DHS draft document: White supremacists are greatest terror threat
None of the DHS drafts POLITICO reviewed referred to a threat from Antifa, the loose cohort of militant left-leaning agitators who senior Trump administration officials have described as domestic terrorists.
By BETSY WOODRUFF SWAN
09/04/2020 05:45 PM EDT
White supremacists present the gravest terror threat to the United States, according to a draft report from the Department of Homeland Security.
Two later draft versions of the same document — all of which were reviewed by POLITICO — describe the threat from white supremacists in slightly different language. But all three drafts describe the threat from white supremacists as the deadliest domestic terror threat facing the U.S., listed above the immediate danger from foreign terrorist groups.
“Foreign terrorist organizations will continue to call for Homeland attacks but probably will remain constrained in their ability to direct such plots over the next year,” all three documents say.
Russia “probably will be the primary covert foreign influence actor and purveyor of disinformation and misinformation in the Homeland,” the documents also say.
Former acting DHS Sec. Kevin McAleenan last year directed the department to start producing annual homeland threat assessments. POLITICO reviewed three drafts of this year’s report — titled DHS’s State of the Homeland Threat Assessment 2020 — all of which were produced in August. Ben Wittes, the editor in chief of the national security site Lawfare, obtained the documents and shared them with POLITICO. The first such assessment has not been released publicly, and a DHS spokesperson declined to comment on “allegedly leaked documents,” and on when the document will be made public.
None of the drafts POLITICO reviewed referred to a threat from Antifa, the loose cohort of militant left-leaning agitators who senior Trump administration officials have described as domestic terrorists. Two of the drafts refer to extremists trying to exploit the “social grievances” driving lawful protests.
The cut-off date for information analyzed in the earliest draft is August 3, 2020, while the cut-off date for the next two is August 27.
John Cohen, who oversaw DHS’s counterterrorism portfolio from 2011 to 2014, said the drafts’ conclusion isn’t surprising.
“This draft document seems to be consistent with earlier intelligence reports from DHS, the FBI, and other law enforcement sources: that the most significant terror-related threat facing the US today comes from violent extremists who are motivated by white supremacy and other far-right ideological causes,” he said.
Wittes, meanwhile, said the change in language on white supremacist terrorism is significant.
“It diminishes the prominence of white supremacy relative to other domestic violent extremism, and, without being inaccurate, puts it in a basket along with other violent activity that may be more palatable for the administration to acknowledge,” he said.
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