11/7/17 Identifying Extremists

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Earlier this year, the GAO called for a defined strategy to counter violent extremists.

Here’s what’s happening behind the headlines.

Who’s an extremist depends on which government document is consulted.

The GAO relied on something called the Extremist Crime Database.  Nearly two-thirds of the criminal acts cataloged in the database were people who refused to pay income taxes or used offshore tax havens.

Most people would consider them tax cheats.  But database authors call them right-wing extremists.

According to a 2012 paper issued by West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center the “far right” constitute violent extremists. There is no companion publication of “far-left” groups.  The same year, an Army training scenario envisioned the U.S. military fighting an extremist militia that grew from the Tea Party movement.

In 2013, the FBI’s National Threat Assessment for Domestic Extremism identified violent extremists as including animal and environmental rights activists, and Puerto Rican nationalists. Curiously, it didn’t include Islamic extremists.

This year the FBI is warning against “black identity extremists.”

A Utah law enforcement bulletin issued last year warned that anyone displaying the “Don’t Tread on Me” flag may be an extremist.

And back in 2009, the Department of Homeland Security warned that supporters of the Second Amendment and military veterans could be extremists.

Countering violent extremists may be the goal. But government agencies cannot agree on who they are.
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