In this daily series, Newsweek explores the steps leading up to the January 6 Capitol Riots.
Above December 30, just a week before January 6, FBI, with Department of Homeland Security and the National Counterterrorism Center, released an intelligence report— “Intelligence in the Depths” – titled “DVE’s Diverse Landscape Presumably To Live.” DVE refers to violent extremists in the country.
Reports, shared privately with Newsweek, not to mention the election or Donald Trump. No mention has been made of the impact of COVID. Not to mention the two post-election protests that took place in Washington DC, on November 24 and December 12, or any upcoming threat. In fact, there was no focus on the nation’s capital at all.
The report covers all bases but does not focus on none. It’s a jumble of acronyms and codes to faithfully describe what intelligence agencies see as a threat on the American battlefield, but be careful not to clearly label any of them. any group. White supremacists are known as Racially Motivated Violent Extremists (RMVE). There are also Anti-Government or Anti-Government Violent Extremists (AGAAVEs), Anarchist Violent Extremists (AVEs), Militant Violent Extremists (MVEs) and Sovereign Citizen Violent Extremists (SCVEs). There are others mentioned, some with and without acronyms: Violent extremists related to abortion, Violent extremists related to animal rights / Violent extremists School and Puerto Rico National Violent Extremists.
The common linking feature in all of this is the term “extreme”. However, the December 30 report offers no clear definition of what exactly an extremist is. Violent extremists in the country are described as “individuals[s] based and operating primarily within the United States or its territories without the direction or inspiration of a foreign terrorist group or other foreign power who seek to carry out further political or social goals wholly or in part through unlawful acts of force or violence. “
It is difficult to come up with a government definition of extremism. Decisiveness Judicial The bible on the subject, “Investigating Terrorism and Criminal Extremism: Terms and Concepts,” never — not in 120 pages — defines what extremism means. The Department of Defense has a new “Report on Combating Extremism within the Department of Defense,” which was released this month. It merely states that members of the armed forces are restricted from engaging in “extreme activities” including “illegal force, unlawful violence or other illegal means of deprive individuals of rights under the Constitution of the United States or the laws of the United States.” Pentagon says this includes advocating “subversion of government” and “targets of a political, religious, discriminatory or ideological nature”. That’s a pretty broad spectrum.
Few would argue that those who seek to advance their political goals “through unlawful acts of force or violence” should be the subject of relevant law enforcement attention. state, but with no definition of extremism, and with such a broad category of wildly disparate individuals and groups that fall under the domestic violence umbrella of extremism, no No wonder the FBI has had a hard time paying attention to the many Americans who made public threats of violence before January 6.
A retired senior FBI executive who spoke with Newsweek on condition that his name is not used because he fears retaliation by the extremists he is talking about, saying he sees two major limitations to domestic counterterrorism efforts of the Department. First, he said, there is too much emphasis on organized groups and the search for conspiracies – a legacy of organized crime and then al Qaeda’s focus on stopping and destroying groups. .
Second, he said, the federal government has bound itself to a consistent protocol of following or monitoring free speech while looking for possible threats. For example, the December 30 report was careful to note that not all extremists are prone to violence, claiming that a “First Amendment” protected protest is not each join a predicate for federal attention or further investigation by the FBI.
“I understand that people may doubt that the FBI really protects civil liberties, but in the Bureau today, that is more true than false,” the FBI executive said. “Yes, there have been many historical examples of overreach, [but] This level of care is equally applied to the right and left sides. “
The FBI stated in its 2021 domestic terrorism report to Congress: “In accordance with FBI policy and federal law, no investigative activity can be based solely on First Amendment activity, race , ethnicity, national origin, religion, gender, apparent or actual sexual orientation, or gender identity of an individual or group.The FBI does not investigate, collect, or maintain information about Chinese nationals. States only for the purpose of monitoring First Amendment Protected activities.”
The CEO said that after January 6, with domestic terrorism being a national issue and a greater emphasis on preventing attacks, previous constraints could be relaxed. . But he still thinks that focusing on the group—Proud boys, Oath-keepers, etc. — and imagine these groups being stronger than them, obscuring individuals and whose actions need to be discovered and stopped.
Even after January 6, FBI Director Christopher Wray described the threat picture as vague as the December 30 report in witness before Senate Committees on Homeland Security and Government Affairs. Despite all that has happened, he still sees homegrown violent extremists (HMVEs) — that is, “individuals radicalized at home by jihadist ideologies. endorsed by foreign terrorist organizations such as ISIS and al Qaeda” – is the Bureau’s number one priority.
HMVE should not be confused with DVE, but they are mixed in such a way that the two are equivalent. FBI Director Wray says HMVEs (foreign influence) and DVEs (non-foreign influence) have in common that the biggest real threat is from “lonely” wolves.
According to Wray, the Bureau is “fighting lone violent extremists in the country who have been radicalized by personalized grievances ranging from racial and ethnic prejudice to anti-government, anti-government to conspiracy theories.”
Wray before told The House Oversight and Reform Committee said that, “over the last year, we have observed activity that causes us to assess there is a potential increase in violent extremist activity at legitimate protests taking place in communities across the United States.”
In response to these threats, the FBI said it issued 12 official intelligence reports in 2020 regarding the possibility of domestic terrorism. In 2019, the FBI issued 15 reports related to domestic terrorism. (Each year, the FBI produces about 1,000 terrorism-related intelligence products in the country.) In late August 2020, Wray said, the FBI released an analysis report “notifying its partners. We believe that DVEs have partisan political grievances that may pose an increased threat in relation to the 2020 election.
“In that production, we noted that DVE responses to election results may not occur until after the election and may be based on potential policy changes or predict in advance. He said that in December 2020, the FBI also contributed to a Department of Homeland Security intelligence-intensive production which stated that the diverse landscape of the DVE “will likely persist due to inconsistencies”. lasting peace.”
That would be obvious to any observer. The FBI, in its official intelligence report, seems to have completely missed the mark.
“The FBI and our federal, state, and local partners have been collecting and sharing relevant public safety intelligence and related information in preparation for the events that have been reported. planned differently,” Wray stated on Jan. 6. But there’s no evidence that sharing has had any impact, according to testimony from multiple US Capitols. Police and Metropolitan Police Department officials.
Just this past September, Wray said Conference How much the “threat” has changed 20 years after the attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center. “It was 9/11 after all,” he said, “that turned the FBI into an agency focused on disrupting threats.”
But when a national threat and a catastrophic event emerged in late 2020, FBI officials not only didn’t break it, they didn’t even see it coming.
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