Twice this year, Democrats on the House Homeland Security Committee have urged Republican leaders to hold hearings on the security threats posed by white supremacists and their allies. In both instances, GOP officials ignored the requests.
Politico reports that in the wake of Charlottesville, House Dems are trying again.
Democrats on the House Homeland Security Committee are asking panel Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas) to examine racist fringe groups, including those that organized Saturday's violent protest against the removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee on the University of Virginia campus. [...]California Rep. Lou Correa, who sits on the Homeland panel, was the first Democrat to call for hearings. "Yesterday's horrific acts against innocent Americans were clear acts of terrorism," he said. "Our country has a homegrown terrorism problem we refuse to address. That ends now. We must hold hearings and finally address that terrorism inflicted by white supremacy extremists is destroying our country."
As best as I can tell, the panel's Republican leadership hasn't yet responded, but I'm hard pressed to imagine why the House Homeland Security Committee would choose not to take a closer look at this threat.
Indeed, just yesterday, Foreign Policy magazine published a striking report, noting that the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security warned in May "that white supremacist groups had already carried out more attacks than any other domestic extremist group over the past 16 years and were likely to carry out more attacks over the next year, according to an intelligence bulletin obtained by Foreign Policy."
These kinds of findings have been common for quite a while. A New York Times report found two years ago, for example, "Since Sept. 11, 2001, nearly twice as many people have been killed by white supremacists, antigovernment fanatics and other non-Muslim extremists than by radical Muslims."
Longtime readers may recall that just a few months into the Obama presidency, congressional Republicans and conservative media claimed to be outraged by a general alert to law enforcement from the Department of Homeland Security. The document highlighted the findings of a report about domestic extremists and their interest in politically motivated violence, and there was no real reason to find this controversial.
But a controversy ensued anyway. Despite the fact that the report had been commissioned by the Bush/Cheney administration, Republicans and much of the right freaked out -- with conservatives insisting that concerns about violent radicals could implicate mainstream activists on the right. Some GOP members of Congress even called for DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano's resignation.
Even at the time, the Republican tantrum was bizarre, but it nevertheless convinced federal officials to scale back their scrutiny, at least for a while, of home-grown extremists and potentially violent fringe radicals.
We can learn from these mistakes. Now is a perfectly good time for officials to scrutinize these threats.