MEMORANDUM FOR: U.S Department of Homeland Security
FROM: Alexander Emesh, MA. Candidate
SUBJECT: Three most urgent Terrorist Threats to USA
MEMO ON NATIONAL SECURITY
The Homeland is threatened with the evolving terrorism capacity of antigovernmental homegrown militias. America’s top three terrorist threats are from the militia members of the: Three Percenters, Oathkeepers, and Bugaloos. These homegrown extremists have formed a loose coalition in 2017 in the “Unite the Right” rally (Signer 2020). Cross-regional leaders’ unification on antigovernmental extremism and white supremacy poses the greatest terrorist threat to the Homeland. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will need to modify DHS’s strategic operations and develop a tiger-team to identify new approaches which differ from the current Jihadi-based counter-terrorism strategies. DHS will face a more significant hurdle, as the current domestic terror threat has more considerable appeal to America’s military members and law enforcement officers. DHS has the authority under our mandate to contain domestic terrorism and provide solutions to deter contemporary threats to the American civil space (DHS 2020).
Today’s Threat Environment
January 6th, 2021’s insurrection was a result of the unification of homegrown extremists. Extremists recruited sympathetic individuals across regional borders and unified them to engage soft-targets based on political grievances. Homegrown extremists are forming small-scale terrorist cells and are currently coordinating their plans through encrypted messages and back-channels of internet (Vanian 2021). Military personal and law enforcement have become integrated into the ranks of homegrown extremists. Campaign headquarters, state capitals, and federal roadways are all providing future soft targets for home-made ordinances. DHS must heighten our awareness of local militias and retired military personnel. An appropriation of further resources is required to work with social media companies, political representatives, and adjoined federal departments to respect civil liberties while containing belligerents.
The previous DHS threat report made under A/Secretary Chad Wolf(de facto) recognized the threats of lone-wolf terror cells in the 2020 Threat Assessment Report. However, in that assessment, there was a failure to recognize the changes that occurred during the 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville (DHS 2020). This event was a regional unification and contact sharing of Oath Keepers, Three percenters, Bugaloos(Proud Boys + Qanon), and other small-scale militias(A.P. 2021). These militias used those contacts to coordinate assets on January 6th’s insurrection. Going forward, DHS must prioritize resources on the top three homegrown terrorist militias and their affiliates.
Top Three Threats to the Homeland
Truck Bomb in Oklahoma 2017: Jerry Varnell, a member of the Three Percenters, attempted was arrested in Oklahoma City as he tried to set off a truck bomb outside a bank. The bomb was constructed from anhydrous ammonia. Varnell initially desired to detonate the bomb outside the Federal Reserve Building in Washington, D.C., “an act was done to show the government what the people think of its actions. It is also a call to arms to show people that there are still fighters among the American people. The time for revolution is now.” ( Western District of Oklahoma 2017)
Mosque Bombing: Members of the Three Percenters in Illinois were arrested on a variety of charges in connection to the bombing of a mosque in Minnesota in August 2017, and the failed bombing of an abortion clinic in Illinois in November 2017 (ADL ND).
Kansas 2016: Three Percenters were arrested for conspiracy to use a truck bomb to destroy a housing complex. The targets were muslim immigrants from Somalia (ADL ND).
Oklahoma 2015: Three Percenter, Jeremy Doss, took part in a drunken shooting spree killing two people. He opened fire at multiple drivers along the I-40 (Clay 2017)
Ricin Attack: Three Percenters were involved in a D.C ricin attack plot. The militia sought to obtain ordinances and biological toxin ricin. They discussed ways to attack Washington by dispensing ricin from an airplane. One of the suspects served 30 years in the Navy (ADL ND).
2021 Storming of the Capital: Multiple members of the Three Percenters were arrested in connection to trespassing, destruction of barricades, and assault on capital police officers (Hsu 2021).
Michael “Mike” Brian Vanderboegh: Founder of Three Percenters, was quoted when discussing the Affordable Care Act in 2010 “…Break them NOW. Break them and run to break again. Break them under cover of night. Break them in broad daylight. … Break them with rocks. Break them with slingshots. Break them with baseball bats. But BREAK THEM.” Vanderboegh wrote a book titled “Strategy and Tactics for a Militia Civil War.” The book is a manifesto filled with strategies like killing police officers to demonstrate the US government’s permeability. (SPLC ND).
Chris Hill: Former marine, leader of the Three Percenters of Georgia. Organized the militia to threaten at gun-point counter-Trump protesters. “There is no doubt in my mind we are stumbling towards an armed conflict inside the United States of America.” Chris Hill said they plan on the U.S entering into civil war by 2021(Citizen Action Monitor ND).
David Wright: David Wright organizes Three Percenters to take part in armed and masked protests outside Mosques. “We will interfere with every move they (Muslims) make towards taking over our country,” (Dunklin and Schmall 2021).
Christian Stanley Ferguson: Christian was arrested on May 8th, 2020, for an attempted plot to massacre Ohio’s law enforcement and commandeer their equipment (U.S. Attorney’s Office 2020).
Kevin Massey: Kevin was caught detaining undocumented migrants from Mexico at gunpoint, promised violence against the federal government, was a fugitive and committed suicide while on the run (ADL ND).
Oathkeepers started in 2009, after the election of President Obama. Their name comes from their espoused “Jihad” against the enemies of the Constitution. They provide a form of hierarchy to loose regional militias who believe that the federal government is complicit in stripping citizens’ liberties. Their view is the government has already crossed the line and are corrupted by “shadowy forces.” (Hymes 2021). They claim that they have a membership of around 35,000 people, with the majority being former law enforcement and military (SPLC ND). During the presidential election of Joe Biden, Oathkeeper’s founder Steward Rhodes was quoted “Let’s not fuck around. We’ve descended into civil war.. ..our would-be slave masters are greatly underestimating the resolve and military capability of the people” (Midkiff 2020).
Bundy Ranch Standoff: 2014, Oathkeepers have an armed standoff with the federal government over grazing rights (Urquhart 2015).
Sugar Pine Mine Standoff: 2015, Oathkeepers have an armed standoff with the federal government over a land-use dispute. (Urquhart 2015)
Malheur National Wildlife Refuge: 2015, a coalition of militias have a standoff over federal land, and 26 people are indicted on felony charges of conspiracy ( Oregon Live 2017).
2021 Storming of the Capital: Oathkeepers communicated with radios and Facebook to other rioters providing them intelligence and whereabouts of government personel. Oathkeepers also sent messages to Three Percenters suggesting using a boat to send insurgents and heavy weapons across the Potomac River to supply the siege (Savage et al. 2021).
Charles Dyer: Former marine, Investigators found a 40mm grenade launcher stole from a military base. Charles was convicted of rape and child molestation. He was also involved in Oathkeepers messaging board and developing content (Rains 2020).
Matthew Fairfield: President of local Oathkeepers in Cleveland. Investigators found inside his house a napalm bomb and other explosive devices (Puente 2010).
Richard Mack: Former Sheriff, attempting to create an “army of sheriffs” to resist the federal government. Fundraised for the Oathkeepers, quotes mention the federal government as “the greatest threat we face today” (Harte et al. 2018).
Darren Huff: Plotted to take control of a Tennessee courthouse and hold captive two dozen federal, state, and local officials. (Keller 2010)
Bugaloo Movement are a part of a growing ideology of male chauvinism, anti-immigration, conspiracy theory, and internet sensationalism. The Bugaloo movement originated in the United States, but ideologically overlaps with the Proud Boys (Canada). Their names origin, “Bugaloo” is slang for future civil war. Their symbolism is drawn from online memes and images (ADL ND). Often seen in Hawaiian shirts based on a trending meme. They recruit on 4chan, reddit, podcasts, and forum boards. Their goal is to spoil the government and incite cross-regional violence until a race-war breaks out. It is estimated that they have over 10,000 followers. It’s members identify as veterans, active military, retired and active police, supporters and detractors of President Trump (Farivar 2021).
Las Vegas Terrorism Charges: Stephen T. Parshall, aka “Kiwi,” 35; Andrew Lynam, 23; and William L. Loomis, 40, planned to throw Molotov cocktails at Black Lives Matter protesters in Las Vegas and were arrested on conspiracy and terrorism charges (Blankstein et al. 2020).
Attempting to Provide Material Support to Hamas: Three members of the Bugaloo movement sought to join forces and provide support, including weapons accessories, to Hamas. Solomon and Teeter expressed their ability to manufacture unmarked parts for guns and create unregistered and untraceable weapons, including suppressors. (The United States Department of Justice 2020)
Kidnapping of Michigan Governor: Bugaloo members believed that COVID was an excuse for government tyranny and planned to kidnap Michigan’s governor. Members were found with explosives were purchased and were planned to be used as a distraction for law enforcement during the heist (Sosa 2020).
Steven Carillo: Retired Air Force Seargent, charged with the shooting of security personnel. Ambushed a U.S. courthouse and killed a California sheriff’s deputy, and injured four other officers (Dazio 2020).
Timothy Wilson: Missouri man, upset at the government’s response to COVID19, coordinated with former Army soldier and bomb-maker Jarret Smith, planned on bombing a hospital in the Kansas City area in 2020. He had further plans to bomb mosques (KCTV 2020).
Lynam Jr: Former Navy personnel planned to use incendiary devices on civilians at a Black Lives Matter protest in Las Vegas (Komenda 2020).
William Loomis: Former Air Force personnel joined with Lynam to commit terrorism on Black Lives Matter protesters in Las Vegas (Komenda 2020).
Joseph Morrison: Former marine, also known as the “commander” or his online alias, “Boogaloo Bunya” coordinated an attack on Michigan’s Governor (Sosa 2020).
Level of Urgency
The Presidential election of President Obama and his subsequent terms, saw the rise of Oathkeepers and Three Percenters. These militias sought to fight the federal government over immigration, Islamaphobia, land-use, and healthcare. Their members committed and conspired multiple terror attacks against law-enforcement and the public during his term. The Presidential campaign of Joe Biden saw the rise of the Bugaloo movement. This new militia is responsive to civil rights demonstrations, 21st-century encroachment on white supremacy, and COVID19 restrictions (ADL 2020). Their members have committed terrorist acts towards protesters, state government, and even tried to integrate with identified terror group Hamas. Going forward, DHS needs to recognize how serious the COVID19 restrictions will amplify the narrative of Three Percenters, Bugaloo, and Oathkeepers.
With lockdown measures, more people are stuck inside and are increasingly using the internet. Terrorist ideologies recruit and inspire using online platforms. More people are stuck at home due to stay-at-home orders, more are on the internet, and more are increasingly frustrated with lockdown measures. As a member of the Oathkeepers wrote, “This kettle is set to boil” (Savage et al. 2020).
Wide ranges of these current movements are already integrating COVID19 into their existing ideology. 60% of the found Bugaloo groups on Facebook started during their state’s stay-at-home order (Farivar 2020). The general principles of these militias are that the government is coming to take American civil liberties. With the pandemic bearing down on business and people, more and more extremists are likely to enact acts of terror. This was seen with the Bugaloo’s attempt to kidnap Michigan’s Governor. This is also demonstrated with Timothy Wilson’s bombing of hospitals and mosques over the government’s handling of Covid. Right-Wing extremism accounts for 90% of the terrorist attacks of 2019–2020 (ADL 2020). Unless DHS strategies change, the next two years will be some of America’s most challenging.
Since 9/11 the FBI has investigated 30:10 Jihadi-based extremism over white-based extremism (Berg 2018). However, the comparison of Jihadi-inspired terrorism and America’s anti-governmental extremists is paramount to understanding the threat level these militias place on DHS. These militias correlate the same beliefs as Jihadi’s and have publically quoted that the American Government is their greatest enemy. They have taken actions to kidnap governmental officials, plant bombs on soft targets, and planned to attack the Vice-President and other “RINO”s during the capital siege on January 6th, 2021 (Hsu 2021). This threat is severe, and it will be amplified as America is engulfed in election cycles.
Counterinsurgency going forward:
Need for a Tiger Team
The DHS will need to set up a tiger team and commission to identify the current counterinsurgency posture’s inadequacies. While these militias share a myriad of similarities to Jihadi-inspired organizations, the counter-terrorism strategy for homegrown Jihadism will meet significant barriers when applied to the Homeland’s top three threats.
National Commission on Military and LEO
Three Percenters, Bugaloos, and Oathkeepers, are integrated into America’s military and law enforcement. Well-trained veterans add legitimacy and value to the militias. Years of conflict and poor mental health treatment of soldiers have provided militias with a pipeline of recruitment. Therefore a tiger team is needed to revamp departmental policies across different agencies. A policy change must occur that actively deters current federal military and law enforcement personnel from being involved in militias. The tiger team needs to work with states and cities to map prominent militia’s activity on the state and municipality level. Understanding the regional size and scope of Oathkeepers, Three Percenters, and Bugaloos various chapters can provide DHS with the ability to interview and intervene in law enforcement personnel recruitment. The interviews may aid DHS in developing profiles for high-risk personnel.
New Ways to Gather Intelligence
The American public supported the domestic intelligence of Jihadi’s sponsored ideology because the ideology was imported from overseas. The implicit bias created an environment where names that appeared foreign would be given less sympathy in a courtroom, which allowed the DHS to prosecute and gain warrants on suspected extremists(Berg 2018). Jihadi’s had extraordinarily little support from America’s Muslim community, and the main outing of new radicals came from the Muslim community (Berg 2018). In contrast, the top three terror threats are domestic and rooted in America’s political mythology and discourse. Ergo, intelligence-gathering efforts will be controversial, and the gathering can be seen as a threat to civil liberties. Because of the wide-spread support of alt-right insurgents, courtrooms are more likely to have ideological support from jurors (Jenkins 2021). The militias have a sympathetic base with Americans, and 45% of polled Republicans supported the capital’s actions. If we apply that number to the former President’s 74 million votes, we can guess that up to 33 million Americans are empathetic to a violent overthrow of the U.S capital (CSIS 2020). Any legislative attempts to contain far-right radicalism will be met with a fierce argument as the support transcends the Republican party’s base. (Jenkins 2021)
However, efforts to gather intelligence are more important than ever. Far-right extremists have adopted a leaderless strategy and rely on localized cells to carry out attacks on their ideological behalf. Domestic extremists are unhindered by national borders and have large mobilizations across regional lines using online platforms.
The Tiger Team may not convince juries or political parties to gather intelligence on the top three threats. However, it can potentially work with social media companies voluntarily. Social Media companies like Twitter and Facebook are working to counter-terrorism efforts on their platform. By creating the space for members to work with DHS, DHS can develop a relationship with tech giants. Private entities can warn DHS about upcoming threats and behavioural changes on the platform. When terrorist content is distributed, social media companies can alert DHS of the content’s traction and to which people. This allows DHS to identify regional hotspots, which can overlap with the Tiger team’s plan to map militias activity. (CSIS 2020). The Tiger Team will need to develop a gateway for shared information between technology firms and DHS.
Tiger Team to develop Comity
The DHS tiger team will need to share and report their findings to a closed-door, bi-partisan intelligence committee in Washington. The Tiger Team’s findings will also need to provide the Speaker of the House, Majority/Minority Leader, and Majority/Minority Whip a series of suggestions to aid their caucus in re-invigorating the sense of civil union in the United States. Top-down guidance will be recommended on how to communicate ideological differences to the public. Politicians need to play a more critical role in developing civic unity with their caucus and constituents to the greater American public. Terrorism feeds off disinformation and victimization. America’s political representatives need to discourage “fighting words” and promote and respect loyal opposition.
Level of priority for each recommendation
To develop a cohesive strategy, The Department of Homeland Security should direct the task force to:
1) Develop a National Commission to address White Supremacy and Anti-Government extremism within Law Enforcement and the Military.
2) Advocate private senate and house hearings with DHS on a unified effort to promote civic unity and prevent disinformation.
3) Coordinate voluntary-daily efforts with social media companies to take down terrorist content and inform DHS about upcoming rallies of identified people of interest.
ADL. “The Boogaloo Movement.” Anti-Defamation League. Web. 25 Feb. 2021.
ADL. “Three Percenters.” Anti-Defamation League. nd. Web. 25 Feb. 2021.
Associated Press. “Years of White Supremacy Threats Culminated in Capitol Riots.” ABC News. ABC News Network, 2017. Web. 25 Feb. 2021.
Bergen, Peter, and Sterman, David. “The Real Terrorist Threat in America.” Foreign Affairs. October 30, 2018. Available at https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/united-states/2018-10-30/real-terrorist-threat-america
Bergen, Peter, United States of Jihad: Investigating America’s Homegrown Terrorists, New York: Crown, 2016. Chapters 1–6
Blankstein, Andrew, Tom Winter, and Brandy Zadrozny. “Three Men Connected to ‘boogaloo’ Movement Tried to Provoke Violence at Protests, Feds Say.” NBCNews.com. NBCUniversal News Group, 04 June 2020. Web. 27 Feb. 2021.
Citizen Action Monitor. “Chris Hill, Ex-marine, Leader of Ultra-right Militia in Georgia, Warns of Civil War in America by 2021.” Citizen Action Monitor. Web.
Clay, Nolan. “Interstate 40 Shooting Spree Suspect Identified with Anti-government Extremist Movement, Prosecutors Say.” Oklahoman.com. Oklahoman, 15 May 2017. Web. 27 Feb. 2021.
CSIS. “The Escalating Terrorism Problem in the United States.” The Escalating Terrorism Problem in the United States | Center for Strategic and International Studies. 05 Feb. 2021. Web. 25 Feb. 2021.
Dazio, Stefanie. “Air Force Sergeant Faces Murder Charges in Killings of Federal Security Officer and California Sheriff’s Deputy.” USA Today. Gannett Satellite Information Network, 17 June 2020. Web. 25 Feb. 2021.
DHS. “Homeland Threat Assessment October 2020 — Homeland Security.” Homeland Threat Assessment. Oct. 2020. Web. 25 Feb. 2021.
DUNKLIN, REESE, and EMILY SCHMALL. “Armed ‘patriots’ Turn Protests toward Muslim Americans.” AP NEWS. Associated Press, 10 Feb. 2021. Web. 25 Feb. 2021.
Farivar, Masood. “Boogaloo Boys Aim to Provoke 2nd US Civil War.” Voice of America. 23 June 2020. Web. 27 Feb. 2021.
Harte, Julia, and R. Jeffrey Smith. “‘The Army to Set Our Nation Free’.” Center for Public Integrity. 2020 The Center for Public Integrity, Apr. 2018. Web. 25 Feb. 2021.
Hsu, Spencer. “FBI Probes Possible Connections between Extremist Groups at Heart of Capitol Violence.” The Washington Post. WP Company, 19 Jan. 2021. Web. 27 Feb. 2021.
Hymes, Clare. “9 Oath Keepers Indicted for Conspiracy, including 7 Members of the Tactical “stack” Seen Entering Capitol in Combat Gear.” CBS News. CBS Interactive, 24 Feb. 2021. Web. 25 Feb. 2021.
Jenkins, Brian Michael. “Domestic Violent Extremists Will Be Harder to Combat Than Homegrown Jihadists.” RAND Corporation. 01 Feb. 2021. Web. 25 Feb. 2021.
Keller, Larry. “Man With Napalm Bomb Is Latest Oath Keeper to Face Trial.” Southern Poverty Law Center. 09 June 2010. Web. 25 Feb. 2021.
Komenda, Ed. “Men Tied to ‘boogaloo’ Movement Conspired to Spark Protest Violence in Las Vegas, Feds Say.” USA Today. Gannett Satellite Information Network, 04 June 2020. Web. 25 Feb. 2021.
Midkiff, Sarah. “Who Are The Oath Keepers? This Pro-Trump Militia Claims To Be “Protecting” America.” Who Are The Oath Keepers? An Armed Pro-Trump Militia. Dec. 2020. Web. 27 Feb. 2021.
NA. “FBI: Raymore Man Planning to Bomb Hospital Killed Himself …” KCTV. 2021 KCTV News, 15 May 2020. Web. 27 Feb. 2021.
“Oath Keepers.” Southern Poverty Law Center. Web. 27 Feb. 2021.
The Oregonian. “Oregon Standoff Timeline: 41 Days of the Malheur Refuge Occupation and the Aftermath.” Oregon Live. 14 Feb. 2017. Web. 25 Feb. 2021.
Puente, Mark. “Man Charged with Having Explosives Seemed Paranoid, Landlord Says.” Cleveland. 21 Apr. 2010. Web. 25 Feb. 2021.
Rains, Scott. “From the Redder Dirt Files: The Case of Charles Dyer, from Patriot to Prison.” The Lawton Constitution. 20 Dec. 2020. Web. 25 Feb. 2021.
Savage, Charlie, Adam Goldman, and Neil Macfarquhar. “‘This Kettle Is Set to Boil’: New Evidence Points to Riot Conspiracy.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 20 Jan. 2021. Web. 27 Feb. 2021.
Signer, Michael. “Perspective | Charlottesville Keeps Happening, All over America.” The Washington Post. WP Company, 11 Aug. 2020. Web. 27 Feb. 2021.
Sosa, Anabel. “Who Are the Wolverine Watchmen, the Group Allegedly Part of Thwarted Plan to Kidnap Michigan Governor?” Inside Edition. Inside Edition, 14 Oct. 2020. Web. 25 Feb. 2021.
SPLC. “Michael Brian Vanderboegh.” Southern Poverty Law Center. nd. Web. 25 Feb. 2021.
U.S Attorney’s Office. “Man Arrested for Trying to Detonate What He Thought Was a Vehicle Bomb at Downtown Oklahoma City Bank.” The United States Department of Justice. 14 Aug. 2017. Web. 27 Feb. 2021.
U.S. Attorney’s Office. “Cleveland Man Indicted for Attempted Plot to Kidnap Law Enforcement.” The United States Department of Justice. 21 May 2020. Web. 25 Feb. 2021.
The United States Department of Justice. “Two Self-Described “Boogaloo Bois” Charged with Attempting to Provide Material Support to Hamas.” The United States Department of Justice. 04 Sept. 2020. Web. 25 Feb. 2021.
Urquhart, Jim. “Oregon Mine That Summoned Armed Guards in Land Dispute Files Appeal.” Reuters. Thomson Reuters, 24 Apr. 2015. Web. 25 Feb. 2021.
Vanian, Jonathan. “Private Messaging Apps Signal and Telegram Are Red Hot after the Capitol Riots.” Fortune. Fortune, 14 Jan. 2021. Web. 27 Feb. 2021.