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“Surprise! Another Christian Terrorist”: We Need To Understand That Terrorism Is Not Just A Muslim Thing

A Muslim American man carrying a duffel bag that holds six homemade explosives, a machete, and poison spray travels to a major U.S. airport. The man enters the airport, approaches the TSA security checkpoint, and then sprays two TSA officers with the poison. He then grabs his machete and chases another TSA officer with it.

This Muslim man is then shot and killed by the police. After the incident, a search of the attacker’s car by the police reveals it contained acetylene and oxygen tanks, two substances that, when mixed together, will yield a powerful explosive.

If this scenario occurred, there’s zero doubt that this would be called a terrorist attack. Zero. It would make headlines across the country and world, and we would see wall-to-wall cable news coverage for days. And, of course, certain right-wing media outlets, many conservative politicians, and Bill Maher would use this event as another excuse to stoke the flames of hate toward Muslims.

Well, last Friday night, this exact event took place at the New Orleans airport—that is, except for one factual difference: The attacker was not Muslim. Consequently, you might be reading about this brazen assault for the first time here, although this incident did receive a smattering of media coverage over the weekend.

The man who commited this attack was Richard White, a 63-year-old former Army serviceman who has long been retired and living on Social Security and disability checks. He was reportedly a devout Jehovah’s Witness.

Given the facts that a man armed with explosives and weapons traveled to an airport and only attacked federal officers, you would think that the word “terrorism” would at least come up as a possibility, right?  But it’s not even mentioned.

Instead, law enforcement was quick to chalk this incident up to the attacker’s alleged “mental health issues.” That was pretty amazing police work considering this conclusion came within hours of the attack. There was no mention by police that they had even explored whether White had issues with the federal government stemming from his military service, if there was any evidence he held anti-government views, etc.

Perhaps Mr. White truly was mentally ill. Interviews with his neighbors, however, don’t even give us a hint that he had mental problems. Rather they described White as a “meek” and “kind” man who a few had spoken to just days before the incident and everything seemed fine. You would think these neighbors would at least note that White had a history of mental illness if it was so apparent.

Now I’m not saying definitively that I believe Mr. White was a terrorist. My point is twofold. One is that if White had been a Muslim, the investigation into his motivation by the media and maybe even the police would have essentially been over once his faith had been ascertained. If a Muslim does anything wrong, it’s assumed to be terrorism. (Apparently we Muslims can’t be mentally ill.)

In contrast, when a non-Muslim engages in a violent attack, even on federal government employees, law enforcement and the media immediately look to the person’s mental history, not possible terrorist motivations.

No wonder so many parrot the line, “Not all Muslims are terrorists, but all terrorists are Muslims.” When the press uses the word terrorism only in connection with the actions of Muslims, the average person would assume that’s the case. However, as I have written about before, in recent years overwhelmingly the terrorist attacks in United States and Europe have been committed by non-Muslims.

My second point is that this could have in fact been an act of terrorism. White clearly targeted only the TSA officers. He didn’t assault others in the airport, such as the passengers waiting on line at the security checkpoint. And for those unfamiliar, there has been a great deal of animus directed at the TSA by some conservatives and libertarians. Simply Google the words “stop the TSA” and you will see pages of articles denouncing the TSA as an organization hell bent on depriving Americans of our liberty.

For example, Alex Jones’ Infowars website is filled with anti-TSA articles claiming that the TSA’s goal is not to prevent terrorism but to “harass” travelers and get into “our pants.” Glen Beck warned in the pasthat the TSA was potentially becoming President Obama’s “private army” with the goal being to take away our liberties.

And in 2012, Senator Rand Paul lashed out against the TSA for what he viewed as the agency’s improper treatment of him. In fact after the incident, Paul penned an op-ed denouncing the TSA, writing that “it is infuriating that this agency feels entitled to revoke our civil liberties while doing little to keep us safe.”

Even more alarmingly, the attacks on the TSA have not been limited to words. In October 2012, Paul Ciancia traveled to LAX, where he took out a rifle from his bag and shot two TSA officers, killing one. Ciancia had written anti-government tracts in the past and was—to little media fanfare—actually charged months later with an act of terrorism.

Given this climate, how can the police not even mention that they investigated the possibility of terrorism and ruled it out? I spoke with Colonel John Fortunato, the spokesperson for Jefferson County Sherriff’s Office, which is the agency in charge of the investigation. Fortunato explained that due to state law, they couldn’t release any additional information regarding White’s mental illness or reveal information regarding any treatment he may or may not have undergone.

When I asked Fortunato if they had investigated White’s digital footprint to ascertain whether he had visited any anti-government websites or had searched his residence to see if he possessed an anti-government literature or made or written anti-government statements, he gave me what sounded like a boiler plate response that the investigation has revealed no affiliation to any outside groups. Fortunato expressed his confidence that White had acted alone and that no ties to any terror groups. But he added that we will never truly know what motivated White given he died before being questioned.

But part of me actually believes that there are some in the media and law enforcement who prefer to use the term terrorism only when it applies to a Muslim.

Why? Because it’s easy to do. Muslims are viewed by many as the “other,” not as fellow Americans. But discussing domestic terrorism carried out by fellow Americans is at best, uncomfortable, and at worst, undermines the narrative that some in our country have a vested interest in advancing.

I’m not sure what will change this mindset, but if we want to truly keep Americans safe, law enforcement and the media need to understand that terrorism is not just a Muslim thing.


By: Dean Obeidallah, The Daily Beast, March 24, 2015

March 25, 2015 Posted by | Homeland Security, Muslims, Terrorism | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Whose Security?”: The GOP Is Playing Games With The Department Of Homeland Security’s Funding In Order To Placate Its Extremists

The Republicans are railing against President Barack Obama for not having a high level U.S. official marching in solidarity with the French this past weekend. OK, that was a mistake on Obama’s part, but this from the Republican crowd that was so anti-France it wanted to change the name of “French fries” in the House of Representatives cafeteria to “Freedom fries”? This from the crowd who will vote tomorrow to approve a Homeland Security Bill totaling $39.7 billion only if it guts our immigration system and refuses to fund the Dream Act, deporting hundreds of thousands of children as well as parents? This from the Republicans who refused to act for a year and a half on a bipartisan Senate bill on immigration that passed with over two-thirds of the vote?

Does Speaker John Boehner really want to put in jeopardy the funding for Homeland Security, especially after the attacks in France and the raised threat level? I doubt it. But the speaker needs to throw his sizable right-wing caucus a bone and let them vote to defund Obama’s immigration plans. He then prays that the Senate saves him, doesn’t pass this absurd piece of legislation, so then they can end up passing a clean bill funding Homeland Security before the end of February when funding runs out. Or if the president is forced to veto the bill, he figures that somehow some fig leaf can be created to allow him to basically bring up a clean funding bill.

This strategy, negotiated with the extremist members of the House of Representatives, was lunacy in December; it is akin to a Kamikaze mission for Republicans now.

In fact, it is a double whammy. It convinces voters that Republicans are the anti-Hispanic and anti-immigrant party, and that they are more than willing to sacrifice our nation’s security to prove how intolerant they are as a party.

My guess is that the reason Boehner wants a vote on Wednesday is to get it out of the way, to give the extremists their say and then avoid a last minute crisis over Homeland Security funding. One day of a “shutdown” of those critical agencies is one day too many.

It will be interesting to see how many of these strategic blunders the Republicans make over the course of the next two years. The House, of course, can pass whatever it wants, but if the GOP puts forth bills as unrealistic and unhelpful as this effort, it will certainly pay the price at the ballot box. It will be their own job security that will be put in peril.


By: Peter Fenn, U. S. News and World Report, January 13, 2015

January 15, 2015 Posted by | Homeland Security, House Republicans, Immigration | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“An Abundance Of Rhetoric, A Dearth Of Solutions”: After A Prolonged Lack Of Use, GOP Policymaking Muscle Has Atrophied

Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), chairman of the House Homeland Security committee, argued yesterday that “some” of the unattended minors from Central America he saw “looked more like a threat to coming into the United States.” How could he tell? McCaul didn’t say.

Soon after, Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) argued in support of sending the National Guard to the border. Asked what good Guard troops could under the circumstances, Perry couldn’t say. (In fact, he seemed confused by the question.)

A variety of congressional Republicans have now balked at President Obama’s appeal for emergency resource, insisting the package costs “too much.” What’s the GOP’s alternative response? What’s the proper amount of spending? They wouldn’t say.

Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, is among many far-right lawmakers condemning the White House for not deporting Dream Act kids. Why are Republicans focusing so heavily on a policy unrelated to the humanitarian crisis at the border? They haven’t said.

To be sure, this is an incredibly difficult crisis to resolve. Anyone who suggests there’s an easy, quick fix to this is kidding themselves. But as is too often the case, congressional Republicans – folks who were elected to help shape federal law – appear to be sitting out the substantive debate altogether. GOP lawmakers have decided what’s really needed right now is incessant complaining – and little else. Danny Vinik added:

If Republicans object to this request, what exactly do they propose instead? How should we move through the huge backload of cases? Where should we hold the unaccompanied minors in the meantime? And how should we pay to transport them to their home countries?

It’s not that Republicans have poor responses to these questions; it’s that they’re not even trying to answer them.

The post-policy GOP knows what it doesn’t like – the president and his policies – but seems to have forgotten that a governing party, or at least a party that maintains the pretense that governing matters, cannot simply boo from the sidelines.

In some cases, they’re hardly making any effort at all. For example, Goodlatte late last week published an item for Breitbart, with some specific recommendations.

Send the strong, public message that those who enter illegally will be returned. President Obama needs to use his bully-pulpit to send the clear message that those who are seeking to enter the U.S. illegally will be returned to their home countries and that subjecting children to the perilous trek northward to our southern border will no longer be tolerated.

This sounds like sensible advice, right up until one realizes that the president has already done this, and asked for resources from Congress for an advertising campaign in countries like Honduras and El Salvador to reach an even larger Central American audience. Putting aside the question of why the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee is writing pieces for Breitbart, why doesn’t Goodlatte know that Obama’s already done what he’s asking the president to do?

It’s easy to get the impression that congressional Republicans’ policymaking muscle has atrophied after a prolonged lack of use. GOP lawmakers have failed to work on public policy for so long, doing so little substantive work in recent memory, that they seem wholly unprepared to act with any sense of purpose now.

Their complain-first instinct obviously remains intact, but a challenge this complex will need more than whining politicians. There’s real work to be done – the sooner the better – and it’s well past time for congressional Republicans to pick up their game. They’re outraged by the crisis at the border? Good. Now they can get to work doing something about it.


By; Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, July 14, 2014

July 14, 2014 Posted by | Border Crisis, GOP, Homeland Security | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“And Get Off My Lawn!”: John McCain And The Case Of Mistaken Identity

If you’ve ever watched a congressional hearing featuring Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in a bad mood, you know the Arizona Republican can get pretty quarrelsome with witnesses who annoy him in some way.

Take today, for example.

During a Senate Homeland Security Committee hearing on the ongoing border crisis, McCain was outraged by a recent memo saying visitors to detention facilities had to check cell phones with cameras. The senator, outraged, demanded that Thomas Winkowski, a Deputy Assistant Secretary for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, explain himself (thanks to my colleague Nazanin Rafsanjani for the heads-up).

McCAIN: Mr. Winkowski, I’ve been representing the state of Arizona for many years and I’ve never seen anything like your instructions to signed by your name, ‘interim protocol for visitations and tours to CBP detention facilities.’ Are you telling me, when I visit a detention facility that I can’t bring a cellphone with me? Are you saying that?  A United States Senator visiting a facility. These are the instructions that you have signed. Is that what you’re saying?

WINKOWSKI: That the visitors can’t bring cell…?

McCAIN: Visiting congressional deleg, uh, member of Congress.

WINKOWSKI: I don’t recall saying that. What I recall….

McCAIN: Let me provide you with a copy. It says see distribution. R. Gil Kerlikowske, Commissioner interim, protocol for visitations and tours to CBP detention facilities. You didn’t see your own memo?

You might have noticed the problem. R. Gil Kerlikowske wrote the memo. McCain was yelling at Thomas Winkowski.

For the record, R. Gil Kerlikowske and Thomas Winkowski are not the same person. Their names may rhyme, but I’m afraid that doesn’t much matter. Senators in high dudgeon should probably get these details right before upbraiding a witness publicly.

In any case, R. Gil Kerlikowske was sitting next to Thomas Winkowski, and so McCain’s bellicose line of questioning continued after the identity question was straightened out.

McCAIN: Am I allowed to bring a cell phone with me when I go onto a facility in Nogales Arizona?

KERLIKOWSKE: Not to take photographs senator.

McCAIN: I am not allowed to take photographs? Why not? Why not? Why am I not allowed to do that?

KERLIKOWSKE: That children have a right to privacy and that’s why we’re not having their faces shown…

McCAIN: I may want to take a photo of something else!

Kerlikowske, the commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, stayed admirably calm in the face of McCain’s angry questions, patiently trying to explain the rationale for the current policy. Officials are trying to look out for the children’s privacy, so they’re not allowing people to bring cameras into facilities.

If McCain wants to take pictures of something else, Customs and Border Protection officials will arrange to let him take pictures of whatever he wants. If McCain wants to talk to people at the facilities, Customs and Border Protection officials will arrange conversations with whomever McCain wishes to meet.

That, apparently, wasn’t quite good enough for McCain, who demanded a new memo.

The moral of the story, apparently, is that the senior senator from Arizona really loves his cell phone.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, July 9, 2014

July 10, 2014 Posted by | Homeland Security, John McCain | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Beware Extremists In The U.S.”: The Continued Danger We Face From Individuals Within Our Own Borders

Janet Napolitano was right.

Five years ago, the office of the then-secretary of the Department of Homeland Security released an assessment on right-wing extremism titled “Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment.” Under key findings, the report said DHS “has no specific information that domestic right-wing terrorists are currently planning acts of violence, but right-wing extremists may be gaining new recruits by playing on their fears about several emergent issues.” The election of the nation’s first African American president and the economic downturn were cited as “unique drivers for right-wing radicalization and recruitment.”

Critics pounced on a footnote that defined right-wing extremism as “those groups, movements, and adherents that are primarily hate-oriented (based on hatred of particular religious, racial, or ethnic groups), and those that are mainly antigovernment, rejecting federal authority in favor of state or local authority, or rejecting government authority entirely. It may include groups and individuals that are dedicated to a single issue, such as opposition to abortion or immigration.”

Unfortunately, much of the value of the advisory was lost in a political debate over that definition and the propriety of a warning that troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan were at risk of terror recruitment. Timothy McVeigh, the Gulf War veteran convicted of killing 168 people in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, was cited as an example. Veterans’ groups and members of Congress were angry, and Napolitano said she meant no disrespect to the military and wished the footnote had been written differently.

Sadly, the assessment was prescient.

In 2012, a white supremacist who had served in the military killed six at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin. In April, a white supremacist was accused of killing three people outside two Jewish facilities in Kansas. Now we have the married couple who assassinated two cops and a Walmart customer last weekend in Las Vegas. The two shot the officers while they were seated in a pizza parlor and then left behind a Gadsden (“Don’t Tread on Me”) flag and a Nazi swastika. A police spokesman said last week: “We believe that they equate government and law enforcement . . . with Nazis. . . . In other words, they believe that law enforcement is the oppressor.”

Further evidence that they are the sort envisioned by the DHS report can be found in their support of Cliven Bundy. The pair traveled to Bundy’s ranch during the April standoff with the Bureau of Land Management. Bundy’s son has been quoted as saying they were asked to leave because they were “very radical.”

The triple murder in Las Vegas was reminiscent of the execution of three police officers in Pittsburgh in 2009. The DHS report said of that attack: “The alleged gunman’s reaction reportedly was influenced by his racist ideology and belief in antigovernment conspiracy theories related to gun confiscations, citizen detention camps, and a Jewish-controlled ‘one world government.’ ”

Through a representative, Napolitano, now president of the University of California system, declined my request for a victory lap. But one week after the release of the DHS assessment, she said something that rings true today:

“Let me be very clear: We monitor the risks of violent extremism taking root here in the United States. We don’t have the luxury of focusing our efforts on one group; we must protect the country from terrorism whether foreign or homegrown, and regardless of the ideology that motivates its violence.”

In the 1960s, when the threat of domestic terrorism came from the left, groups such as the Weather Underground were subject to federal investigation. Today, with similar risks coming from the far right, law enforcement would be derelict in not monitoring the activities of those who talk of revolution.

Partisans torpedoed consideration of the DHS assessment on right-wing extremism, notwithstanding that just three months prior, a similar warning was published by the same authors pertaining to left-wing extremists and cyberattacks.

Two weeks ago, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that he was reassembling a task force on domestic terrorism that had been defunct since 9/11, when attention was necessitated elsewhere. Holder noted the need to “concern ourselves with the continued danger we face from individuals within our own borders who may be motivated by a variety of other causes, from antigovernment animus to racial prejudice.”

Holder is properly following in Napolitano’s footsteps. Anything less would be a victory for political correctness. While the PC label is usually hurled from the right, it fits any time otherwise appropriate behavior is curtailed out of fear of contemporary reaction. With regard to political extremism, when we fail to investigate risk because of unfounded public response, we are yielding to PC forces and jeopardizing lives.


By: Michael Smerconish, Columnist, The Philadelphia Inquirer, June 15, 2014

June 16, 2014 Posted by | Domestic Terrorism, Homeland Security | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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