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Truth or Consequences

Are we safe from the threat of right-wing terrorism? As the Patriot movement comes roaring back and hate groups soar to record levels, is the American population being protected adequately?

This March, five members of the Alaska Peacemakers Militia were arrested and charged with plotting to murder or kidnap police officers and judges if their leader, then fleeing prosecution on a weapons charge, were caught. Already, they had amassed an arsenal that included a .50-caliber machine gun, grenades and a grenade launcher, and dozens of high-powered assault rifles.

A year before that, nine members of another antigovernment "Patriot" group, the Hutaree Militia, were charged with seditious conspiracy and attempted use of weapons of mass destruction. They allegedly planned to murder one police officer, then use missiles and bombs to kill hundreds more at the funeral.

And in May 2010, between the two militia plots, two police officers in West Memphis, Ark., were murdered during a routine traffic stop by a pair of "sovereign citizens," a type of Patriot who believes that the government has no power to levy laws or taxes.

Are we safe from the threat of right-wing terrorism? As the Patriot movement that wreaked so much havoc in the 1990s comes roaring back and hate groups soar to record levels, is the American population being protected adequately?

Daryl Johnson says no.

Johnson is the former lead analyst of non-Islamic domestic terrorism at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) — the agency charged with developing intelligence, as opposed to criminal cases, about terror on U.S. soil. He is also the lead author of the report on right-wing extremism that DHS sent to police agencies in early 2009, but ultimately pulled back after a number of conservative groups and politicians complained that it tarred all on the political right.

That wasn't so, of course. In fact, the report was spot on, pointing out the resurgence of the American radical right and attributing it, in part, to the election of a black president and the sorry state of the nation's economy without demonizing anyone. But DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano was assailed by conservative commentators like Michelle Malkin, politicians like U.S. Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.), and groups like the American Legion, which was angry that Johnson had pointed out that extremists were interested in recruiting returning war veterans.

That much has been publicly known since 2009, when the report was leaked and, after a brief initial defense, pulled back by Napolitano.

Now, in an explosive interview with the Intelligence Report, Johnson says that DHS went further. He says the department's press office mischaracterized his report as unauthorized — even though it had passed through all proper channels. He says the department instituted restrictive policies in the aftermath of the leak that have effectively ended the issuing of any of the dozens of important reports it used to prepare for law enforcement agencies annually. He says that he left the agency in dismay at the lack of support, and was followed by almost all the members of his domestic terrorism team, leaving a single analyst where there had been six. What it all amounted to, Johnson says, is "they ended up gutting my unit."

Although Johnson, who describes himself as "personifying conservatism," has left DHS, he remains worried about the threat of domestic terrorism. And he is not alone.

Last year, FBI Director Robert Mueller testified to Congress that "home-grown and lone-wolf extremists," including domestic jihadists, had come to constitute a threat as serious as Al Qaeda. More recently, Harper's Magazine, citing the Muslim Public Affairs Council, said in its May issue that there had been 10 confirmed "terrorist plots against the United States perpetrated by Muslims in 2010," while 25 came from non-Muslims.

A number of stories in this issue reflect continuing trouble from the domestic radical right — articles on the ironically named Alaska Peacemakers Militia, on sovereign citizens' encounters with police, and many more.

"These incidents are starting to add up," Johnson points out in our interview. "Yet our legislators, politicians and national leaders don't appear too concerned about this. So my greatest fear is that domestic terrorists in this country will somehow become emboldened to the point of carrying out a mass-casualty attack, because they perceive that no one is being vigilant about the threat from within. This is what keeps me up at night."

Due to a transcription error, a story in the Winter 2010 issue of the Intelligence Report misquoted former Arizona Sheriff Richard Mack speaking at the Freedom Action National Conference last August. Mack did not say that he hoped that a sheriff would "take out some IRS agents." He said: "My dear friends, I pray for the day that when the first sheriff of this country knows and understands his duty well enough, that he'll be the first one to fire the next shot around the world and arrest a couple of IRS agents." We sincerely regret the error.