A Homeland Security Department analyst and a 2009 report he helped produce on right-wing extremism is receiving increased attention after Wade Michael Page, a 40-year-old white supremacist and military veteran, shot and killed six worshipers and wounded others, including a police officer, at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin.
Daryl Johnson worked for the Homeland Security Department and put together a report that was leaked to a “conservative radio shock jock” in southern California named Roger Hedgecock. The report, “Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment,” which the shock jock made public in 2009, set off a conservative media frenzy. Media pundits thought the report was alleging conservative groups were populated by “terrorists.” The Homeland Security Department wound up repudiating the report in order to get the ruckus to die down.
Appearing on “Democracy Now!” this morning, he described his unit, which was looking at white supremacy and neo-Nazi groups, experienced retaliation after the right created such a brouhaha:
What happened was quite shocking actually. I never anticipated that the Department of Homeland Security, my employer, would actually clamp down on the unit and stop all of the valuable work we were doing. Leading up to this report, and I will talk about this at length in my book, my team was doing a lot of good things throughout the country. We received numerous accolades from law enforcement, intelligence officials, talking about the great work we were doing in the fight against domestic terrorism. Then in lieu of the political backlash, the department decided to not only stop all of our work, stop all of the training and briefings that we were scheduled to give; but they also disbanded the unit, reassigned us to other areas within the office and then made life increasingly difficult for us. Not only did they stop the work that we were doing, but they also tried to blame us for some of the attacks that were occurring.
The work climate was so oppressive—”They just made it a very difficult environment for me to continue working there”—that he left the department to start his own consulting company.
Johnson and his unit “over a period of over a year, collected a massive amount of data.” It included Internet research and FBI and law enforcement information. A report began to be drafted around the time that Janet Napolitano became Secretary of Homeland Security. Then, Napolitano “wanted to know what was an extremist, what are they doing, what groups were out there that we were concerned about.” She also was curious about whether there had been a ”rise in right wing extremism and whether it was a result of the election of an African-American president” and what we were going to do about it.” These questions were answered in the report.
He does not give himself this label, but essentially Johnson is another good government employee who blew the whistle on something going on in the country and then was made to pay for doing his job.
It is also worth noting, given the coverage that this blog does of leaks and whistleblowing issues, that Johnson says this report was never meant to be “disclosed publicly.” He says an “anonymous person,” who “didn’t agree with its findings” sent the report to the shock jock. This was clearly aimed at undermining the monitoring of right wing extremist groups and yet there does not appear to be any indication that the “anonymous person” has been held accountable for an act that essentially wound up having a sabotage effect on the Homeland Security Department. And the Homeland Security Department chose to come down on the people doing research on right wing extremists instead of the person responsible for the disclosure.
Since the report was disclosed, Wired recaps:
…the Witchita, Kansas, abortion doctor, George Teller, was assassinated. A security guard was killed when a gunman with neo-Nazi ties went on a shooting spree at the U.S. Holocaust Museum, the FBI arrested members of a Florida neo-Nazi outfit tied to drug dealing and motorcycle gangs, a man was charged with attempting to detonate a weapon of mass destruction at a Spokane, Washington, march commemorating Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday and several mosques around the country have been vandalized or attacked, including a Missouri mosque that burned to the ground on Monday, which had been attacked before…
Johnson says in the interview he knew the shooter was probably “a white supremacist who may have had military background.” He thought when he heard news reports the it was a “hate motivated crime.”
He does not work for the Homeland Security Department anymore. And all the Homeland Security Department can do is try to cover themselves by issuing vapid and innocuous statements like, “The Department of Homeland Security protects our country from all threats, whether foreign or homegrown, and regardless of the ideology that motivates its violence. We face a threat environment where violent extremism is neither constrained by international borders, nor limited to any single ideology,” and, “DHS continues to work with its state, local, tribal, territorial and private partners to prevent and protect against potential threats to the United States by focusing on preventing violence that is motivated by extreme ideological beliefs.”
Obviously, they don’t protect the Homeland. Page shot and killed six people at the Sikh temple on Sunday. Millions are spent by the FBI on preemptive actions against so-called anarchists, Muslims and grassroots antiwar activists and yet a man, whose ideology and music promoted violence, was never intercepted or closely tracked.
Should Homeland Security have operations that are designed to catch every single person who may ever think to commit some heinous or violent act against America, and should Americans expect Homeland Security, or any other agency for that matter, to have this capability and work toward it? No, that is an unreasonable expectation. However, one can hope for a government that is run by people who do not come down on employees whose work leads to unwanted controversy.