by Bob Barr
In the aftermath of the Taliban’s victory over the U.S.-backed Afghan government and military and as the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks is close upon us, one would think that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) might be more worried about Islamic extremist attacks than about COVID lockdown opponents and critics of Biden’s 2020 election victory. Not so.
According to a DHS National Terrorism Advisory System Bulletin that is effective until Nov. 11, extremists who “may seek to exploit the emergence of COVID-19 variants by viewing the potential re-establishment of public health restrictions across the United States as a rationale to conduct attacks” are a significant terror threat. The department also warned of “calls for violence on multiple online platforms associated with … perceived election fraud and alleged reinstatement.”
According to this analysis, “racially- or ethnically-motivated violent extremists (RMVEs)” and other “anti-government” and “anti-authority” extremists are some of the nation’s top terrorism threats at this time.
While DHS also considers “foreign terrorist organizations” a potential threat, it appears to be lower priority than threats posed by domestic extremist groups that are ideologically motivated and prone to “conspiracy theories.” DHS reaches this conclusion despite, in its own words, there being “no credible or imminent threats identified.”
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley belatedly seems to have realized and spoken about the danger that “terrorist groups” will “reconstitute” in Afghanistan, but his conclusion seems not to have registered meaningfully with the head of the Homeland Security Department, Alejandro Mayorkas. A review of the DHS website’s public information releases in the days since the fall of Kabul reflects little such concern.
The Department’s press releases instead focus on political matters such as Mayorkas’ meetings with families that reportedly were reunited after having been “separated under the previous administration’s “Zero-Tolerance policy.”
The closest that DHS appears to have come to recognize the dangers posed by the crisis in Afghanistan (at least as reflected in its public statements) are phone calls between the secretary and several of his foreign government counterparts, in which they agreed on the importance of cooperating in any efforts to secure passage out of Afghanistan of their respective national citizens and refugees.
The Department of Homeland Security continues to target domestic “extremists” such as those the Department has concluded are poised to commit violent acts of terrorism because they disagree with government-mandated COVID restrictions. This policy, which focuses resources not so much on foreign adversaries as on domestic, reflects a troubling perspective found throughout this administration, including the Defense Department and the FBI.
It is this mindset that led Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin to declare an armed forces-wide “stand down” earlier this year. This highly unusual measure was not mandated to ensure military readiness to meet external threats such as those posed by China, Iran, the Taliban and others. Instead, the stand down was designed to weed out “white extremism” and “racism” perceived by this administration to be deeply embedded in our armed forces.
It is this mindset also that has led the FBI and the Justice Department to continue a massive investigative and prosecutorial drive against virtually anyone who entered the U.S. Capitol building during the demonstrations last Jan. 6. As part of this vindictive effort, the government has demanded that judges deny bail to demonstrators even in the absence of evidence that they engaged in violent acts.
Perhaps if this administration had expended a bit of the energy it devotes to running down individuals who disagree with mask and vaccination mandates, or to ferreting out individuals who may disagree with the priorities reflected in recent Army and CIA recruitment videos stressing adherence to the LGBTQ movement, then maybe, just maybe, our nation would be better prepared to prevent and defend against real national security threats such as a Taliban takeover in Afghanistan.
Bob Barr represented Georgia’s Seventh District in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 to 2003. He served as the United States Attorney in Atlanta from 1986 to 1990 and was an official with the CIA in the 1970s. He now practices law in Atlanta, Georgia and serves as head of Liberty Guard.