The day after 9/11, everything changed. Realizing the nation needed a more integrated, holistic approach to domestic security, Congress created the Department of Homeland Security. Combating terrorism became job No. 1.
All this came with a caveat. From the start, Americans remained understandably concerned. Under the wrong leaders, these powerful instruments of public safety could be turned into weapons for partisan action: suppressing free speech, invading privacy, denying the right to assemble peacefully, and persecuting political opponents.
Isn’t that exactly what the Biden administration is now doing?
The warning signs are certainly all there.
Consider how this administration is politicizing the threat of domestic terrorism. Addressing Congress in April, President Joe Biden intentionally labeled "white supremacist" terrorism as the "most lethal terrorist threat" to the United States.
A March 2021 intelligence community assessment says domestic violent extremists of all political stripes pose "an elevated threat." We must remember several serious threats facing the homeland, such as cybersecurity breaches, pandemics, natural disasters, foreign terrorist organizations, and transnational criminal organizations. Each of these causes serious economic damage and loss of life. There is no data or supporting assessment to claim white supremacists are the most lethal threat to the homeland.
Yet, that is exactly what our president asserted.
Nuance matters. Biden wants Americans to pay attention to one threat above all others, and he wants to tie that threat to his political opponents.
Further, by harping on particular fringe groups that aren’t actually affiliated with any mainstream political movement—and largely ignoring organized political violence by progressive groups like Black Lives Matter and antifa that has resulted in widespread rioting, arson, looting, and the injury of thousands of law enforcement officers—the White House leaves the impression that politics, not public safety, tops its agenda.
Here is another red flag: The administration’s new strategy on dealing with domestic terrorism only makes the bias more apparent. On the one hand, the document is a public safety policy "nothing burger." There really isn't anything new or different. On the other hand, it is a messaging document designed to tar progressive opponents as dangerous and unstable.
The strategy targets the military and veteran community and talks about the need to root out further domestic terrorists within their ranks—a shameful tactic. The strategy also emphasizes restricting gun rights, which indicates a very politically driven agenda.
There is also a section about racism and the need for better civics education. But not a real education, no. It's an indoctrination calling for Americans to "receive the type of civics education that promotes tolerance and respect for all and investing in policies and programs that foster civic engagement and inspire a shared commitment to American democracy, all the while acknowledging when racism and bigotry have meant that the country fell short of living up to its founding principles."
The president signed off this document that endorsed critical race theory as a tool of civic education, knowing conservatives oppose the doctrine because its implementation would violate laws that protect civil liberties and prohibit discrimination. By endorsing this approach to political indoctrination and highlighting it in his strategy, Biden reinforces the notion he sees his political opponents as the root cause of domestic extremism and terrorism.
Finally, and most telling, white supremacists and militias appear to be the only threats the strategy focuses on. There is no mention of what happened in Portland or Seattle. Meanwhile, the prosecutions of the Jan. 6 protesters continue, while the prosecutions of those in Portland and elsewhere from last summer continue to diminish (and, in most cases, are getting dismissed).
One upshot of this insidious partisanship is that many states may cease cooperating with Federal Joint Terrorism Task Forces and end cooperative intelligence sharing. They may fear being recruited into a partisan witch hunt against Biden's political opponents.
Biden is putting a heavy hand on scales of justice, one that seeks to demonize conservatives, politicize homeland security, and distract law enforcement and public safety officials from their primary task of keeping the homeland safe. Is this the "unity" Americans were promised?
This piece originally appeared in The Washington Examiner