The Biden Administration’s domestic terrorism strategy threatens to criminalize conservative speech and thought.
You Are the Bad Guy
The Administration wants to cast American patriots as villains in a tired television narrative.
There is a moment in nearly all post-9/11 thrillers that anyone of a certain generation will be familiar with. It’s the point in the third act of a TV series like 24 or Homeland, or the last mission of video game franchises like Call of Duty,where the whole conspiracy has finally unraveled and the true villain is revealed. And he (it is always a he) turns out to be not an Arab jihadist, or a Russian ultranationalist, but a self-styled American patriot.
These reveals, intended to be shocking, always came off a bit contrived. For a population which experienced an unprecedented terrorist attack within recent memory, it was like living through a real-life version of The Exorcist, only to have the televisual tastemakers divulge that Linda Blair’s character was actually Old Man Withers all along.
One cannot help but get the same sense from the Biden Administration’s recently revealed National Strategy for Countering Domestic Terrorism. We have seen this one before and the whole thing comes off…a little formulaic.
Having waged two decades of unsuccessful war against global jihadists, and suffering through a summer in which black-masked anarchists orchestrated rioting, burning, and looting of urban neighborhoods in dozens of cities, the real enemies to domestic tranquility have finally been identified. And you knew basically without looking what the general plot of the Biden Strategy was going to be.
All those who oppose the present regime are racists, and by the transitive property, all racists are terrorists.
The Biden Strategy had already been widely foreshadowed by surrogates, including think tank types, journalists, and intelligence officials before its release, promising a massive, whole-of-government counterinsurgency effort. They used to compare it to Afghanistan, but now that the U.S. is pulling out of that effort in ignominious surrender, they’ve had to go all the way back to Reconstruction for a successful example of an insurgency they are prepared to defeat.
The “establishing shot” in the first paragraph lets the audience know what they are about to see unfold:
Domestic terrorism is not a new threat in the United States. It has, over centuries, taken many American lives and spilled much American blood—especially in communities deliberately and viciously targeted on the basis of hatred and bigotry. After the Civil War, for example, the Ku Klux Klan waged a campaign of terror to intimidate Black voters and their white supporters and deprive them of political power, killing and injuring untold numbers of Americans. The Klan and other white supremacists continued to terrorize Black Americans and other minorities in the decades that followed. In recent years, we have seen a resurgence of this and related threats (emphasis mine).
The authors proceeded to stretch the definition of “related threats” here well beyond suspension of disbelief to include the ongoing rash of street violence against Asian Americans and against Jews, violence committed overwhelmingly by black men.
Besides seeming to contradict their premise of virulent white supremacy, the inclusion of these other interracial hostilities is curious for another reason: such attacks, while heinous, do not meet any legal definition of terrorism.
Certainly, such incidents would fall under the rubric of “hate crimes,” whereby a perpetrator’s personal animus toward an actual or perceived identity of the victim is granted as warranting stricter punishment.
But these interracial incidents lack the use of intimidation or violence to achieve a political outcome upon which the definition of terrorism is dependent. This kind of bait-and-switch runs through the whole document, where the authors purport to be talking about terrorism but are actually seeking to make fundamental changes to address societal ills.
This slippage between political terrorism and hate crime is deliberate. Call it the disparity-impact theory of counterterrorism. Violence is terrorism whenever a minority community is targeted based on “hatred and bigotry.”
The strategy’s authors continue:
Domestic terrorist attacks in the United States also have been committed frequently by those opposing our government institutions. In 1995, in the largest single act of domestic terrorism in U.S. history, an anti-government violent extremist detonated a bomb at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people—including 19 children—and injuring hundreds of others. In 2016, an anti-authority violent extremist ambushed, shot, and killed five police officers in Dallas. In 2017, a lone gunman wounded four people at a congressional baseball practice. And just months ago, on January 6, 2021, Americans witnessed an unprecedented attack against a core institution of our democracy: the U.S. Congress.
But if villains of the anti-government militia type are so prevalent over at central casting, how come the Biden Administration feels obliged to pad its account of domestic threats with a Dallas Black Lives Matter supporter or a Bernie Sanders campaign volunteer and SPLC enthusiast?
And how “anti-authority” were those terrorists actually? The BLM political cause has been the recipient of billions of dollars in U.S. corporate donations, and its political symbols are hung from U.S. embassies, while the attempted assassinations of Republican congressmembers were carried out in defense of Obamacare, the Democrat Party’s flagship political achievement.
Perhaps it is because Republican congressmen are not a community targeted for “hatred and bigotry” that the FBI originally considered that attack a “suicide by cop,” even though political assassination is explicitly defined as terrorism under federal law.
Will the Biden Administration find it difficult to insist that the “most persistent and lethal” terrorist threats are militia extremists and “those who promote the superiority of the white race” when the best examples they can come up with are a heinous attack from nearly three decades ago and two terrorist attacks on behalf of causes with which the administration is politically aligned?
Not at all. Super easy, barely an inconvenience.
All it takes is transforming a riotous election integrity protest, where the most common criminal charge amounts to little more than trespassing, into a full-on “insurrection.” The FBI and DOJ have been hard at work laying down the narrative that January 6 was an attack conducted by militia members and white supremacists. Courts are demanding defendants admit their wrong-think, confess their white privilege, and apologize for having ever questioned the legitimacy of the regime in the first place.
Questioning the regime is racism, racism is terrorism, and terrorism is a national security threat justifying a whole-of-government effort of counterinsurgency.
Having revealed their chosen villains, what does the Biden Administration intend to do about it? What are the basic outlines of this whole-of-government approach?
The strategy is organized under four pillars.
The first pillar includes bringing in outside experts who can spy on and observe the opinions of potential regime opponents in ways that the Feds can’t. The language the Strategy uses is:
The Department of Homeland Security will introduce a new systematic approach for utilizing pertinent external, non-governmental analysis and information that will provide enhanced situational awareness of today’s domestic terrorism threat.
Basically Facebook, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and various private contractors will be deputized to spy where the federal government is forbidden to look.
CNN helpfully explains:
The plan being discussed inside DHS, according to multiple sources, would, in effect, allow the department to circumvent restrictions the U.S. government has to surveil American citizens. “A source familiar with the effort said it is not about decrypting data but rather using outside entities who can legally access these private groups to gather large amounts of information that could help DHS identify key narratives as they emerge.
And which narratives? The document explains elsewhere: “narratives of fraud in the recent general election, the emboldening impact of the violent breach of the U.S. Capitol, conditions related to the COVID-19 pandemic and conspiracy theories promoting violence…” you get the idea.
Pillar two is pretty easy to understand, as it’s essentially an assault on the 1st and 2nd amendments. Or in the words of the authors:
That means reducing both supply and demand of recruitment materials by limiting widespread availability online and bolstering resilience to it by those who nonetheless encounter it, among other measures. It also means reducing access to assault weapons and high-capacity magazines and enforcing legal prohibitions that keep firearms out of dangerous hands.
Here too the Biden Administration will rely heavily on their corporate partners, namely the Big Tech platforms that can move swiftly to cancel and de-platform those who represent a potential terrorist threat (such as a certain former president).
Using the social media platforms themselves to silence speech is helpful to get around sticky issues such as the fact that there is no law against conspiracy theories. Which doesn’t stop the phrase “conspiracy theories” from appearing three times in the strategy text. (“Disinformation” or “misinformation” appears over 8 times.)
Pillar Three calls for a massive inflow of tax dollars to federal law enforcement agencies and essentially bribing state and local law enforcement with domestic terrorism-related resources in exchange for coming on board with the federal strategy and subjecting themselves to federal guidelines.
Particularly worth noting is an attack on the concept of the militia, a concept older than the country itself and written into the Constitution. The strategy notes:
We are also exploring ways to convene non-Federal partners to have open, robust exchanges of ideas on novel approaches for collaboration in addressing domestic terrorism, such as how to make better use of laws that already exist in all fifty states prohibiting certain private “militia” activity, including state constitutional provisions requiring the subordination of the military to civil authorities, state statutes prohibiting groups of people from organizing as private military units without the authorization of the state government, and state statutes that criminalize certain paramilitary activity.
This language against militias is derived almost word-for-word from the work of Mary McCord of the ironically-named Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection (ICAP). McCord is perhaps best known as the Obama DOJ official who signed off on the illegal Carter Page FISA wiretaps. Outside of government during the Trump years, McCord spent considerable effort on a Georgetown University-funded jihad against the concept of the militia.
American constitutional jurisprudence makes clear that the militia is defined as all American male citizens between the age of 17 and 45. McCord’s argument cobbles together a variety of disparate state laws to assert what is claimed to be a blanket prohibition on “private ‘militia’ activity.” But it is unclear how she intends to get around First and Second Amendment rights of individuals to assemble or to bear arms. In other words, the strategy seeks yet another way to use “non-federal” partners to make attacks on American rights which are outside the reach of the federal government as such.
The CRT Regime
Also concerning in the third pillar are references to the Treasury Department. While the Treasury Department does play an extensive role in enforcing international terrorism designations and material support law, it’s not clear how exactly the Biden Administration would seek to apply this to American citizens accused of domestic terrorism:
Moreover, the Department of the Treasury, in coordination with law enforcement and other interagency partners, is exploring ways to enhance the identification and analysis of financial activity associated with domestic terrorists and their foreign counterparts, as well as enhancing engagement with financial institutions on domestic terrorist financing, including through existing provisions of the Bank Secrecy Act.
Given that the strategy states that most domestic terrorists are “lone actors” or “small groups of informally aligned individuals” what kind of money transfers does the Administration expect Treasury to detect?
The concern is that the Biden Administration intends to utilize counterterrorism as an excuse to prevent individuals who have not actually broken any laws from engaging in the banking system based on their “extremist” opinions. There have already been indications that some financial corporations are prepared to enact such a program, even without government backing.
The fourth pillar really gets to the heart of what the Biden Administration’s plan is all about. It proposes addressing the “root” of domestic terrorism. And of course you already know what that will mean:
That means tackling racism in America. It means protecting Americans from gun violence and mass murders. It means ensuring that we provide early intervention and appropriate care for those who pose a danger to themselves or others. It means ensuring that Americans receive the type of civics education that promotes tolerance and respect for all and investing in policies and programs that foster civic engagement and inspire a shared commitment to American democracy, all the while acknowledging when racism and bigotry have meant that the country fell short of living up to its founding principles.
Essentially the solution to domestic terrorism in America is, according to the Biden Administration, critical race theory, the 1619 Project and, “rooting out racism and advancing equity for under-served communities that have far too often been the targets of discrimination and violence. This approach must apply to our efforts to counter domestic terrorism by addressing underlying racism and bigotry.”
In the fact sheet which accompanied the strategy announcement, the Administration is even more clear on this point:
The U.S. Government is committed to strengthening trust in American democracy and its ability to deliver for the American people, including through relief and opportunity provided by the American Rescue Plan, the American Jobs Plan and the American Families Plan. The U.S. Government will also work to find ways to counter the polarization often fueled by disinformation, misinformation, and dangerous conspiracy theories online, supporting an information environment that fosters healthy democratic discourse.
Nothing says countering implicit racism and bigotry like denying one class of people government aid on the basis of race, as Biden’s American Rescue Plan proposed. The Biden Administration is asserting that opposing their massive restructuring of the American system in the pursuit of “equity” is the moral equivalent of supporting terrorism. One can reasonably expect that soon the Biden Administration will add opposition to Critical Race Theory to its list of domestic-terrorism-inciting conspiracy theories.
In conclusion, there are few surprises on the Biden Administration’s wish list of powers to crush Americans in the name of domestic terrorism. Most are a mere codification of processes already well underway, or which have long been on the Left’s bucket list. Perhaps more interesting is the emotional and intellectual bankruptcy of the effort. Given the regime’s own obsession with crushing opposition narratives, one wonders whether in preparing citizens to accept the inevitable third-act heel turn whereby Americans themselves are revealed to be the real Big Bad, they have exhausted the accusation’s cultural power.
The American Mind presents a range of perspectives. Views are writers’ own and do not necessarily represent those of The Claremont Institute.
Summoning an imaginary specter of white supremacy, the Administration declares war on all who oppose the powerful.
The Biden Administration’s Domestic Terrorism Strategy is practically designed for overreach.