A new strategy for the first time places a major priority on domestic terrorism, especially of the extreme right. Now the agency has to actually tackle the problem.
Kevin McAleenan took the El Paso shooting personally. The acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security had visited the city more than a dozen times. He recalled in an interview yesterday that among his first thoughts were the safety of the DHS workforce, which numbers some 4,000 people there, many of them Hispanic.
The shooter’s motivation quickly became clear, with 22 people dead in a Walmart and an online manifesto attributed to the shooter citing an “invasion” of immigrants. “This,” McAleenan recalls thinking, “was an attack on all of us, on our family.” Speaking to The Atlantic more than six weeks after the attack, he had an “El Paso Strong” bracelet on his wrist.
The El Paso shooting figures into a new strategy to counter terrorism and “targeted violence” that the Department of Homeland Security will release today, which The Atlantic obtained and describes here for the first time. The document dwells at length on the threat of white supremacists specifically, which is surprising coming from President Donald Trump’s administration, given that one of its first counterterrorism policies was to try to ban citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries. Trump has also pushed for a border wall, which he has said will help keep out terrorists, even though most fatal terrorist attacks in the United States in recent years have been carried out by U.S. citizens or permanent residents. The DHS document is an acknowledgment that, nearly 20 years after 9/11, the new terrorist threat comes largely from within—and not as much from jihadists as from the extreme right.