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The general who went to war on suicide

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Ben Hattem reports in Politico:

On the evening of July 19, 2010, Major General Dana Pittard, the new commander of Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas, got a call from the base’s 24-hour duty officer. A SWAT team had been sent to the house of a young sergeant named Robert Nichols. Nichols was inside with a gun, threatening to kill himself.

Pittard arrived at the soldier’s home just in time to see the soldier step out of the house, put the gun to his chest and fire. Neighbors and police crowded the street, but Pittard was the only officer from the Army base at the scene. He went home, where his boxes were still packed from his move 10 days before, feeling disturbed and helpless.

Nichols was the first of Pittard’s soldiers who died under his command at Fort Bliss. Others followed. A soldier from Fort Bliss’ 11th Air Defense Artillery brigade, which had recently returned from a tour in the Middle East, committed suicide. Another from the same brigade soon overdosed on prescription drugs.

The rash of deaths caught Pittard off guard. He knew that suicide was a growing concern for the military, which had spent millions of dollars to tackle the crisis and had issued dozens of reports—including a 350-page study that called suicides and deaths linked to high-risk behavior an “Army-wide problem.” But going in Pittard hadn’t planned to focus on the issue. That changed quickly. With suicides mounting at his base—a sprawling complex of 30,000 personnel, larger than Rhode Island—he realized he wanted to make stopping what he saw as preventable deaths a top priority.

He conferred with the brigade commanders. Then, he told his sergeant major, only half in jest, that they should put a moratorium on death at the base. “People laughed,” says Pittard, “but I said, ‘no, seriously, let’s look at the roots and causes and do all we can to make it preventable.’”

His solution had the hallmarks of a commander confronted with a stubborn enemy: decisive action and situational adaptability. Pittard aggressively expanded mental health services at the base. He increased the number of mental health staff, created new social spaces and nighttime services, treatment for substance abuse and post traumatic stress disorder. And Pittard made the services available to all soldiers—whether or not there was any reason to believe they were at risk of killing themselves—because he believed everyone was vulnerable to suicide. It was a position that put him at odds with commonly held views in the Army, which tends to regard suicide as something that only a small number of abnormal soldiers are at risk of trying.

His belief was rooted in a personal struggle. He later made public, in a radically un-Army-like moment, something that could have seriously jeopardized a career that some say was destined for the upper echelons of the military: that he had sought mental health care for depression. People who worked at the fort say Pittard’s openness made it easier for soldiers to seek treatment. “I admired him sharing that story,” said Jamie Spanski, a staff sergeant who was stationed at Fort Bliss from 2012 until she left the Army in 2015. “No matter who you are or what rank you are, we’re all just human beings and sometimes you need help.”

And his efforts seemed to work. In 2010, Fort Bliss had 12 suicides, according to published media reports. The next year there were seven. In 2012, when the suicide rate for the Army as a whole peaked at 29.9 deaths per 100,000 people—Fort Bliss had five. It was the lowest suicide rate of any major Army installation in the world. The Defense Department touted Pittard’s accomplishments in news releases and internally; the Pentagon still highlights Fort Bliss’ example as one of the military’s most successful prevention programs.

Experts say the initiatives Pittard implemented at Fort Bliss demonstrate exactly the types of programs required for the Army to turn back its high rate of suicide. But four years after Pittard was transferred, many of the reforms he installed at Fort Bliss have been discontinued, and the base’s suicide rate has climbed again. And the high-ranking officials who pronounced suicide an Army-wide crisis—and who recognized Pittard for his success—haven’t adopted his approach.

Jill Harkavy-Friedman, vice president of research for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, called Pittard’s services a “model program.” But, she added, “these things have to be continued to be effective.”

Military suicides used to be rare. Throughout the 20th century, the suicide rate among active-duty service members was lower than the population at large. But after the United States invaded Iraq in 2003, the numbers began to climb. In 2006, for the first time, the Army’s suicide rate, routinely the highest among the branches of the armed services, surpassed that of the national population. By 2010, suicide had become a military crisis. That year, there were 163 suicides in the Army, an 87-percent increase from five years before.

It is a population that is especially vulnerable: Many service members return from combat with some degree of post-traumatic stress or traumatic brain injury, both of which can contribute to depression and suicidal thoughts. Easy access to guns, which prove fatal much more often than other means of attempting suicide, may exacerbate the problem.

The Army struggled to respond to the surge in suicides. [But obviously it did not struggle very hard at all, since it effectively ignores and then cancels programs that work. – LG]

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 March 2017 at 1:57 pm

How North Korea would retaliate

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Stratfor takes a look:

Summary

Editor’s Note: This is the fourth installment of a five-part series that originally ran in May 2016 examining the measures that could be taken to inhibit North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. The purpose of this series is not to consider political rhetoric or noninvasive means of coercion, such as sanctions. Rather, we are exploring the military options, however remote, that are open to the United States and its allies, and the expected response from Pyongyang. Part five can be found here.

North Korea is powerless to prevent a U.S. strike on its nuclear program, but retaliation is well within its means. The significant military capability that North Korea has built up against South Korea is not advanced by Western standards, but there are practical ways Pyongyang could respond to aggression.

The North Korean military’s most powerful tool is artillery. It cannot level Seoul as some reports have claimed, but it could do significant damage. Pyongyang risks deteriorating its forces by exposing them to return fire, however, which significantly restricts their use. Less conventional methods of retaliation, such as sabotage or cyber warfare, are less risky but also limit the shock that North Korea would desire.

Analysis

After a strike, North Korea’s most immediate and expected method of retaliation would center around conventional artillery. Many of the North’s indirect fire systems are already located on or near the border with South Korea. By virtue of proximity and simplicity, these systems have a lower preparatory and response times than air assets, larger ballistic missiles or naval assets. Nevertheless, there are several critical limitations to their effectiveness.

Tube and Rocket Artillery

The biggest anticipated cost of a North Korean artillery barrage in response to an attack would be the at least partial destruction of Seoul. But the volume of fire that the North can direct against the South Korean capital is limited by some important factors. Of the vast artillery force deployed by the North along the border, only a small portion — Koksan 170-mm self-propelled guns, as well as 240-mm and 300-mm multiple launch rocket systems — are capable of actually reaching Seoul. Broadly speaking, the bulk of Pyongyang’s artillery can reach only into the northern border area of South Korea or the northern outskirts of Seoul. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 March 2017 at 6:32 pm

Bringing back the free-fire zones of Vietnam (because it worked so well last time)

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In the NY Times Charlie Savage and Eric Schmitt discuss a Trump administration initiative that should give new life to terrorist recruiting:

The Trump administration is exploring how to dismantle or bypass Obama-era constraints intended to prevent civilian deaths from drone attacks, commando raids and other counterterrorism missions outside conventional war zones like Afghanistan and Iraq, according to officials familiar with internal deliberations.

Already, President Trump has granted a Pentagon request to declare parts of three provinces of Yemen to be an “area of active hostilities” where looser battlefield rules apply. That opened the door to a Special Operations raid in late January in which several civilians were killed, as well as to the largest-ever series of American airstrikes targeting Yemen-based Qaeda militants, starting nearly two weeks ago, the officials said.

Mr. Trump is also expected to sign off soon on a similar Pentagon proposal to designate parts of Somalia to be another such battlefield-style zone for 180 days, removing constraints on airstrikes and raids targeting people suspected of being militants with the Qaeda-linked group the Shabab, they said.

Inside the White House, the temporary suspension of the limits for parts of Yemen and Somalia is seen as a test run while the government considers whether to more broadly rescind or relax the Obama-era rules, said the officials, who described the internal deliberations on the condition of anonymity.

The move to open the throttle on using military force — and accept a greater risk of civilian casualties — in troubled parts of the Muslim world comes as the Trump administration is also trying to significantly increase military spending and cut foreign aid and State Department budgets.

The proposal to cut so-called soft-power budgets, however, is meeting with stiff resistance from some senior Republicans on Capitol Hill, as well as from top active-duty and retired generals and admirals, who fear perpetual conflicts if the root causes of instability and terrorism are not addressed.

“Any budget we pass that guts the State Department’s budget, you will never win this war,” Senator Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican on the Armed Services Committee, said during a hearing last week. Referring to the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, he added, “As a matter of fact, ISIL will be celebrating.”

In a sign of mounting concern over the government’s policy review, more than three dozen members of America’s national security establishment have urged Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to maintain the thrust of the Obama-era principles for counterterrorism missions, saying strict standards should be maintained for using force outside traditional war zones.

The former officials, in a letter sent on Sunday to Mr. Mattis, warned that . . .

Continue reading.

I thought Stephen Bannon read history?

This story does not, unfortunately, belong to the good-news collection. I suppose Trump has not resumed the program of torture, so that’s good news. Subject to change.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 March 2017 at 5:44 pm

Anatomy of a US airstrike: Are Afghan strongmen calling the shots?

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Jessica Purkis and Jack Serle report for the Bureau of Investigative Journalism:

Afghan police commander Sadiqullah Sadaqat was taking a brief break from duty to buy lunch for his men. They were defending a security post on the outskirts of Tarin Kot, the capital city in the southern province of Uruzgan. The Taliban had launched a fierce battle for the city ten days earlier.

Sadaqat had been asked by local strongman Rahimullah Khan – the commander of a highway linking Tarin Kot to the major city of Kandahar – to defend a post located on this strategic stretch of road.

Tarin Kot was at risk of falling into Taliban hands, leading the Kabul government to call in General Abdul Raziq – the police commander of Kandahar province – to help defend it. Sadaqat was one of hundreds of men of diverse affiliations, some in uniform, some not, who were holding the line against a bold enemy.

Sadaqat had raised a group of sixteen men to man the post. But when he got back from lunch that day on September 18, he found nearly half of them dead.

It was not the Taliban that had killed them, but an airstrike ordered by General Raziq, the strongman called in from Kandahar (pictured in main image). One man died in an initial strike on a small post located above the main checkpoint and then a second attack, known as a “double tap” strike, took out a further six who rushed to help. Sadaqat heard the Taliban crowing over the attack on the radio as he prepared to head back.

The men were “torn into pieces by the Americans”, said Sadaqat, whose brother and cousin died in the strike. “God knows what happened, I do not have any information on what really happened or why it happened.”

The story of the friendly fire incident at Tarin Kot underscores the chaos on the ground in Afghanistan. Afghan security forces who are now leading the fight against the Taliban, with US support, are leaning on local warlords and irregular forces. Keeping the Taliban at bay depends to a large part on all these actors’ ability to work together.  If Tarin Kot is anything to go by, the signs are not promising.

The battle for Tarin Kot

The Taliban made a push for Tarin Kot in early September. As they advanced closer to the city, government officials began to warn of its potential fall. The Afghan troops defending it were overstretched and complained of shortages in supplies from ammunition to food as they struggled to hold the insurgents back.

Rahimullah was in charge of the highway at the time of the strike. He had previously been deputy police chief of the province, a title given to him following the assassination of his brother, provincial police chief Matiullah Khan. . .

Continue reading. There’s a lot more.

The U.S. seems to be fighting in a war intimately entwined with cultural conflicts we do not understand. In wars in which the enemy wears uniforms and has a command structure that directs operations and can, for example, surrender, the U.S. has had some success (though not always: the Korean War, for example). But in wars driven by cultural issues, with the general population (civilians) being made up of both enemies and non-enemies, the US has not had much luck because traditional military attacks don’t lead to an involvement with and understanding of the local cultural constraints, demands, and norms, so we end up fighting somewhat blindfolded.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 March 2017 at 1:08 pm

Pentagon lies yet again: Said it would not use depleted uranium rounds against ISIS. Months later, it did — thousands of times.

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The military seems to lie frequently, apparently because “honor” is important to the military, so dishonorable things must be hidden, and that often involves lying (cf. Pat Tillman, Jessica Lynch, and many other examples). Thomas Gibbons-Neff reports in the Washington Post:

Months after the Pentagon said it wouldn’t use a controversial type of armor-piercing ammunition that has been blamed for long-term health complications, U.S. aircraft fired thousands of the rounds during two high-profile air raids in Syria in November 2015, the Pentagon acknowledged Wednesday.

The use of the ammunition, a 30mm depleted-uranium bullet called PGU-14, was first reported by a joint Air Wars-Foreign Policy investigation on Tuesday. The roughly 5,265 rounds of the munition were fired from multiple A-10 ground attack aircraft on Nov 16, 2015, and Nov. 22, 2015, in airstrikes in Syria’s eastern desert that targeted the Islamic State’s oil supply during Operation Tidal Wave II, said Maj. Josh Jacques, a U.S. Central Command spokesman.

When loaded with depleted-uranium bullets, the A-10s fired what is called a “combat-mix,” meaning the aircraft’s cannon fires five depleted-uranium rounds to one high explosive incendiary bullet.

The strikes, which involved 30mm cannon fire, rockets and guided bombs, destroyed more than 300 vehicles, mostly civilian tanker trucks, the Pentagon said at the time. The two incidents were championed by the Pentagon, and footage of trucks being destroyed was posted online. The Pentagon said that no civilians were present during the bombardment because fliers had been dropped before strafing runs warning those in their trucks to flee.

Before the November strikes, the Pentagon said it would not use depleted-uranium munitions in the campaign against the Islamic State. In response to a query from a reporter in February 2015, Capt. John Moore, a spokesman for the U.S.-led anti-ISIS coalition in Iraq and Syria said in an email that “U.S. and Coalition aircraft have not been and will not be using depleted uranium munitions in Iraq or Syria during Operation Inherent Resolve.”

Later that year, the Pentagon’s stance toward depleted uranium changed. As U.S.-led forces ramped up their campaign to go after the Islamic State’s cash flow, U.S. planners for Operation Tidal Wave II decided that depleted-uranium ammunition would be the most effective weapon for targeting hundreds of Islamic State oil trucks in the Syrian desert. Jacques said that U.S. forces wanted to ensure that trucks would be rendered completely inoperable, adding that depleted-uranium rounds were the best way to achieve that, rather than the A-10’s standard high explosive cannon rounds. Typically, depleted-uranium rounds are used on armored vehicles, such as tanks and troop transports, and there is no international treaty or rule that explicitly bans their use.

“Given the international opprobrium associated with the use of depleted uranium, we had been pretty astonished to hear that it had been used in operations in Syria,” said Doug Weir, the International Coordinator for the Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons. “The U.S. consistently states that the weapons are for anti-armor use, although their record from Iraq … was further evidence that this doesn’t really bear close scrutiny.”

Depleted uranium is the byproduct of the enriched uranium needed to power nuclear reactors. Depleted uranium is roughly 0.7 times as radioactive as natural uranium, and its high density makes it ideal for armor-piecing rounds such as the PGU-14 and certain tank shells. Depleted uranium is also used to reinforce certain types of armor and has a number of nonmilitary uses, such as ballast in ships.

Whether exposure to depleted uranium causes adverse health effects has been debated. When it was used during the 1999 NATO bombing campaign in Kosovo, the United Nations advised that children stay away from the impact zones. The Iraqi government has also routinely stressed the danger the munitions pose to its people, soil and air. Depleted-uranium rounds were used in the hundreds of thousands of attacks during the 1991 Persian Gulf War and again in the opening salvos of the 2003 invasion of Iraq. . .

Continue reading.

I think that the military definition of “honor” is quite specialized.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 February 2017 at 1:01 pm

Posted in Government, Military

Trump increases risks for U.S. troops in Iraq

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Trump is incompetent. He acts on impulse, he doesn’t think things through, and he fails to consult with competent advisers (and shows bad judgment in picking his closest advisers: Michael Flynn, Stephen Bannon, Stephen Miller, Kellyanne Conway, and so on, including the White House lawyer who though it would be a good idea to fire all the Inspectors General in the Federal government and replace them with Trump stooges.

David Zucchino reports in the NY Times:

Capt. Ahmed Adnan al-Musawe had survived another day battling Islamic State fighters in Mosul last weekend when he heard startling news: The new American president had temporarily barred Iraqis from entering the United States and wanted tougher vetting.

Captain Musawe, who commands an infantry unit of the Iraqi Army’s elite counterterrorism force, considers himself already fully vetted: He has been trained by American officers in Iraq and in Jordan. And backed by American advisers, he has fought the Islamic State in three Iraqi cities, including three months of brutal street combat in Mosul.

“If America doesn’t want Iraqis because we are all terrorists, then America should send its sons back to Iraq to fight the terrorists themselves,” Captain Musawe told a New York Times reporter who was with him this week at his barricaded position inside Mosul.

President Trump’s Jan. 27 executive order has driven a wedge between many Iraqi soldiers and their American allies. Officers and enlisted men interviewed on the front lines in Mosul said they interpreted the order as an affront — not only to them but also to fellow soldiers who have died in the battle for Mosul.

Continue reading the main story

“An insult to their dignity,” said Capt. Abdul Saami al-Azzi, another officer with the counterterrorism force in Mosul. He said he was hurt and disappointed by a nation he had considered a respectful partner. “It is really embarrassing.”

The American and Iraqi militaries have negotiated an often tenuous and strained relationship over the years. But few episodes have so blindsided the current generation of Iraqi soldiers, who are accustomed to viewing the United States as their partner in a shared struggle to defeat insurgents and build a viable nation.

The timing of the order hit the Iraqi military in Mosul like an incoming rocket. Iraqi forces have reached a pivotal moment, seizing half of Mosul and preparing to assault the remaining half — supported by American advisers, Special Operations forces and airstrikes by the United States-led coalition.

Why, some soldiers asked, had Mr. Trump chosen this moment to lump together all Iraqis as mortal threats to America — soldiers, civilians and terrorists alike?

“This decision by Trump blows up our liberation efforts of cooperation and coordination with American forces,” said Brig. Gen. Mizhir Khalid al-Mashhadani, a counterterrorism force commander in Mosul.

Astounded by the announcement, General Mashhadani, who speaks English, said he asked his American counterparts about the president’s order. He said several told him they considered the decision hasty and its consequences poorly considered.

The travel ban was all the more perplexing to those Iraqi troops who had heard Mr. Trump vow as a candidate to wipe out the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, ISIL or Daesh. Some also heard the president promise, when issuing the order, to keep “radical Islamic terrorists” out of the United States.

For some soldiers, those comments seemed to equate Iraqi soldiers — by virtue of their nationality and religion — with the very terrorists they were fighting. . .

Continue reading. There’s more and it’s bad.

Trump should be removed from office.

Written by LeisureGuy

4 February 2017 at 6:46 pm

The FBI Has Quietly Investigated White Supremacist Infiltration of Law Enforcement

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Stephen Bannon is using Trump to further Bannon’s own goals for an Alt-Right attack on democracy. Part of that his Bannon’s taking a position on the National Security Council, to which he has brought some ominous changes: There will no longer be a paper trail of NSC deliberations and actions, and the CIA Director, Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Energy Secretary (who is responsible for the nuclear arsenal, from small tactical nukes on up) will not be present for some sessions. Why those three are not viewed as vital to a national security discussion is unclear, but Bannon/Trump doesn’t trust the CIA.

If Bannon does engineer or take advantage of some domestic crisis or attack, he certainly can call on many supporters in the armed services, police departments, Border Patrol, and apparently in the FBI as well (e.g., James Comey).

Alice Speri reports in The Intercept:

White supremacists and other domestic extremists maintain an active presence in U.S. police departments and other law enforcement agencies. A striking reference to that conclusion, notable for its confidence and the policy prescriptions that accompany it, appears in a classified FBI Counterterrorism Policy Guide from April 2015, obtained by The Intercept. The guide, which details the process by which the FBI enters individuals on a terrorism watchlist, the Known or Suspected Terrorist File, notes that “domestic terrorism investigations focused on militia extremists, white supremacist extremists, and sovereign citizen extremists often have identified active links to law enforcement officers,” and explains in some detail how bureau policies have been crafted to take this infiltration into account.

Although these right-wing extremists have posed a growing threat for years, federal investigators have been reluctant to publicly address that threat or to point out the movement’s longstanding strategy of infiltrating the law enforcement community.

No centralized recruitment process or set of national standards exists for the 18,000 law enforcement agencies in the United States, many of which have deep historical connections to racist ideologies. As a result, state and local police as well as sheriff’s departments present ample opportunities for white supremacists and other right-wing extremists looking to expand their power base.

In a heavily redacted version of an October 2006 FBI internal intelligence assessment, the agency raised the alarm over white supremacist groups’ “historical” interest in “infiltrating law enforcement communities or recruiting law enforcement personnel.” The effort, the memo noted, “can lead to investigative breaches and can jeopardize the safety of law enforcement sources or personnel.” The memo also states that law enforcement had recently become aware of the term “ghost skins,” used among white supremacists to describe “those who avoid overt displays of their beliefs to blend into society and covertly advance white supremacist causes.” In at least one case, the FBI learned of a skinhead group encouraging ghost skins to seek employment with law enforcement agencies in order to warn crews of any investigations.

That report appeared after a series of scandals involving local police and sheriff’s departments. In Los Angeles, for example, a U.S. District Court judge found in 1991 that members of a local sheriff’s department had formed a neo-Nazi gang and habitually terrorized black and Latino residents. In Chicago, Jon Burge, a police detective and rumored KKK member, was fired, and eventually prosecuted in 2008, over charges relating to the torture of at least 120 black men during his decadeslong career. Burge notoriously referred to an electric shock device he used during interrogations as the “nigger box.” In Cleveland, officials found that a number of police officers had scrawled “racist or Nazi graffiti” throughout their department’s locker rooms. In Texas, two police officers were fired when it was discovered they were Klansmen. One of them said he had tried to boost the organization’s membership by giving an application to a fellow officer he thought shared his “white, Christian, heterosexual values.

Although the FBI has not publicly addressed the issue of white supremacist infiltration of law enforcement since that 2006 report, in a 2015 speech, FBI Director James Comey made an unprecedented acknowledgment of the role historically played by law enforcement in communities of color: “All of us in law enforcement must be honest enough to acknowledge that much of our history is not pretty.” Comey and the agency have been less forthcoming about that history’s continuation into the present.

In 2009, shortly after the election of Barack Obama, a Department of Homeland Security intelligence study, written in coordination with the FBI, warned of the “resurgence” of right-wing extremism. “Right-wing extremists have capitalized on the election of the first African-American president, and are focusing their efforts to recruit new members, mobilize existing supporters, and broaden their scope and appeal through propaganda,” the report noted, singling out “disgruntled military veterans” as likely targets of recruitment. “Right-wing extremists will attempt to recruit and radicalize returning veterans in order to exploit their skills and knowledge derived from military training and combat.”

The report concluded that “lone wolves and small terrorist cells embracing violent right-wing extremist ideology are the most dangerous domestic terrorism threat in the United States.” Released just ahead of nationwide Tea Party protests, the report caused an uproar among conservatives, who were particularly angered by the suggestion that veterans might be implicated, and by the broad brush with which the report seemed to paint a range of right-wing groups.

Faced with mounting criticism, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano disavowed the document and apologized to veterans. The agency’s unit investigating right-wing extremism was largely dismantled and the report’s lead investigator was pushed out. “They stopped doing intel on that, and that was that,” Heidi Beirich, who leads the Southern Poverty Law Center’s tracking of extremist groups, told The Intercept. “The FBI in theory investigates right-wing terrorism and right-wing extremism, but they have limited resources. The loss of that unit was a loss for a lot of people who did this kind of work.”

“Federal law enforcement agencies in general — the FBI, the Marshals, the ATF — are aware that extremists have infiltrated state and local law enforcement agencies and that there are people in law enforcement agencies that may be sympathetic to these groups,” said Daryl Johnson, who was the lead researcher on the DHS report. Johnson, who now runs DT Analytics, a consulting firm that analyzes domestic extremism, says the problem has since gotten “a lot more troublesome.”

Johnson singled out the Oath Keepers and the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association for their anti-government attitudes and efforts to recruit active as well as retired law enforcement officers. “That’s the biggest issue and it’s greater now than it’s ever been, in my opinion.” Johnson added that Homeland Security has given up tracking right-wing domestic extremists. “It’s only the FBI now,” he said, adding that local police departments don’t seem to be doing anything to address the problem. “There’s not even any training now to make state and local police aware of these groups and how they could infiltrate their ranks.”

A spokesperson for DHS declined to comment on the 2009 report or on the agency’s specific concerns about white supremacist and right-wing groups.

In 2014, the Department of Justice re-established its Domestic Terrorism Task Force, a unit that was created following the Oklahoma City bombing. But for the most part, the government’s efforts to confront domestic terrorism threats over the last decade have focused on homegrown extremists radicalized by foreign groups. Last year, a group of progressive members of Congress called on President Obama and DHS to update the controversial 2009 report. “The United States allocates significant resources towards combating Islamic violent extremism while failing to devote adequate resources to right-wing extremism,” they wrote. “This lack of political will comes at a heavy price.”

Critics fear that the backlash following the 2009 DHS report hindered further action against the growing white supremacist threat, and that it was largely ignored because the issue was so politically controversial. “I believe that because that report was so denounced by conservatives, it sort of closed the door on whatever the FBI may have been considering doing with respect to combating infiltration of law enforcement by white supremacists,” said Samuel Jones, a professor of law at the John Marshall Law School in Chicago who has written about white power ideology in law enforcement. “Because after the 2006 FBI report, we simply cannot find anything by local law enforcement or the federal government that addresses this issue.”

Pete Simi, a sociologist at Chapman University who spent decades studying the proliferation of white supremacists in the U.S. military, agreed. “The report underscores the problem of even discussing this issue. It underscores how difficult this issue is to get any traction on, because a lot of people don’t want to discuss this, let alone actually do something about it.” Simi said that the extremist strategy to infiltrate the military and law enforcement has existed “for decades.” In a study he conducted of individuals indicted for far-right terrorism-related activities, he found that at least 31 percent had military experience.

After a series of investigations uncovered substantial numbers of extremists in the military, the Department of Defense moved to impose stricter screenings, including monitoring recruits’ tattoos for white supremacist symbols and discharging those found to espouse racist views.

“The military has completely reformed its process on this front,” said the SPLC’s Beirich, who lobbied the DOD to adopt those reforms. “I don’t know why it wouldn’t be the same for police officers; we can’t have people with guns having crazy ideas or ideas that threaten certain populations.” . . .

Continue reading. There’s a lot more.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 February 2017 at 10:30 am

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