WASHINGTON – The Department of Homeland Security warned Tuesday that violent white supremacy was the “most persistent and deadly threat in the homeland” in an annual assessment that a former intelligence chief had accused the agency of withholding President Trump out of respect.
The intelligence chief, who turned whistleblower last month, accused the department of blocking the report and instructing analysts to downplay the threat of violent white racism and interference in the Russian elections in order to align the agency’s message with that of the president bring to. But the final report didn’t seem to do anything like that.
The threat assessment highlighted white supremacists as the deadliest domestic terrorists in recent years and Russia as the main threat to the spread of disinformation.
“I am particularly concerned about violent extremists from the white supremacists who have been exceptionally deadly in their heinous, targeted attacks in recent years,” wrote Chad F. Wolf, the acting Secretary of Homeland Security, ahead of the assessment. The threat report also states: “Russia is probably the most important covert influencer and provider of disinformation and misinformation within the home country.”
The agency also highlighted Iran and China’s cyberwar capabilities and warned of a possible surge in migration to the southwest border.
The report’s belated release was a checkpoint for a department that has consistently been accused of turning into an instrument for Mr Trump’s re-election campaign. After the department had selected domestic terrorists, especially white supremacists, in a terrorist setting in September 2019, the agency’s leadership committed to publishing a follow-up assessment of the threat and a blueprint to combat it within months. It took a lot longer.
Brian Murphy, who was demoted from his position as Chief of Homeland Security in August, said in a whistleblower complaint last month that Mr. Wolf and his deputy, Kenneth T. Cuccinelli, had blocked the rating from being released because it would “consider President Trump “.
The Homeland Security Blueprint was eventually released shortly after Mr Murphy’s complaint. It included $ 10 million for nonprofits and other organizations to help prevent extremist violence.
The administration’s treatment of white supremacy came back on the agenda last week when Mr Trump failed to condemn the racist violence of whites during the presidential debate, even after FBI director Christopher A. Wray reaffirmed the deadly threat posed by the racist extremists to Congress .
Now the Department of Homeland Security has done this in the assessment.
“This threat assessment confirms two things: that white supremacist extremists pose the greatest domestic threat to the homeland and are often inspired by President Trump’s rhetoric,” said Bennie Thompson, Democrat of Mississippi and chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee.
The threat assessment largely reflected drafts that were leaked to the public and countered concerns that the department would water down any warnings. The department added a section, which was not included in previous versions of the report, entitled “Exploitation of Legitimate and Protected Speeches and Protests”.
The section echoed Mr. Trump’s description of Democrat-led city governments as the cause of chaos.
“We have seen violence and destruction in our cities for over 100 days,” the report said. “The co-optation of legitimate protests has resulted in the destruction of state property and has been fatal.”
While the majority of protests against police violence and racism this summer were peaceful, some included those who had committed acts of violence, including in Portland, Oregon, where the Department of Homeland Security dispatched teams of tactical agents. The agents’ aggressive practices, including forcing protesters into unmarked cars and using tear gas, are being investigated by Inspectors General of the Ministry of Homeland Security and Justice.
Some protesters also threw commercial-grade fireworks at a federal court and surrounding agents. A self-proclaimed supporter of the loose movement known as Antifa was also accused of fatally shooting a right-wing activist who was part of a pro-Trump caravan in Portland. This Antifa supporter, Michael Forest Reinoehl, was shot dead by law enforcement officers last month before he could be taken into custody.
Oct. 6, 2020, 9:28 am ET
While the Threat Assessment does not specifically mention Antifa, it warns of anti-government groups who could commit violence under the guise of protests. Last May, a suspected member of the Boogaloo, a right-wing movement seeking a second civil war, shot and killed a member of the Federal Protection Service during protests in Oakland, California. Mr. Trump accused “the left for killing.
The report also warns that extremist groups could be incited to attack due to restrictions to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
“We remain particularly concerned about the impact of Covid-19, which could motivate anti-government and anti-authority violent extremists to launch attacks in response to alleged violations of freedoms and government overreach,” the report said.
It also revealed that the ministry was preparing for an increase in migration to the southwestern border. Homeland Security analysts warned that easing coronavirus restrictions could lead to an increase in border crossings by land and sea.
The ministry has spearheaded the pandemic, where a public health emergency was used to seal the border for migrants and most swiftly returned to Mexico or other countries without offering to review their asylum applications.
In an interview with CBS published on Monday, Mr. Wolf defended the assessment, noting that the threat from Russia had been mentioned several times. But he also claimed that “the long-term strategic threat to Americans, the homeland and our way of life would be the threat posed by China,” a position that echoes Trump’s. Mr Wolf has been criticized for refusing to highlight the threat from Russia, but rather to put it on the same level as Iran and China.
In the report, analysts described China taking advantage of the lack of critical supplies, perpetrating intellectual property theft and running disinformation campaigns online. In terms of election meddling, China and Iran have largely targeted Mr Trump, but intelligence officers have said Russia poses a more serious short-term threat.
Javed Ali, a former senior director of the National Security Council under Trump, said the assessment of the homeland threat was reassuring “given the significant politicization that has taken place in the Department of Homeland Security”.
“It was good to see the HTA take a more objective, impartial, and analytical perspective in cataloging the top threats to the home country,” said Ali, referring to the assessment.