A three-day White House summit on violent extremism wrapped up Thursday, with President Obama focusing primarily on the threat of Islamist terrorism. However, the Department of Homeland Security is less concerned with ISIS, and more afraid of the extremism being bred at home.
CNN detailed a DHS report on domestic extremism, namely from “right-wing sovereign citizen extremists,” or people who think their individual rights are under threat and respond with violent attacks against law enforcement.
These attacks have been well publicized. There have been 24 since 2010, like the father and son shootout with police in Louisiana, or the 2013 shooting on three Transportation Security Administration officials at the Los Angeles International Airport. Or the incident just last year, when two cops and a bystander were shot dead in a Walmart in Las Vegas.
In its intelligence report, DHS said it doesn’t expect these domestic extremism attacks to ease up. Local police will encounter them during routine visits at a suspect’s house, traffic stops or in government offices.
“[L]aw enforcement officers will remain the primary target of (sovereign citizen) violence over the next year due to their role in physically enforcing laws and regulations.”
Those law enforcement officials name homegrown extremism as more threatening than ISIS and other foreign terror groups. And their numbers are staggering: It’s possible 300,000 people in the U.S. belong to one these extremism groups, said Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center.
So what is fueling domestic extremism? According to the report, it’s usually a response to the recession. People who’ve fallen on hard times are flocking to these sovereign citizen groups, who purport to help them keep their homes or pay off their debt by ignoring bankruptcy laws and denying the courts’ authority.
But the White House conference didn’t talk about domestic extremism that much, though administration officials said President Obama is concerned about all extremism, at home and abroad. And it’s possible the tactics being discussed to combat Islamist extremism can be used against domestic threats.
The cause of extremism in other countries isn’t much different than what drives it stateside: People aren’t “happy with the establishment,” said a foreign minister of Jordan. ISIS, for example, is a “rallying point for the disaffected,” added the Times. Obama named the tactic to combat such extremism Thursday, as his summit wrapped up: Expanding human rights, religious, tolerance and communication, the New York Times reported.
“When people spew hatred toward others because of their faith or because they’re immigrants, it feeds into terrorist narratives. It feeds a cycle of fear and resentment and a sense of injustice upon which extremists prey. And we can’t allow cycles of suspicion to tear the fabrics of our countries.”
[Photo Courtesy Whitehouse.gov screengrab]