Anyone surprised by President Barack Obama's recurring attempts at exploiting jihadist attacks in his efforts to restrict gun ownership should read the earliest known document concerning terrorism assembled by his administration. The unclassified assessment by Department of Homeland Security (DHS), titled "Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment," is dated April 7, 2009 -- a mere 77 days after Obama's inauguration.
The document was leaked shortly after its release to law enforcement officials across the country and made public by Roger Hedgecock on April 13, 2009. It laid out the new president's legislative and executive priorities on terrorism, guns and immigration. Uniquely combining these three issues would become a predictable, coordinated pattern during Obama's two terms in office.
The assessment boldly delineated the Tom Ridge and Janet Napolitano eras at the DHS. As Eli Lake wrote the day after the document was leaked, "Since its inception in 2003, the department has focused primarily on radicalization of Muslims and the prospect of homegrown Islamist terrorism." Under Obama's leadership, attention was directed away from Muslims and Islamist terrorism and redirected towards limiting the Second Amendment, scrutinizing military veterans and expanding both legal and illegal immigration.
Contrary to criticism of the Obama administration as uninterested in the plight of military veterans, the DHS assessment shows that vets were very much a priority. The document's authors, in fact, were worried that "military veterans facing significant challenges returning into their communities could lead to the potential emergence of terrorist groups or lone wolf extremists."
The only significant acts of domestic terrorism perpetrated by veterans lately have not been inspired from the right, however: Micah Xavier Johnson and Gavin Long are products of a "left wing," anti-police, anti-establishment ideology. The assassinations they carried out fit the pattern of the so-called "New Left" wave of terror carried out in the 1970s by the Weather Underground and the Black Panthers.
The language of the document also foretells the Obama story. In its brief seven pages of text there are 25 references to gun control, weapons and ammunition-hoarding. Terrorists motivated by "anti-immigration" and "white supremacist" ideologies are mentioned 11 times, and veterans returning home from Afghanistan and Iraq are mentioned 9 times. Variations of "extremism," which would become Obama's preferred euphemism, occur 42 times.
Timothy McVeigh is the model terrorist in the document. DHS spokeswoman Sara Kuban said a goal of the report was "to prevent another Tim McVeigh from ever happening again."
The 1990s figure prominently in the DHS prognostication, meriting 17 references. The "poor economic climate," the Clinton "assault weapon" ban and "a perceived threat to US power and sovereignty by other foreign powers" are envisioned as parallel to the situation in 2009. Looking back at the 1990s and predicting similar troubles in the age of Obama, Napolitano's DHS made no mention of the most significant development in the evolution of political violence to occur in the 1990s: the rise of Al-Qaeda.
Military strategists worth their pay will recognize the DHS version of "preparing to fight the last war," but then Obama has surrounded himself not with military strategists but rather with fiction writers, wide-eyed diplomats whose strategy is limited to "don't do stupid shit," and law enforcement officials who believe that "Our most effective response to terror and hatred is compassion, unity and love."
In a passage about "the historical election of an African American president and the prospect of policy changes," there is a reference to "the shooting deaths of three police officers in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on 4 April 2009." The shooter in question was Richard Poplawski, who ambushed the police called to his home to investigate a domestic disturbance. The DHS concludes that "his racist ideology and belief in antigovernment conspiracy theories" led to his "radicalization," though years later, after Poplawski was convicted and sentenced to death, reporters and even the jury were still unsure of his motives.
The Poplawski shooting occurred just three days before the date on the document. Compare that remarkably speedy conclusion to the way the Obama Administration has handled jihadist attacks. Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan's November 5, 2009 attack in Fort Hood, Texas, and Alton Nolan's September 24, 2014 ritual beheading of a coworker at the Vaughan Foods plant in Moore, Oklahoma, are described as "workplace violence."
FBI Director James Comey expressed confusion over Omar Mateen's motives for the recent Orlando jihad attack, even though Mateen's attack was accompanied by the jihadist's battle cry "Allahu Akhbar" and a pledge of allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, Caliph of the Islamic State during a 911 call. Before that it was the San Bernardino husband-wife jihadist team whose motives were ostensibly a mystery to the FBI.
Only "rightwing extremism" is obvious to the Obama Administration. Everything else is apparently too complex and nuanced for labels. Even Micah Xavier Johnson, who told Dallas police that he was motivated by "Black Lives Matters" rhetoric and hatred of white people, is a conundrum to the president, who bizarrely asserted that it is "hard to untangle the motives of this shooter."
Left: The 2009 Department of Homeland Security assessment titled "Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment." Right: Micah Xavier Johnson, who murdered five Dallas police officers and injured nine others, said that he was motivated by "Black Lives Matters" rhetoric and hatred of white people.
After the 2009 DHS assessment was widely and rightly criticized, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) complained that the administration "let its team devoted to non-Islamic domestic terrorism fall apart in the aftermath of... [the] controversial leaked report." But while the "Extremism and Radicalization Branch, Homeland Environment Threat Analysis Division" may have been dropped, but the principles that led to the document were not.
Even more so than the Bush era, the Obama era is one of willful blindness to the global jihadist movement that has declared war on America. CIA Director John Brennan purged the word "jihad" from the agency's vocabulary. Obama's two Attorneys General have done the same at the Department of Justice.
The federal government has spent the last eight years pretending (maybe even believing) that "rightwing extremists" are more numerous and dangerous than the careful and intelligent jihadist attackers, whom it insists are just "madmen" or "troubled individuals."
A.J. Caschetta is a Shillman-Ginsburg fellow at the Middle East Forum and a senior lecturer at the Rochester Institute of Technology.