Right-wing Extremism in the US

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This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.

Audio Transcript:

Lisa Mullins: Daryl Johnson also studies right-wing groups, but he focuses on those in the United States. Johnson served as a senior analyst on domestic terrorism at the Department of Homeland Security until last year. He says that US authorities are concentrating on foreign terrorist threats.

Daryl Johnson: There's actually hundreds of analysts in the US intelligence community that focus on al Qaeda and its affiliates, but here in the United States there's probably only a few dozen that actually focus on domestic non-Islamic groups.

Mullins: And a few dozen is how many too few?

Johnson: I think that we should at least be devoting more resources. I'm not in a position to determine exactly what that number is, but I would think at least three to four times that would be adequate.

Mullins: Why do you come to that number, I mean how vulnerable is the United States to a threat from the far right?

Johnson: Well, the far right is a persistent threat that constantly engages in small scale attacks like pipe bombings and mass shootings, things of this nature. So, you don't have the greatest risk of having a mass casualty attack, but occasionally these things do manifest themselves as we saw in Norway.

Mullins: It appears though that Anders Behring Breivik was deeply influenced by a number of American writers and bloggers. The manifesto of his, he quoted liberally from the Unabomber certainly, Ted Kaczynski, and other Americans such as Robert Spencer, this is the man who runs the website called Jihad Watch. And I wonder if groups like those, Jihad Watch, crossed your radar when you were at Homeland Security?

Johnson: Well, we did look at groups like Jihad Watch in particular because they're not prone to violence. But one thing I have noticed is that since the advent of the internet it has become so much easier for extremists and people that may be mentally unstable or deranged to be introduced to these ideologies in the privacy of their own home. Just 10-20 years ago people would actually have to go to a Ku Klux Klan meeting to become a member of the Ku Klux Klan and subscribe to its ideology. Now we can do that at the comfort of our own homes.

Mullins: Do you draw, and I know, Daryl, you're not with Homeland Security anymore, but do you draw a lesson for the United States from what happened in Norway last Friday?

Johnson: Well, the lesson should be that these right-wing groups should not be dismissed as a nuisance, but rather considered a threat not quite on the par of al Qaeda, but definitely a terrorist threat worth government efforts to mitigate and monitor.

Mullins: What does that mean, I mean what's the government to do with that?

Johnson: Well, they need to understand that these groups are capable of mass violence as we've seen over in Oslo. That not every attack is going to be a small scale attack against property or against a small group of people. There's been a history that shows that these groups occasionally will use mass violence to draw attention to their cause.

Mullins: Did you have any personal reaction yourself to what happened in Norway?

Johnson: Well, yeah, I mean basically this is the thing that I feared the most you know. It occurred overseas, but this could easily happen here in America. The extremist groups on the far right here in the US possess far more capability than the individual had over in Norway. I've seen the weapons arsenals. I've seen the type of training they engage in. And so it's my greatest fear that these groups here in the United States may be inspired by an act such as the one in Oslo.

Mullins: Daryl Johnson, former senior analyst for domestic terrorism at the Department of Homeland Security. He is currently the head of DT Analytics, a private consulting firm outside Washington, DC. Thank you, Daryl

Johnson: Thank you.