Biden issued a curious domestic terrorism strategy — the FBI should proceed with caution

Biden issued a curious domestic terrorism strategy — the FBI should proceed with caution
© getty: President Biden

President BidenJoe BidenGOP eyes booting Democrats from seats if House flips Five House members meet with Taiwanese president despite Chinese objections Sunday shows preview: New COVID-19 variant emerges; supply chain issues and inflation persist MORE’s National Security Council this month issued a “National Strategy for Countering Domestic Terrorism.” It is worth a read. Parts of the strategy are commendable, but there is a lot to be concerned about as well. It should be more accurately titled a “National Strategy for Countering a Certain Kind of Domestic Terrorism.”

Every presidential administration sets policy that aligns with a political agenda, but this document is stunning in its narrow, singular focus on one strain of domestic terror and complete avoidance of other violent extremists whose political motivations may align more closely with goals of the left. 

The FBI, which has primary responsibility for investigating domestic terrorism, decided long ago to remove ideological motivators of terrorism from considerations of effort levels and prioritization, and to focus instead solely on the violent acts alone, no matter who is committing them. This is prudent policy, based on constitutional principles, that deserves continued observance.

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The Biden strategy rightfully calls out domestic violent terrorists animated by racist and virulent anti-government sentiments. They deserve aggressive law enforcement investigation and ultimate justice. But nary a word of concern is expressed in the strategy document about other domestic violent actors — motivated, for example, by environmental extremism or the months of violence inflicted on American cities by antifa and other extremists.  

This crushes the credibility of the new national strategy, since it exclusively focuses on one flavor of domestic terror that doesn’t offend the president’s base. Therefore, it’s not a true law enforcement strategy; it is more of a partisan political polemic.

The document also wanders down a path of constitutional peril that sets off alarm bells in many quarters. Not satisfied with simply stamping out violence driven by white supremacy and anti-government motivators, it seeks to foster a whole-of-society reeducation effort to make sure these sentiments can’t take root in the citizenry. 

“We must tackle racism in America,” the strategy explains, by “ensuring that Americans receive … civics education that promotes tolerance and respect for all.” It continues: “The Department of Homeland Security is currently funding and implementing (efforts) to enhance media literacy and critical thinking skills … for strengthening resilience to disinformation and misinformation online.” Calling all social media giants: This is more than a dog whistle for your powerful speech control levers.

Since the strategy document doesn’t define racism or white supremacy or what constitutes anti-government sentiments, Americans are left to rely on what the administration has said in other settings to get a sense of what it considers to be the kind of racism or bigotry that could lead to violence.  

For example, the president and his Democratic Party consistently assert or agree with notions that white racism is “systemic” throughout American institutions and culture in ways that people haven’t realized until now. It’s found in the flag, statues, the national anthem, comments deemed insensitive, school grading systems, murky ideas of white privilege, personal ambition, pancake mix packages … the list goes on. In other words, the definition of racism is ever-expanding and sweeping up new thoughts and actions that, as a result, now can be justifiably “tackled” through reeducation, eradication and media censorship.  

White supremacy, according to the president, also includes any effort to legitimize and authenticate a vote cast during an election. He absurdly equated such efforts to the Jim Crow laws of our not too distant past that truly segregated and harmed Black Americans in horrific ways. 

Nowadays, white racism is supposedly behind any resistance to the teaching of the controversial critical race theory to our young. And how about this one: White supremacy, the president recently said, is “the most lethal threat to the homeland today.” Russia and China agree with him, wholeheartedly.  

Bigotry, that kissing cousin of racism, is now being redefined by the left as any effort to resist homosexual and transgender agendas by traditional, faith-based communities. The faithful are now being labeled as “haters” and, therefore by extension, deserving of resistance and censorship. 

The point being, that the national strategy’s articulation of the need to reeducate society — what it calls its “fourth pillar” of strategy — implies an expansive view, beyond combating actual violence, that must include the need to get rid of any speech and thought newly declared “racist or bigoted.”  

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In a particularly jarring statement, the strategy also asserts that certain “narratives” about possible fraud in the 2020 presidential election, the Jan. 6 Capitol breach, and conditions related to the COVID-19 pandemic will “almost certainly” spur domestic terrorism this year. The breathtaking implication is that these narratives must be stopped and that certain questions shouldn’t be asked lest they tempt others to violence. The strategy worries more about speculative violence than actual violence burning in American cities.  

Bottom line: This strategy is mostly a vehicle to provide the president and his party the urgent justification to eliminate opposition to their particular political agenda.

This is where the FBI must be careful as it tries to emerge from a terrible, trust-damaging period in which partisans at the top of the bureau misused FBI powers for political reasons. As presidential administrations come and go, the FBI must resist pressure to act aggressively against certain violent actors while downplaying others in order to sail along on current political winds. 

In the 1980s, the FBI, under then-director William Webster, set policy that purposefully focused terrorism investigations on the criminality of violent acts and not what motivates them. This wise policy allowed the FBI to follow violence wherever it was found, freed from the influences of powerful interest groups. It allowed Lady Liberty to remain blindfolded. The president’s new domestic terrorism strategy wants her to peek in only one direction.   

Kevin R. Brock, former assistant director of intelligence for the FBI, was an FBI special agent for 24 years and principal deputy director of the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC). He independently consults with private companies and public-safety agencies on strategic mission technologies.