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No more hiding in plain sight for domestic extremists and white supremacists

No more hiding in plain sight for domestic extremists and white supremacists
© Julia Nikhinson

Over the last four years, it has become more apparent than ever that the United States is at war with itself. 

Issues of politics, government and policing have recently served as the main drivers in bringing out the ugliest sides of this country and in the process, have lifted the curtain on certain groups that have been allowed to operate openly and unencumbered in communities around the country. 

They recruit, train and hold rallies under the protections of the First and Second Amendments, yet these groups would enjoy nothing more than to cause the United States to erupt into another civil war and watch it implode.

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According to the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI, domestic violent extremism and white supremacy currently represents the greatest threat to this country. Militia groups with catchy names like the Three Percenters, the Oath Keepers, the Light Foot Militia, the Civilian Defense Force, the American Contingency, the Proud Boys and the Boogaloo Bois embody racist and anti-government beliefs that have been amplified by COVID-19 restrictions, the presidential election and protests associated with police shootings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor during the summer. Notably, the Proud Boys have been a persistent presence and threat in the Washington, D.C. area, including in the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.

In response to the Capitol insurrection and the demonstrable threat that these groups and others continue to pose to the country, the days of hiding in plain sight are over. The FBI has already conducted operations and made arrests against the leadership of the Proud Boys and the net will continue to tighten around those that are associated with these groups and the insurrection. 

With lawmakers calling for white supremacy to be declared a national security threat, the Biden administration will most certainly be inclined to give the FBI the additional resources that they need to combat the overall domestic violent extremism threat, including that of white supremacy.

We have all witnessed the problem of domestic violent extremism and white supremacy unveil itself publicly over the past several years. From the large protests by right wing extremists in Charlottesville, Va., the elaborate plot to kidnap the sitting governor of Michigan by a far-right militia group, social media anti-government rhetoric, threats against state capitol buildings across the country and the ultimate insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

There is no shortage of these groups. The Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project and MilitiaWatch have recently tracked the activities of over 80 militias across the U.S., the vast majority of which are right-wing, armed groups. Many of these groups are nationwide, however they are typically broken down by state or region.

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As seen on Jan. 6, the cross section of the American public that participated in the insurrection is reason to be concerned and will be a challenge for organizations to proactively identify and eradicate. Arrest records show current and former members of the military, law enforcement, business owners, CEO’s, retirees, and a host of other backgrounds amongst those who turned on their country that day.

Concerns within the military reportedly caused additional background checks of approximately 25,000 national guard troops assigned to the inauguration to be conducted to look for signs of domestic violent extremism and association to known militia groups. Further, the new Secretary of Defense Lloyd AustinLloyd AustinBiden nominates female generals whose promotions were reportedly delayed under Trump Sunday shows: Manchin in the spotlight after pivotal role in coronavirus aid debate Pentagon chief: Response to rocket attack in Iraq will be 'thoughtful' and 'appropriate' MORE has ordered a pause across the U.S. military to address extremism within its ranks.

Unfortunately, the Pentagon’s inquiry will likely demonstrate that a significant problem does in fact exist. If we look at the problem as a cross section of the American public, which I suggest we do, then the problem within our own government will be by no means limited to the Department of Defense. 

Our country needs to determine the size and scope of the problem urgently in order to put forth viable solutions. Federal, state and local governments should follow DoD’s lead to determine the extent of the problem within their own organizations. This is a clear and present danger to the U.S. and directly conflicts with the sworn oath that those in government have taken to protect the country against enemies, both foreign and domestic. 

We must remain a nation of laws for our democracy to exist and function. Those who choose to align themselves to the ideology of dividing and destroying the U.S. from the inside must be held accountable. Those who plot and act out should be faced with the reality of vigorous prosecution that matches the crime and serves as an effective deterrent. The FBI must be given the tools to handle this urgent task, to include the creation of a domestic terrorism statute to enforce by Congress.

Let’s remember, there are not ‘very fine people on both sides’ of this issue — There is right and there is wrong.  

Charles Marino is the CEO of Sentinel Security Solutions, a global security and crisis management firm. He previously served as a supervisory special agent with the U.S. Secret Service and as the senior law enforcement advisor to DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano. He oversaw the implementation of the National Terrorism Advisory System for DHS and appears regularly as an analyst on major cable news networks. Charles is a graduate of the National War College in D.C. and holds a masters degree in national security strategy.