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The U.S. Intelligence Community, Flouting Laws, is Increasingly Involving Itself in Domestic Politics

A report declassified last Wednesday by the Department of Homeland Security is raising serious concerns about the possibly illegal involvement by the intelligence community in US domestic political affairs.

Entitled “Domestic Violent Extremism Poses Heightened Threat in 2021,” the March 1 Report from the Director of National Intelligence states that it was prepared “in consultation with the Attorney General and Secretary of Homeland Security—and was drafted by the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and Department of Homeland Security (DHS), with contributions from the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA).”

Its primary point is this: “The IC [intelligence community] assesses that domestic violent extremists (DVEs) who are motivated by a range of ideologies and galvanized by recent political and societal events in the United States pose an elevated threat to the Homeland in 2021.” While asserting that “the most lethal” of these threats is posed by “racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists (RMVEs) and militia violent extremists (MVEs),” it makes clear that its target encompasses a wide range of groups from the left (Antifa, animal rights and environmental activists, pro-choice extremists and anarchists: “those who oppose capitalism and all forms of globalization”) to the right (sovereign citizen movements, anti-abortion activists and those deemed motivated by racial or ethnic hatreds).

The US security state apparatus regards the agenda of “domestic violent extremists” as “derived from anti-government or anti-authority sentiment,” which includes “opposition to perceived economic, racial or social hierarchies.” In sum, to the Department of Homeland Security, an “extremist” is anyone who opposes the current prevailing ruling class and system for distributing power. Anyone they believe is prepared to use violence, intimidation or coercion in pursuit of these causes then becomes a “domestic violent extremist,” subject to a vast array of surveillance, monitoring and other forms of legal restrictions:

It goes without saying that violence of any kind — including that which is politically motivated — is a serious crime under US law, and it is the proper role of the US Government to investigate and prevent it. But there are real and important legal and institutional limits on the authority of the intelligence community to involve itself in domestic law enforcement, or other forms of domestic political activity, that seem threatened here, if not outright violated.

In particular, the Report’s acknowledgement that it was compiled by institutions including “the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), with contributions from the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA)” has alarmed numerous members of the House Intelligence Committee. On Thursday, all ten minority members of that Committee wrote a previously unreported letter to Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines “to raise serious concerns about the production of this document by the Intelligence Community (IC) and to seek clarification of the facts related to its production.”

Among the issues raised was that the DHS Report was not subject to the standard rigors of an intelligence community finding, yet continually makes sweeping claims that it prefixes with the authoritative phrase “the IC assesses.” The Committee members found this “to be misleading,” adding: we “urge you to clarify which elements in the IC concurred with this judgement and the intelligence basis, if any, for that concurrence.” In other words, Haines claims that these dubious assertions about various threats faced by Americans are the findings of the intelligence community when that is not true: just like the originally false claim widely spread by the media that “all seventeen intelligence agencies” endorsed the 2016 election findings about Russian interference when, in fact, it was only a few which had done so. Haines’ claims have support only from a few agencies as well.