Recently, the University of Kansas hosted a panel discussion on the militarization of police which featured Retired Chief of Police of Topeka and Kansas City Ron Miller, SWAT Sergeant Charles Huth, Professor of African American Studies Dorthy Pennington, and local defense attorney Pedro Irigonegaray. Since the Ferguson protests, the militarization of the police has become a national topic of discussion; but for those of us who are liberty-minded, we were already well aware of this frightening issue. However, like many topics that reach the mainstream media, it has been spun to focus specifically on minority relations with the police, and little attention has been paid to the other aspects surrounding the acquisition of military gear. Based on the panelists chosen to discuss the issue at the Dole Institute and the University’s left-leaning stance, this is most likely the reason that the University hosted the panel discussion, and while minority-police relations are a serious issue which deserves a national discussion (1 in 3 black males will go to prison in their lifetime), the militarization of the police is a pervasive issue which affects the entire nation (1). Perhaps the most frightening aspect of the acquisition of MRAPs, drones, and grenade launchers by local police departments through the federal 1033 program, is the increasingly frequent narrative from leaked Department of Homeland Security training manuals which identifies their anticipated enemies – the American people.
Since 2001, critics of the Patriot Act and the newly formed Department of Homeland Security have been skeptical of the government’s reasoning that the creation of these entities was necessary to combat the growing threat of Islamic terrorism. One reason for this skepticism lies in the fact that the complex 342 page document which modified 15 laws and fundamentally changed privacy laws in the United States was introduced into Congress by the Justice Department only 8 days after 9/11. Few people are aware that the core of the Patriot Act was actually written and introduced into Congress by none other than then-Senator Joe Biden under the name of the Omnibus Counterterrorism Act of 1995, on behalf of the Clinton Administration, months prior to the Oklahoma City bombing (2). Senator Biden even bragged that the Patriot Act was essentially a copy of his original bill before it was watered down by anti-government conservatives and leftist libertarians, telling New Republic journalist Michael Crowley, “I drafted a terrorism bill after the Oklahoma City bombing. And the bill John Ashcroft sent up was my bill.”(3) On a September 30, 2001, edition of Meet the Press with Tim Russert, Biden again bragged, “I introduced the terrorism bill in ’94 that had a lot of these things in it.” (4) Also, the concept of a national police force, which eventually became the Department of Homeland Security, was originally introduced in January of 2001 by the United States Commission on National Security: Roadmap for National Security. This document stated, “We therefore recommend the creation of a new independent National Homeland Security Agency (NHSA) with responsibility for planning, coordinating, and integrating various U.S. government activities involved in homeland security.” (5)(6). From the beginning, critics have warned that the justification given for omnipresent national surveillance and policing powers would soon change from Islamic terrorism to “domestic terrorism” and based on the federal government’s focus of domestic terrorism in the 1990s, when Senator Biden’s bill was introduced, that meant right-wing groups.
These fears have been proven largely justified. Since 2009, the DHS has increasingly characterized returning veterans, libertarians, conservatives, Christians, and gun owners as domestic terror threats. This was initially brought to the national stage in April 2009, when a leaked DHS document entitled, “Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment,” identified veterans and gun rights advocates as “capable of carrying out violent attacks,” and connected them with white-supremacist groups (7).
This leak quickly became a media sensation with calls from veterans’ organizations demanding an apology from Secretary of DHS, Janet Napolitano.
Surprisingly, Napolitano actually stood by the report, even feeling it necessary to remind everyone that Timothy McVey was a veteran, but eventually caved in and apologized under public pressure (8). However, this didn’t stop the government from continuing to classify veterans as terrorists. In May of 2009, the New York Times published an article about the Boy Scout Explorers who were being trained by the Department of Homeland Security in a mock scenario to take out a “disgruntled Iraq veteran” who was holding people hostage (9). Then, the Wall Street Journal reported that leaked FBI internal memos regarding Operation Vigilant Eagle stated that, “…the FBI’s focus on veterans began as far back as December, during the final weeks of the Bush administration,” (10). In March of 2014, another leaked document titled National Exercise Program Capstone Exercise 2014 Scenario Ground Truth for the Department of Homeland Security and FEMA outlined a training scenario revolving around an imaginary domestic terror group called “Free Americans Against Socialist Tyranny” who consisted of both former and current members of the military that were protesting the imposition of martial law (11). More recently, an Indiana SWAT officer named Sgt. Dan Downing of the Morgan County Sheriff’s Department asserted that the acquisition of military equipment by local law enforcement agencies was necessary to combat the threat of returning veterans “who have the knowledge and ability to build IEDs” (12).
As disturbing as this is, veterans are not the only group to face unwarranted persecution from the federal government. In March of 2009, a law enforcement sensitive document leaked to InfoWars from the Missouri Information Analysis Center, a federal fusion center established by the Department of Homeland Security after 9/11, warned police of Ron Paul supporters, Christians, and anti-abortion activists as being extremists, again connecting these groups to white supremacists (13). Even the Department of Defense has labeled traditional and respected American values as being extremist. A Fort Hood soldier blew the whistle in 2013 about a pre-deployment briefing in which soldiers were told that evangelical Christians and the Tea Party were a threat to the nation, and any soldier caught donating to those groups would be subject to prosecution under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (14). A Department of Defense training guide obtained by Judicial Watch characterized the American founding fathers as examples extremist ideology and stated, “Nowadays, instead of dressing in sheets or publicly espousing hate messages, many extremists will talk of individual liberties, states’ rights, and how to make the world a better place.” In 2012, a study by the U.S. Army-run University of Foreign Military and Cultural Studies at Ft. Leavenworth, in conjunction with University of Kansas Professor Jennifer Weber, called “Full Spectrum Operations in the Homeland: A ‘Vision’ of the Future” outlined a scenario in which the President would invoke the Insurrection Act to deploy the military within the United States in order to crush a Tea Party rebellion (16).
The purpose of my attending the University of Kansas panel on the Militarization of the Police was to raise awareness of these issues. I did this by not only stating my question in front of the 100+ person audience, but by distributing packets containing most of the articles linked below to attendees and panel members. Bumping into the local ABC news crew was dumb luck, but any medium to help get the message out is welcome and I thank them for publishing my side of the story in detail while accurately portraying the panel members as essentially avoiding the issue in any substantive detail. Ironically this all took place at the same University which houses the professor mentioned above who co-authored the study on crushing the Tea Party as well as Professor David Guth who made headlines last year by calling for the deaths of the children of NRA members. To their credit, KU also hosted a presidential campaign rally for Ron Paul in 2012 at the Lied Center, which I attended, so perhaps there is some hope for them yet!
In the end, the question remains as to why the Federal government would repeatedly characterize such groups, who have traditionally been respected and understood to comprise the most patriotic and wholesome of American society, as domestic terrorists. The answer to that question is highly complex, and despite what some may think, it is much larger than the Obama Administration (though an organization’s culture is defined by its leadership). For some more insight into this, read my previous two-part series “Who are the real domestic terrorists?” and stay tuned for an upcoming piece that further explores the targeting of veterans specifically. UPDATE: Read the follow up to this article here.
1. Why Is the African American Imprisonment Rate Higher Than Whites? http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kiernan-hopkins/why-is-the-african-americ_b_4032382.html
2. Omnibus Counterterrorism Act of 1995 http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d104:s.00390:
3. Rhetorical Question http://www.newrepublic.com/article/politics/rhetorical-question#primary-form
4. Text: Rumsfeld on NBC’s ‘Meet the Press’ http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/nation/specials/attacked/transcripts/nbctext_093001.html
5. Salina Journal, Salina, KS http://s11.postimg.org/53qyri80j/citecatastrophic.png
6. Roadmap for National Security https://web.archive.org/web/20010602223311/http://www.nssg.gov/phaseIII.pdf
7. Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment http://fas.org/irp/eprint/rightwing.pdf
8. Napolitano stands by controversial report http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2009/apr/16/napolitano-stands-rightwing-extremism/
9. Scouts Train to Fight Terrorists, and More http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/14/us/14explorers.html?_r=2&
10. Veterans a Focus of FBI Extremist Probe http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB123992665198727459?mg=reno64-wsj&url=http%3A%2F%2Fonline.wsj.com%2Farticle%2FSB123992665198727459.html
12. Armed for War: Pentagon surplus gives local police an edge http://fox59.com/2014/05/12/armed-for-war-local-police-tote-pentagon-surplus/#axzz31isc0kux
13. Secret State Police Report: Ron Paul, Bob Barr, Chuck Baldwin, Libertarians are Terrorists http://www.infowars.com/secret-state-police-report-ron-paul-bob-barr-chuck-baldwin-libertarians-are-terrorists/
14. Does Army consider Christians, Tea Party, a terror threat? http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2013/10/23/does-army-consider-christians-tea-party-terror-threat/
15. Equal Opportunity and Treatment Incidents http://www.judicialwatch.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/2161-docs.pdf
16. How the U.S. Military Would Crush a Tea Party Rebellion http://www.forbes.com/sites/michaelpeck/2012/11/15/how-the-u-s-military-would-crush-a-tea-party-rebellion/