By Naveen Athrappully
America First Legal (AFL) has released documents obtained from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) showing that the agency has conducted programs that characterize white people and conservative values as tilting towards radicalism.
An internal memo (pdf) dated Jan. 29, 2021—just nine days after Biden was sworn in as the president—talks about a “Choose Your Own Adventure” game-like training exercise. The exercise details five storylines, called “story branches,” that put forward scenarios involving fictional radicalized characters.
The main characters of four story branches are visually portrayed as white individuals who are presented as slowly slipping into violent radicalism on issues like abortion and government control, among others.
The exercise participants put themselves as a third party in these storylines to make decisions about how they will deal with the radicalization.
Story Branch 1 is about a white high school student named Jamie who has a couple of conflicts with Asif, who is from an ethnic minority. In one incident, Jamie shoves Asif into a locker. In another incident, Jamie hurls racial epithets against Asif. In a third incident, Jamie is characterized as yelling at his girlfriend and flashing a gun.
Story Branch 2 is about a white man in his late 30s who makes posts on “radical sites with violent tendencies,” yells at his wife, and then talks about heading to a political rally to mess with counter protesters.
Story Branch 4 is about a white woman in her mid-40s who is a pro-life advocate. She becomes “increasingly devout” after the death of her mother. The woman also gets increasingly fervent about her pro-life stance to the extent that she asks a preacher whether the Bible justifies violence in defense of life. She then shares videos of violent protests with her hairdresser who notices the “more militant language.”
Story Branch 5 is about a divorced white woman in her mid-30s who becomes “fixated on conspiracy theories regarding government connections to child abuse and trafficking.” In one instance, her boyfriend notices that she was searching through “more bizarre and frightening conspiracies involving political figures.”
The remaining story branch is about a female from an uncertain race who becomes an extremist due to concerns about animal cruelty. The documents were obtained via the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
Focusing on ‘White Supremacist’ Extremists
A memo from August 2020 calls domestic violent extremism (DVE) the “most acute terrorist threat inside the United States.” Among DVEs, white supremacist extremists (WSE) are classified as “the most persistent and lethal threat.”
Between 2018 and 2019, WSEs were responsible for eight of the 16 lethal DVE attacks and caused 81 percent of the deaths from such attacks, the memo states.
“The most lethal of those attacks involved active shooter incidents in public locations or houses of worship using semiautomatic weapons,” according to the memo.
“We expect WSEs to continue to target racial and religious minorities as well as other vulnerable communities.”
The remaining half of the lethal attacks in 2018–2019 were attributed to black supremacists, anarchists, sovereign citizens, anti-government violent extremists, and other violent offenders who had multiple or unknown motives.
Another document showed that DHS planned out a “Family First” photoshoot which involved everyday people doing everyday tasks “to emphasize that domestic terrorism can happen to anyone.” The photoshoot campaign was aimed at encouraging family members to “talk to each other” about radicalization.
The documents reveal that the government is using taxpayer dollars to “expand its capabilities to deem innocent people as ‘extremists’ or ‘domestic terrorists,’” according to a May 8 post by AFL.
“The Department of Homeland Security’s transformation into a domestic intelligence organization and a Stasi-like Deep State internal security apparatus is alarming,” Reed Rubinstein, senior counselor for AFL, said in a statement.
“It is a very long way from ‘see something, say something’ regarding an unattended suitcase at the airport to profiling patriotic and politically conservative Americans as abusive parents and domestic terrorists because they oppose abortion on demand and voted for former President Trump,” he said. “The agency is out of control.”
The DHS has attracted attention in the past for controversial actions.
In February 2022, the department received backlash for its decision to link domestic terrorism to misinformation.
In a Feb. 7 bulletin, the DHS warned that “the United States remains in a heightened threat environment fueled by several factors, including an online environment filled with false or misleading narratives and conspiracy theories, and other forms of mis- dis- and mal-information introduced and/or amplified by foreign and domestic threat actors.”
Some expressed concern that the effort to link alleged misinformation with terrorism was an attempt at censorship, and Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) accused the DHS of “policing” speech.
In July 2022, attorneys from The Heritage Foundation filed a FOIA lawsuit against DHS, seeking to secure documents about the government’s use of Babel X software to track the social media posts of millions of American citizens.
According to the FOIA lawsuit, “DHS has purchased and continues to purchase a large number of Babel X products.”
In one of the documents, the DHS Office for Terrorism and Targeted Violence Prevention said that it “works to prevent acts of targeted violence and terrorism before they occur by working with local stakeholders to establish local prevention frameworks.”
“Over the past several years, the United States has experienced an increasing number of targeted attacks by angry and disaffected individuals motivated by a combination of extremist ideologies and personal grievances,” the document says. “This includes individuals motivated by racial or ethnic tensions, as well as those motivated by gender biases. DHS analysis indicates that targeted attacks are often inspired by extreme rhetoric, racist views, conspiracy theories, and other disinformation.”
The Epoch Times has reached out to the agency for comment.
The DHS has other programs focused on domestic terrorism and extremism.
The DHS Center for Prevention Programs and Partnerships manages the Targeted Violence and Terrorism Prevention (TVTP) Grant Program, which purports to prevent extremist attacks from domestic radicals and funds left-leaning nonprofits using podcasts, video games, and drama programs for children.
“Lone offenders and small cells of individuals motivated by a range of violent extremist ideologies, of both domestic and foreign origin, represent the most persistent terrorism-related threat facing the United States,” a DHS grant application invitation says. “Amongst Domestic Violent Extremists (DVEs), racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists, including white supremacists, likely will remain the most lethal DVE threats.”
In 2023, homeland security allocated $20 million of taxpayer money towards TVTP grant programs. Last year, it was $11 million for initiatives currently rolling out now in communities across the country.
Beth Brelje contributed to this report.