One would think that when the Department of Justice nabs a terrorist, they would be beaming from ear-to-ear, and, taking pains to let the public know about their success. Perhaps a press release. Maybe a press conference. After all, arrests like that boosts careers. Unfortunately, the Trump Justice Dept., currently under the leadership of Jeff Sessions, is taking cues from the Big Kahuna himself, tending to downplay domestic terrorism. After all, said Trump, after this summer's neo-Nazi, Alt-Right tödlicher Aufruhr (deadly riot in German) in Charlottesville, Virginia, there are "some very fine people" on both sides.
I'm assuming that Trump doesn't think that Taylor Michael Wilson is one of those "very fine people." However, according to the Huffington Post's Ryan J. Reilly, "The Justice Department didn't do any of [the above] when federal prosecutors unsealed terrorism charges" against Wilson.
"The 26-year-old white supremacist from St. Charles, Missouri, allegedly breached a secure area of an Amtrak train on Oct. 22 while armed with a gun and plenty of backup ammunition," Reilly reported. "He set off the emergency brake, sending passengers lunging as the train cars went 'completely black.'"
The incident, which occurred in late October, received very little play in the media. Reilly point out that at first the case was not treated like a domestic terrorist incident. After all, officials may have assumed, no Muslim involvement, no terrorism. "A subsequent FBI investigation, however, painted a disturbing portrait of an individual who escalated his radical activity in recent years as he built up a massive gun stash, even hiding weapons and extremist propaganda in a secret compartment behind his refrigerator," Reilly noted.
And when the FBI investigated Wilson, they discovered that he attended the "Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, where he "may have helped vandalize restaurants with "whites only" stickers; pointed a gun at a black woman during a road rage incident; and spoke of 'killing black people' during recent protests against police violence in St. Louis," Reilly wrote.
"This type of a crime certainly, from a perspective of seriousness and the potential for injuring or even killing large numbers of people, is very much on par with other terrorism crimes that we've seen in the United States and elsewhere which are motivated by the Islamist extremist ideologies such as that promoted by ISIS," Mary McCord, a Justice Department veteran who headed DOJ's National Security Division until last spring, told the Huffington Post.
It is clear that the Trump administration does not view domestic terrorism by homegrown neo-Nazis, white supremacists, or alt-rightist a major threat. Initially, the case wasn't even treated as terrorism at first. You can bet that if Wilson's crime had been committed by a Muslim pledging their allegiance to ISIS or al Qaeda, Trump would have turned the rhetoric of fear to full tilt.
The Patriot Act defines domestic terrorism as an attempt to "intimidate or coerce a civilian population; to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping."
As longtime investigative journalist David Neiwert pointed out in an August piece for The Nation magazine, "A databaseof nine years of domestic terrorism incidents compiled by the Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute and Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting" found that:
- From January 2008 to the end of 2016, we identified 63 cases of Islamist domestic terrorism, meaning incidents motivated by a theocratic political ideology espoused by such groups as the Islamic State. The vast majority of these (76 percent) were foiled plots, meaning no attack took place.
- During the same period, we found that right-wing extremists were behind nearly twice as many incidents: 115. Just over a third of these incidents (35 percent) were foiled plots. The majority were acts of terrorist violence that involved deaths, injuries or damaged property.
- Right-wing extremist terrorism was more often deadly: Nearly a third of incidents involved fatalities, for a total of 79 deaths, while 13 percent of Islamist cases caused fatalities. (The total number of deaths associated with Islamist incidents was higher, however, reaching 90.)
- Incidents related to left-wing ideologies, including ecoterrorism and animal rights, were comparatively rare, with 19 incidents causing seven fatalities — making the shooting attack on Republican members of Congress earlier this month somewhat of an anomaly.
- Nearly half (48 percent) of Islamist incidents in our database were sting operations, more than four times the rate for far-right (12 percent) or far-left (10.5 percent) incidents.
Earlier this month, the Southern Poverty Law Center's Daryl Johnson reported that a Congressional report "distributed in August highlights the growing threat from domestic terrorists, described as 'people who commit crimes within the homeland and draw inspiration from U.S.-based extremist ideologies and movements.' The report, published by the Congressional Research Service (CRS), highlights several gaps in U.S. policy related to identifying, analyzing and assessing domestic terrorist threats. It notes that domestic terrorists 'have not received as much attention from federal law enforcement as their violent jihadist counterparts,' which has not always been the case."
In the end, the Sessions' DOJ keeping the arrest and charges against Taylor Michael Wilson a secret fits the president's agenda of building and sustaining fear and Islamophobia.