On Tuesday, just days after a white supremacist gunned down 11 people at a synagogue and just a week after a terrorist mailed more than a dozen bombs to critics of the president, the Department of Homeland Security—created after 9/11 to protect the United States from terrorism—had a conference call. Attendees were on the department’s Homeland Security Advisory Council, a group of more than two dozen former government officials and insiders who help guide the Department on its thorniest challenges.
The topic: a group of Central American migrants slowly wending their way through Mexico in hopes of seeking asylum in the United States. Some participants were flummoxed: In the face of the most lethal anti-semitic terror attack in American history, was DHS really focused, exclusively, on migrants?
“In the world of homeland security, the common practice is to focus on those threats that present the greatest risk,” said John Cohen, a Rutgers professor and former senior official in the Department of Homeland Security focused on counterterror. “So it’s disconcerting that in a call with national law enforcement and homeland security experts, the focus would be on the caravan versus the increasing number of mass casualty attacks the country’s experiencing, including by white extremists.”
It underscored a weakness at the center of U.S. national security. As the country reels from the latest spate of white supremacist murder, nine law-enforcement veterans say that combating violent white supremacy simply isn’t a top focus for the federal agencies mandated to protect Americans from terrorism. [Continue reading…]