Saturday, May 2, 2009

DHS: The Keystone Cops strike again...

Now we are discovering that the infamous DHS report on rightwing extremism was preceded by an equally dismal product (which DHS top brass actually recalled before it was leaked) titled Domestic Extremism Lexicon.

This is not so much a report, as a handy-dandy glossary for law enforcement officials to know what to call the different varieties of dangerous violent extremists.

In it, you get defintions of animal-rights extremists, anti-abortion extremists, black separatist extremists, yada yada yada.

First, I could have reduced the content of this report to one sentence:

Any group which advocates or conducts violent acts in pursuit of its political/ideological goals may be characterized as extremist.

But that would be too easy. Instead, the report goes into detail that would often be amusing if it were not potentially alarming.

Take the definition of Racist skinheads:

(U//FOUO) Groups or individuals who combine white supremacist ideology with a skinhead ethos in which “white power” music plays a central role. Dress may include a shaved head or very short hair, jeans, thin suspenders, combat boots or Doc Martens, a bomber jacket (sometimes with racist symbols), and tattoos of Nazi-like emblems. Some are abandoning these stereotypical identifiers.


To be honest, the first thing I thought upon reading this description is that I really hope WPHT talk-radio host Michael Smerconish (who shaves his head) does not wear jeans or Doc Martens.

Then I thought, this is really useful, because it essentially says, skinheads dress this way, except when they don't.

It can be argued that this report indicates that DHS is not targeting rightwing extremists for political reasons, and there is some merit to that interpretation.

On the other hand, what really bothers me about this report is that it is amateurish and virtually useless to law enforcement agencies. It contains no group names, no web links to other sources, no indication of geographic areas of operation, no estimates of numbers ... nothing of conceivable practial use.

Want to know the truth? If DHS had simply out-sourced reportage on violent extremism to the Southern Poverty Law Center, it would have saved money and provided law enforcement with an actual, useable intelligence reference.

The disquieting truth is that the creation of DHS was a gigantic mistake. Violent extremism (whether domestic or Islamic) is decentralized, opportunistic, tactically flexible, and has a face that is constantly changing.

So what did we do to combat it? We created the largest bureaucracy in American history, centralized law enforcement authority, and staffed the department itself with hacks and cast-offs from the Departments of Justice, Labor, FEMA, etc.

Let me be clear: this is a problem that the Obama administration and Security Czar Napolitano have inherited rather than created, but there is no reasonable expectation that we will see major structural changes to DHS.

And if the recently released reports are any indicator of the overall quality of work at our primary homeland security agency, government has once again lived down to my expectations.

2 comments:

Delaware Watch said...

"Dress may include a shaved head or very short hair, jeans, thin suspenders, combat boots or Doc Martens, a bomber jacket (sometimes with racist symbols), and tattoos of Nazi-like emblems."

Sounds like a dress code (what not to wear" for high school.

"Some are abandoning these stereotypical identifiers."

This is ominous. So not only is anyone sporting the above attire suspect, so is potentially anyone who doesn't.

We are all potential suspects now.

G Rex said...

I see a skinhead right now! That's weird, he's smoking a pipe.

"Dress may include a shaved head or very short hair, jeans, thin suspenders, combat boots or Doc Martens, a bomber jacket..."

Funny thing is that's exactly how I dressed in college, even in my National Security Policy Studies class.