The former Homeland Security official who warned against the rising threat of right-wing extremism a decade ago places the blame for recent domestic terror attacks squarely on the Republican Party.
Conservatives reacted with outrage after DHS analyst Daryl Johnson and his team warned in 2009 that military veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan were vulnerable to recruitment by right-wing extremists, who were growing as a domestic terror threat due to the economic recession and the election of Barack Obama, reported The Guardian.
The DHS chief publicly apologized, the analysts who produced the report were reassigned to study Muslim extremism and Johnson was pushed out of the agency a year later — and has watched in horror as his warnings have come true.
“The political fiasco surrounding the report created a chilling effect in the law enforcement and intelligence community,” Johnson said. “It indicated that this topic is radioactive and you better stay away from it. If you pursue it, there’s going to be hell to pay — that was the message.”
Johnson was asked to study the threat in January 2007 by the Capitol Police, who were concerned about threats from white supremacists against Obama, then an Illinois state senator considering a run for president.
“We didn’t see any initially, but we kept it open for the duration of the whole campaign,” Johnson said. “Once Obama won the Democratic nomination, that’s when the threats started. We all knew a black man getting elected president of the United States, and him being a Democrat on top, was the worst nightmare for both anti-government extremists and white supremacists.”
Johnson believes the paper they eventually produced was the best work he’d ever done, and he was extremely disturbed to see Republicans politicize the term “right-wing extremism,” which had been used in counterterrorism for decades.
“I never thought that somebody would equate ‘right-wing extremism’ with the Republican Party or the Tea Party or anything like that,” he said.
The former DHS analyst believes the GOP intentionally twisted his work to win back a congressional majority after Obama’s 2008 election, and because they count on support from those same right-wing extremists.
“They’re the ones who are arming Americans,” Johnson said. “No matter how many times you can try to blame the person for carrying out the act, they still have access to weapons that are meant for war.”
“I also believe, going back to their campaign strategy for the 2010 midterms, there’s blood on their hands,” he added. “They’re definitely fanning the flame and providing the fuel, and it’s all to win elections.”
Looking back at that period, Johnson realizes the Republican Party helped radicalize Americans by politicizing his report and fanning the flames of extremism.
“Their fundraising strategy was to generate fear and paranoia about having a black Democrat in the White House,” he said. “They created all these memes to paint him as a Muslim, not a US citizen. All this crap.”
Johnson said Republicans must call out right-wing extremism instead of blaming domestic terrorism on mental illness, but he said President Donald Trump had made things much worse.
“I don’t see this problem going away anytime soon,” he said. “It’s getting worse. The changing demographics in America can’t be stopped and it will continue to feed the extremists who fear the United States is becoming brown and not white.”
“And when you have a president mainstreaming your ideas,” Johnson added, “a president who seems to lend tacit support to you, it gives you a license to misbehave.”