat environment” attributed to “the ongoing global pandemic, including grievances over public health safety measures and perceived government restrictions.” It asserted that its top national priority throughout 2021 will be, “racially- or ethnically-motivated violent extremists (RMVEs) and anti-government/anti-authority violent extremists.” The brief document mentions its new acronym “RMVEs” three times, “conspiracy theories” five times, “false narratives” four times, and “disinformation” three times. There is only one reference to al-Qaida.
Transforming American counterterrorism policy through government was apparently not enough for this administration, so it reached out to the National School Board Association (NSBA) for help. The plan was to craft an NSBA letter to be sent, apparently with much fanfare, to Joe Biden. Documents obtained by Parents Defending Education through the Freedom of Information Act reveal that “White House staff had been in communication with NSBA staff over ‘several weeks,’ and had requested specific information be included in the final letter that was sent” to Biden on September 29. The letter, which has since been scrubbed from the NSBA website (though the NSBA’s subsequent apology for the ill-advised letter has not), equated angry and outspoken parents with “domestic terrorism” and suggested using the PATRIOT ACT to stop them.
Next, Merrick Garland (who emphasized in his confirmation hearings that white supremacism would be his top focus as attorney general) issued a now-infamous memorandum on October 4 based on the NSBA’s letter, directing the FBI to meet with “state, local, Tribal, and territorial leaders” in order to discuss “strategies for addressing threats against school administrators, board members, teachers, and staff.”
Under Biden’s Department of Justice, “threats of violence and other forms of intimidation and harassment” are apparently tantamount to “terrorism.” The “War on Terrorism” is becoming a “War on Dissent.”
Meanwhile, are any counterterrorism experts watching for jihadis?
In October, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Colin Kahl told the Senate Armed Services Committee that ISIS could re-establish Afghanistan as a launching site for attacks against the U.S. in “somewhere between six or 12 months.”
In Merrick Garland’s speech hyping the new national strategy, he claimed that domestic extremists “increasingly take common cause and inspiration from events and actions around the world, indicating an important international dimension to this problem.” Garland seems unaware that jihadis (both credentialed and freelancers) will do the same, especially after Joe Biden single-handedly gave the global jihad movement its biggest boost since 9/11 by turning Afghanistan over to the Taliban.
With the counterterrorism industry hyper-focused on white supremacists, real or imagined, we should expect to see more Islamist terrorism in the U.S., both from foreigners who have entered the country either illegally or legally and from American jihadis.
Notice to Readers: The American Spectator and Spectator World are marks used by independent publishing companies that are not affiliated in any way. If you are looking for The Spectator World please click on the following link: https://spectatorworld.com/.