Thursday, April 16, 2009

Guidance for Law Enforcement, Citizen...

Guidance for Law Enforcement, Citizens and Politicians:

Department of Homeland Security Risk Assessment of Right Wing Extremists, 2009.

Recently, news reports have surfaced about the DHS report on Right Wing Extremists (RWE).  This report advised in relatively clear and concise fashion the increase in planning, chatter and recruitment of radicalized groups that advocate extremist action.

While the assessment was near satisfactory in its reporting it did not provide guidance on how to deal with the risk.  It is important to use the dearth of information available post 9/11 from a wide range of sources to not only assess a risky situation but also know on a front-line level how to prevent an event, further escalation in recruitment, funding and planning and deal with an event to limit its scope.  In this capacity the DHS document falls short.

Terrorists and extremist groups are opportunists.  They use tactics that turn our efforts against us.  Without knowing how these extremist groups accomplish this law enforcement, everyday citizens and politicians will waste time and resources while at the same time drive recruits, funding and attention to these extremist causes.

Limit Access to Potentially Exploitative Materials and Actions

To do this effectively you must train yourself to think like the extremists.  A politician, law enforcement official or citizen might take this to mean limit access to guns, extremist publications or mass media access.  That would be playing into the hands of these radical elements.  By appearing to limit the rights of these extremists you give credence's to their causes.  Possibly to such a point as to gain media scrutiny which will in turn help legitimize or popularize the radical cause.

Tactics that observe with limited intrusion or contact work best.  Tactics that can be misinterpreted as harassment or some kind of Constitutional infringement will be exploited.  

Public statements and documents that target radicalized elements play into their hands.  Make sure these public statements, including internal items that could become public, have been crafted by a qualified person who limits elements of the statements or documents that could be hi-jacked.  Overly aggressive rhetoric by a politician or law enforcement official is just as useful to the terrorist or extremist as it possibly is to the politician or official.  

Heavy handed treatment of radicals will be used as political capital and exploited fully to legitimize the cause and glorify the "struggle."  It is important to note that radical elements taken into custody are trained to cause problems and invite aggressive restraint and treatment to exploit.  Expect members of these elements to claim abuse and mistreatment.  Follow procedures exactly.

Finally, where the DHS estimate on RWE falls short is that it does nothing to clarify the difference between activist and radical.  Impassioned activists that invoke the Declaration of Independence and Federalism should not be confused with anti-government groups.  Libertarian ideas about limited government can be hi-jacked by extremist elements.  This can be confusing to front-line personnel with an incomplete picture of the differences between activist and radical.  As well, political opportunists can and do use this confusion for political benefit exacerbating the problem.  

When providing intelligence estimates to front-line personnel about Extremists and Terrorists it is advisable to include best-practices in how to deal with these unique national security threats.  Even more so when dealing with domestic threats that are politically charged.  Failing to do so lets opportunist gain the the upper hand by exploiting our efforts for their political or radical ends.

Benjamin Parrish Cook

Mr. Cook has a Masters degree in International Security and Conflict Studies, is a columnist for his local news paper, is a political consultant and owns a gun store in Pageland, SC.  

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