Connect with us

Politics

Threats of terrorism in the U.S. are 'more diverse and difficult to counter'

Published

on

Threats of terrorism in the U.S. are 'more diverse and difficult to counter'

She wanted a rifle. He needed a soldier for his plan to overthrow the government.

Sarah Beth Clendaniel was a radical looking for a target when, authorities say, she plotted with Brandon Russell — a white supremacist who belongs to an organization known as Atomwaffen Division — to destroy the power grid around Baltimore. Clendaniel dressed in camouflage fatigues. Russell went by the alias “Raccoon” and, according to federal agents, kept a framed picture of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh on his dresser.

They communicated through encrypted messages, but the mission was foiled by authorities. Clendaniel pleaded guilty in May to conspiring to damage or destroy electrical stations in Maryland. Russell, who was charged earlier with possessing explosives, is awaiting trial. The case did not attract much attention outside Baltimore, but it was another reminder of the danger of terrorism in an unsettled nation.

The U.S. is facing security threats in a presidential election year coming from Islamic militants, far-right extremists, leftist radicals and an array of zealots disgruntled over the nation’s culture wars and our polarized society. Officials are increasingly worried about the deepening strands of left- and right-wing venom rooted in antiestablishment anger and amplified by social media that are testing the government’s ability to track militants like Clendaniel and Russell.

Timothy McVeigh’s hatred of the federal government led him to bomb the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in April 1995, killing 186 people and injuring hundreds more. According to federal agents, Brandon Russell, who is accused of plotting to blow up the Baltimore power grid, kept a photo of McVeigh on his dresser.

Advertisement

(Associated Press)

“The threat’s not more potent than it was around 9/11, but it’s certainly more diverse and difficult to counter,” said Colin P. Clarke, the director of research at the Soufan Group, an intelligence and security consulting firm in New York City. “We’re dealing with a more aggressive far-right, left-wing and what we call ‘salad bar people,’ who take a little bit of each ideology and thread them together. Incels. Q-Anon. The range of actors at play now is a lot broader than what we’re used to.”

The race between President Biden and Donald Trump underscores the prospects for unrest and violence. GOP senators have asked the Secret Service to keep demonstrators farther from the Republican National Convention at Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee. Protesters are also expected to arrive en masse at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, where in 1968, during an era of intense upheaval around the Vietnam War that some suggest parallels today’s political tremors, police beat and tear-gassed hundreds of marchers.

On a visit to Chicago this month, Secret Service Director Kimberly Cheatle met with nearly 100 agents who will be protecting both conventions. She told CNN she was concerned about a number of threats, including “the lone gunman.”

Advertisement

“You’ve got folks that are radicalized. You’ve got demonstrations that may pop up. And obviously, we hope they remain peaceful here, but they could turn violent,” she said.

Most of the violence and “other threat indicators [are] from groups that lean more conservative,” said Amy Cooter, a terrorism expert with the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey. What’s notable, she added, was that the extremist narratives, particularly accelerationist ones — like those espoused by Clendaniel that use violence to speed up social collapse — can appeal to radicals across the political spectrum.

“There’s potential for people who have very different underlying political beliefs,” said Cooter, “to join forces on issues they have common ground on.”

National militant organizations complicit in the Jan 6. riots, including the Proud Boys, remain a danger, Cooter said, despite arrests of its leaders and loss of a centralized online home since Facebook blocked extremist groups. Before the 2020 election, Trump told the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by.” Reuters reported that after Trump was found guilty in May of falsifying business records, a Proud Boys chapter in Ohio promised “war” in a statement that read: “Fighting solves everything.”

Trump’s increasingly militant campaign speeches against immigrants and conspiracies about the “deep state” also resonate with other groups in the so-called patriot movement. The former president suggested in veiled language that his followers might rise up if he were sent to prison: “I’m not sure the public would stand for it,” he told Fox News. “You know, at a certain point, there’s a breaking point.”

Advertisement
A close-up of a Secret Service agent in a black shirt and black vest.

Secret Service Director Kimberly Cheatle told CNN she was concerned about a number of threats to the U.S.

(Julia Nikhinson / Associated Press)

“Not all militia members like Trump. Some think he’s too brash, too old,” said Cooter, who spent years interviewing and investigating militia groups in Michigan. “But they are very responsive to his rhetoric because he appeals to their worries about immigration or about changing culture in other ways. Even if they’re not going to vote for him, their urgency around these issues gets stirred up.”

Today’s turmoil has yet to reach the magnitude of the late 1960s or the 1970s, when far-left domestic terror groups like the Weather Underground and Symbionese Liberation Army orchestrated scores of bombings. Many of the threats these days come from varied agendas, including Payton Gendron, who wrote a 180-page racist screed before killing 10 Black people at a supermarket in Buffalo, N.Y., in 2022, and James Hodgkinson, a left-wing radical who in 2017 shot and wounded at least four people at a softball practice for Republican congressmen in Alexandria, Va.

In April, Kyran Caples, who police say was radicalized while at Fresno State and joined an obscure antigovernment group known as the Moorish sovereign citizens, shot and critically wounded two police officers in Florida. Caples was killed by police. In the plot to destroy the Baltimore power grid, the Justice Department quoted Clendaniel, once photographed heavily armed and wearing camouflage fatigues, a headscarf and a skull mask, as saying an attack “would probably permanently completely lay this city to waste.”

Advertisement

The country has been shaken by anger and unrest in recent years around the COVID-19 pandemic, mass shootings, George Floyd protests, an insurrection at the Capitol and pro-Palestinian rallies on college campuses. Those domestic ruptures have coincided with a rejuvenated branch of ISIS that is recruiting militants beyond its base in Afghanistan and this year carried out attacks in Russia and Iran that killed at least 220 people.

FBI Director Christopher A. Wray recently told cadets at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point that his agency was concerned about “a rogues’ gallery” of foreign organizations calling for violence against Americans. But he suggested that the more pressing danger comes from individuals and small groups in the U.S. who “draw twisted inspiration from the events in the Middle East to carry out attacks here at home.” The agency, he said, has been “running down thousands of reported threats.”

Former extremist leader Henry "Enrique" Tarrio smokes while wearing a tactical vest and hat that reads "The War Boys"
National militant organizations complicit in the Jan 6. riots, including the Proud Boys, remain a danger, according to Amy Cooter, a terrorism expert with the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey. Above, former Proud Boys leader Henry “Enrique” Tarrio in September 2020.

(Allison Dinner / Associated Press)

He added that tensions around the Israel-Hamas war “will feed a pipeline of radicalization and mobilization for years to come.” In April, Wray, describing what he called a heightened threat environment, told the House Appropriations Committee that the agency’s 2024 fiscal year budget was nearly $500 million below what it needed. “This could not come at a worse time,” he said. “We need people…. Now is not the time to cut back.”

That threat landscape — radiating through a wide prism of anger and ideologies — has shaped America’s discourse and sharpened its divisions. The battles playing out in Congress have run parallel to social and political fervor around antisemitism, Gaza, abortion, immigration and gun rights unfolding on college campuses, state houses, podcasts, rallies and talk shows.

Advertisement

“The powerful emotions that have been unleashed aren’t fading,” said Bruce Hoffman, a terrorism expert and professor at Georgetown University. “Terrorism never occurs in a vacuum. It always leverages off of the divisions, contentiousness and controversies that are in the political arena and that will lead to a very small fringe to conclude that violence is the only way” to overthrow a corrupt system.

The radicalization of the young is rooted in the generation that came of age during the isolation of the pandemic and has since seen governments as either powerless or indifferent to climate change, wealth gaps and stopping wars in Ukraine and Gaza. “This seeds a bed of frustration and mistrust,” said Hoffman, co-author of “God, Guns, and Sedition: Far-Right Terrorism in America.” “They’re looking to be entertained and stimulated rather than informed and confident that they’re getting accurate information. TikTok is feeding them what they want.”

People kneel beside a sidewalk memorial of flowers near a tree and yellow police tape

People pay their respects outside the scene of a shooting at a supermarket in Buffalo, N.Y., on May 15, 2022. Payton Gendron wrote a 180-page racist screed before killing 10 Black people at the market.

(Matt Rourke / Associated Press)

When he was testifying testified before the House Appropriations Committee, Wray outlined the threats the U.S. faces from terrorism, cartels trafficking fentanyl, and cyberattacks on business and infrastructure.

Advertisement

“As I look back over my career in law enforcement,” he said, “I would be hard-pressed to think of a time where so many threats to our public safety and national security were so elevated all at once.”

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Politics

Who Sat in Trump’s V.I.P. Box at the R.N.C.?

Published

on

Who Sat in Trump’s V.I.P. Box at the R.N.C.?

Photo by Hiroko Masuike/The New York Times

The most prominent seats at the 2024 Republican National Convention were three rows of white chairs in Donald J. Trump’s V.I.P. box. For each of the convention’s four nights, members of the Trump family and prominent guests streamed in and out, joining the former president as he took in the show.

Here are some of the people spotted in the box each night.

Monday

Advertisement

Mr. Trump entered the arena triumphantly on the convention’s first night, just two days after he was shot in the ear by a would-be assassin. Flanking him were his newly announced vice presidential nominee, Senator J.D. Vance of Ohio, and Representative Byron Donalds of Florida, one of the evening’s speakers.

Photo by Hiroko Masuike/The New York Times

Photo by Hiroko Masuike/The New York Times

Advertisement

Members of Mr. Trump’s family, former Fox News host Tucker Carlson, and House Speaker Mike Johnson, who presided over the roll-call vote formally nominating Mr. Trump, also appeared in the box.

Tuesday

Several Senate candidates and House leaders joined Mr. Trump in the box over the course of Tuesday night. Many of them also spoke from the stage, making the case for delivering control of Congress to Republicans in November.

Photo by Hiroko Masuike/The New York Times

Advertisement

Photo by Hiroko Masuike/The New York Times

The night’s final speaker was Lara Trump, co-chair of the Republican National Committee and Mr. Trump’s daughter-in-law. As the first Trump family member to speak from the convention stage, she talked about the attempt on Mr. Trump’s life in personal terms and focused on his roles as a father and grandfather.

Mr. Trump responded with applause, flanked by Mr. Vance and Representative Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the House majority leader.

Photo by Haiyun Jiang/The New York Times

Advertisement

Photo by Haiyun Jiang/The New York Times

Wednesday

Mr. Trump began his evening at the arena seated next to Gov. Glenn Youngkin of Virginia, and to Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, one of the finalists to be Mr. Trump’s running mate who was ultimately passed over.

Advertisement

Other allies with speaking slots also appeared in the section, including Callista Gingrich, the former ambassador to the Holy See, and her husband, Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker and 2012 presidential candidate.

Photo by Todd Heisler/The New York Times

Photo by Todd Heisler/The New York Times

Advertisement

Mr. Vance wrapped up the third night of the convention with a nearly one-hour speech introducing himself and his economic vision to the nation. Mr. Trump watched his running mate while seated next to Mr. Vance’s wife, Usha Vance, a lawyer, and Gov. Doug Burgum of North Dakota, another person who was under consideration to join Mr. Trump on the ticket.

Several Trump family members appeared in the box at that time. Kai Trump, 17, Mr. Trump’s eldest grandchild, also spoke that evening, characterizing him as “just a normal grandpa.”

Photo by Jamie Kelter Davis/The New York Times

Photo by Jamie Kelter Davis/The New York Times

Advertisement

Thursday

By the time Mr. Trump delivered his address, the box was largely filled with his family members. Mr. Trump’s daughter Ivanka and her husband, Jared Kushner, who both served as senior advisors to Mr. Trump during his first term, made their first appearances in the arena Thursday.

His wife, Melania, also made her first appearance of the week, taking a seat in the box just before her husband gave his acceptance speech.

Photo by Hiroko Masuike/The New York Times

Advertisement

Photo by Hiroko Masuike/The New York Times

Continue Reading

Politics

Campaign chairs say Biden is both 'more committed than ever' to presidential race and 'asking for input'

Published

on

Campaign chairs say Biden is both 'more committed than ever' to presidential race and 'asking for input'

President Biden’s top campaign advisors both weighed in on Friday to comment on widespread speculation surrounding the 2024 presidential race.

The first clarification came from Campaign Chair Jen O’Malley Dillon, who left no room for question during an interview with MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

“The president’s in this race,” O’Malley Dillon told the hosts. “You’ve heard him say that time and time again, and I think we saw on display last night exactly why, because Donald Trump is not going to offer anything new to the American people. He’s the same person he was in 2020. He’s the same person he was at the debate stage.”

SOURCES CLOSE TO BIDEN ‘FURIOUS’ ABOUT GROWING CALLS TO GET HIM TO EXIT RACE: REPORT

Jen O’Malley Dillon, a top Biden campaign advisor, follows behind President Joe Biden, not pictured, on the South Lawn of the White House before boarding Marine One in Washington, DC. (Getty Images)

Advertisement

O’Malley Dillon made clear there was no question that Biden is “more committed than ever to beat Donald Trump” — pushing back yet again on weeks and weeks of leaks and speculation claiming the president was close to pulling out of the race.

“We believe in this campaign we are built for the close election that we are in, and we see the path forward,” O’Malley Dillon continued. “The president is the leader of our campaign and of the country, and he is clearly in our impression, and what we’ve built, and in our engagement with voters, he’s the best person to take on Donald Trump and prosecute that case and present his vision versus what we saw last night.”

This rock-solid statement of commitment was slightly complicated just hours later by Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del. — co-chair of Biden’s re-elections campaign — who said the president is “weighing what he should weigh.”

TRUMP CAMPAIGN ON BIDEN TURMOIL: ‘DEMOCRATS CAN’T EVEN FIGURE OUT WHO THEIR NOMINEE SHOULD BE’

Biden at NAACP convention

President Joe Biden speaks at the 115th NAACP National Convention in Las Vegas, Nevada. (AP Photo/David Becker)

Coons told the press during a panel at the Aspen Institute’s Aspen Security Forum that Biden is considering “who is the best candidate to win in November and to carry forward the Democratic Party’s values and priorities in this campaign.”

Advertisement

He noted that Biden attended the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) summit in Washington, D.C., this month after a “very bad debate performance” and that the president “Did a press conference. Did campaign events. Did campaign rallies.”

“And there are folks still saying he is not strong enough or capable enough to be our next president,” he continued. “I disagree.”

Sen. Coons at work

Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., a top Biden ally, told the press that the president is “weighing what he should weigh” at the moment but later clarified that he is “with [Biden] 100%.” (Nathan Posner/Anadolu via Getty Images)

According to Coons, “There is a lot of concern and anxiety about this because the stakes are so significant. The consequences of this election are profound.”

Coons walked back this somewhat shaky comment just hours later with a post to social media professing total support for Biden’s re-election effort.

Advertisement

“I fully support the President. He’s told me he’s in it to win it,” Coons wrote on social media platform X. “I’m with him 100% because I know he can beat Trump just like he did last time.”

Continue Reading

Politics

Forget the Oscars. For Republicans, the convention is fashion nirvana

Published

on

Forget the Oscars. For Republicans, the convention is fashion nirvana

From cowboy hats to straw bowlers, boots to stilettos — the Republican convention was a showcase of patriotic fashion that was anything but conservative.

Some attendees have been planning their outfits for months, others just raided their MAGA stash. Many, like the Texas delegation with their state-flag shirts, were matching.

But one rule kept them all in line: Red, white and blue or bust.

(Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)

Advertisement

Blacke Marnell California delegate from San Diego.

 Susan Reneau wears a collection of Trump buttons
Chaplain Richmond E Stoglin always wears his boots
Angelita Sanchez's of Sweet Home Oregon shoes during
Sharon Anderson of Tennessee wears a donkey hat.

(Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)

Susan Reneau, left, Chaplain Richmond E. Stoglin, right top, Angelita Sanchez, lower left, and Sharon Anders, lower right.

Reecia Stoglin and her husband Chaplain Rich Stoglin.

(Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)

“We’re Texans,” said Reecia Stoglin. “We wear our flag proudly.” Stoglin and her husband. Chaplain Rich Stoglin, were in town from Arlington, Texas. Reecia wore a Texas-flag shirt favored by delegates from the Lone Star state. Stoglin, ordained as an Anglican priest, was a military pastor for nearly 30 years and now is the president of the Frederick Douglass Republicans of Tarrant County. He came in a deep red blazer and Lucchese boots. “You judge a Texan by the quality of his boots,” he said.

From right - Bill Henney, Charlie O'Connor and Gerald Bergen, sit outside the RNC and enjoy cigars.

(Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)

Advertisement

From right, Bill Henney, Charlie O’Connor and Gerald Bergen, delegates from Pennsylvania, sit outside the RNC and enjoy cigars. Bergen said he was wearing his straw bowler hat in honor of his grandfather, Gerald Griffin, who wore a similar one to the 1948 convention (at least he thinks he did).

Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Wednesday, July 17, 2024 - Arizona delegate
Wisconsin delegate Bob Kordus at the Republican

(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Arizona delegate Stacey Goodman, left, and Wisconsin delegate Bob Kordus, right.

Texas delegates wear custom baseball jerseys with Trump 24 on the back at the

(Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)

Texas delegates wear custom baseball jerseys with Trump 24.

Advertisement
Continue Reading
Advertisement

Trending