Small-Arms Tactics: Reading Between the Lines

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently produced a short product on lone shooters and small-unit tactics as a threat to the United States, which was thoughtfully reproduced online by Public Intelligence.

For the most part, what it says isn’t very interesting – it basically regurgitates some rather banal details about high-profile criminal acts invoving firearms or simulated firearms in recent years, and then includes some very qualified statements disavowing knowledge of any plans or attempts to use such tactics in the future. On the surface, there’s nothing to see here; at a glance this looks no different than any of the other, superficially quite similar, documents that law enforcement in this country churn out on an almost daily basis.

Read between the lines, though, and see what isn’t mentioned, and it gets a bit more interesting.

One of the things I immediately noticed is the footnote on page 3:

(U//FOUO) For the purposes of this document, DHS and the FBI define a homegrown violent extremist as a United States-based individual who is inspired to commit acts of violence in furtherance of objectives promoted by a foreign terrorist organization, but who acts without direction from the foreign terrorist organization.

At first glance this sounds like an attempt to provide clarity, which is always a good thing. I’m not so sure, though; what it really serves to do is emphatically sever the discussions in the document from more traditional domestic extremist individuals and groups. It mentions the Discovery Channel gunman and the Holocaust Museum shooter – the latter a well-documented white-supremacist extremist – neglects to mention the Hutaree militia plot at all, then goes to great lengths to narrow discussion of the “Homeland Threat” from gunmen and small, armed units to only transnational terrorist groups and “United States-based individuals inspired to commit acts of violence in furtherance of objectives promoted by a foreign terrorist organization“.

See the pink elephants in the room they’re taking appallingly conspicuous pains to ignore? Militias, like the Hutaree. White supremacists. The latest generation of sovereign citizenship, anti-government groups, like the Guardians of the Free Republics.

I find it utterly incomprehensible that you would produce an intelligence produce on lone gunmen and small-unit tactics as a threat to the Homeland and not mention these groups without a damned good reason for doing so.

In fact, I can only think, offhand, of three reasons for entirely and explicitly ommitting all mention of purely domestic extremism whatsoever from this sort of discussion:

1. Owing to utter and abject incompetence.

2. Due to craven and despicable cowardice in the face of misguided political outrage over previous discussions of the “domestic extremist” threat.

3. Because timely and meaningful information about the (very real) domestic extremist threat is not, and cannot be disseminated at, “For Official Use Only”.

I very much hope that #3 is correct – that DHS and the FBI are aware of the threat posed by domestic extremists, and are treating them seriously, but are holding all information about such threats quite close to the chest.

Unfortunately, I rather more believe (and very much fear) that #2 is correct – that the howls of self-righteous outrage let loose by both “right-wing extremists” and “left-wing extremists” over the last year or so mean that American law enforcement are once again short-sightedly neglecting purely domestic threats to freedom and security while concentrating exclusively on those that involve foreign terrorist organizations.

If that’s really the case – if the anti-government “patriots” and the Birthers and the tea-baggers and Two Percenters have, in the lead up to national elections that are either going to greatly embolden or greatly anger a lot of potentially very dangerous extremists in this country – somehow managed to coerce, bully, or browbeat domestic law enforcement into ignoring them… well, not to put too fine a point on it, but freedom and liberty and democracy have, basically, lost.

Am I reading too much into this? Am I being more suspicious and cynical on this grey and dreary day than usual? Am I being foolish to intentionally overlook my mantra “never attribute to malice what can be chalked up to incompetence”? Am I the only one who finds it incomprehensible that you’d even attempt to discuss small-unit tactics and lone gunmen as a domestic threat without mentioning the “patriots”, militias, and whatnot?

Your thoughts and comments and illiterate diatribes about the Second Amendment and COINTELPRO and/or tinfoil headgear are probably welcome…

Published in: General, Security | on October 26th, 2010| Comments Off on Small-Arms Tactics: Reading Between the Lines

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