The new plan was outlined in a 23-page document posted on the White House website entitled "Strategic Implementation Plan for Empowering Local Partners to Prevent Violent Extremism in the United States." (left) Among the cabinet departments involved in deliberations and approval of the strategy were the Departments of Education, Health and Human Services, Labor, Commerce, and more.
"We had a long conversation about what kinds of things education can do," explained Quintan Wiktorowicz, a senior director of Obama’s National Security Council responsible for the new terror initiative. "In the same way they fight gangs, or bullying, they can help here.”
Wiktorowicz told the government-funded National Public Radio that local “partners” in the terror war, such as schools, would be used to seek out “potential behavioral signs” that might help identify an extremist. Some of the examples he offered included watching extreme videos or talking about unbelievers.
“The challenge is going to be trying to put the violent extremism initiatives into existing programs,” he noted, saying it was a public safety issue and that the federal government had a “responsibility” to help. “But there are lots of ways to do it, and we'll work with the schools to tailor the approach to what they need."
Among the new initiatives to be used in countering extremism will be “after-school programs,” the administration’s plan states, without offering details or elaborating. “All parents are concerned about these kinds of issues, not just Muslim parents," Wiktorowicz added.
As part of the White House’s new plan, Homeland Security will review all terror training to “weed out any lurking anti-Muslim bias,” NPR reported, citing Wiktorowicz. But despite what critics called the Orwellian nature of using school children to monitor “extremism,” the lack of emphasis on Islamic radicalism is what has attracted most of the criticism so far.
Several lawmakers questioned the wisdom of comparing terror to “gang violence” and “sexual offenses,” as well as Obama’s alleged failure to focus enough attention on Muslims. "We also continue to be disappointed by the administration's refusal to identify violent Islamist extremism as our enemy," noted a joint statement released by Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.).
But Democrats celebrated the new Obama plan. “As this strategy is implemented, the Department of Homeland Security must ensure its effectiveness by overseeing the types of training state and local law enforcement agencies acquire,” said Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), the ranking member of the Homeland Security Committee.
Homeland Security has come under intense fire recently for spending tax dollars on propaganda films designed to terrorize Americans while encouraging “snitching” and paranoia over innocuous activities such as paying a hotel bill in cash or owning weapons. And through organizations it finances such as The Counterterrorism Education Learning Lab (The CELL), “training” is being rolled out literally teaching people that even their best friend or neighbor could be a terrorist.
As The New American has documented extensively, Homeland Security admitted in recent documents that it considers “rightwing extremists” and veterans to be the top terror threat to the “Homeland.” In a widely criticized report released in 2009, for example, Janet Napolitano's department identified pro-lifers, supporters of states’ rights, and opponents of illegal immigration as being among the prime suspects.
Following a tsunami of conservative outrage over the report, Napolitano was eventually forced to withdraw it and apologize. But activists continued to push for her to be fired after the document was shown to be based on preposterous sources — including 11 references to www.whatdoesitmean.com, an odd website that features pictures of unicorns, tarot cards, and dragons across the top.
The Obama administration's attitude, however, has not changed. As Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) explained recently while arguing against indefinite military detention of Americans suspected of posing a threat to the “Homeland” — no charges, to trial, no jury — the federal government is not just after Muslims.
“Some day, there could be a government in power that is shipping its citizens off for disagreements,” Sen. Paul warned. “There are laws on the books now that characterize who might be a terrorist: Someone missing fingers on their hands is a suspect, according to the Department of Justice. Someone who has guns. Someone who has ammunition that is weatherproofed. Someone who has more than seven days of food in their house can be considered a potential terrorist.”
Experts have noted that the probability of an American dying in a terror attack is about one in a million. The risk of being killed in a car accident, meanwhile, is about one in 7,500. But the government has spent unknown tens of billions dealing with the alleged threat over the last decade — not even including the multi-trillion dollar wars overseas.
Interestingly, U.S. Terror Czar John Brennan essentially admitted in a speech timed with the release of the administration's new strategy that much of the federal government's terror war has so far played right into the hands of al Qaeda. Officials must avoid falling for al-Qaeda's strategy that "seeks to bleed us financially by drawing us into long, costly wars that also inflame anti-American sentiment," Brennan was quoted as saying by USA Today.
But even as the White House purports to be concerned about al Qaeda, the administration — by its own admission — helped senior leaders in the organization overthrow the Gadhafi regime in Libya. Top terror leaders such as former Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG merged with al-Qaeda in 2007) chief Abdel Belhadj, who has boasted of fighting American troops, have now taken on prominent roles in the new Libyan regime.
Meanwhile, one of Homeland Security’s flagship agencies, the Transportation Security Administration, has been exposed as a useless “bloated bureaucracy” in a recent congressional report. Investigators found that after $60 billion spent on the TSA so far, screening is based on “theatrics” and air travel is no safer than before September 11, 2001.
It remains unclear exactly how local schools, American school children, and community institutions will be used to wage the terror war. But analysts suspect it could include spying on parents and families, as well as other measures that critics called troubling. Others said the scheme represented a major “propaganda offensive.”
It was also uncertain where in the Constitution the administration believed it found authority to oversee local police training, spread propaganda, or prod schools into joining the terror war. Experts said that was because much of the new scheme is in fact unconstitutional.