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Report: Intelligence Community shift from external to internal ‘threats’ has critics worried

WASHINGTON - MARCH 09:  The seal of the F.B.I. hangs in the Flag Room at the bureau's headquaters March 9, 2007 in Washington, DC. F.B.I. Director Robert Mueller was responding to a report by the Justice Department inspector general that concluded the FBI had committed 22 violations in its collection of information through the use of national security letters. The letters, which the audit numbered at 47,000 in 2005, allow the agency to collect information like telephone, banking and e-mail records without a judicially approved subpoena.   (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON – MARCH 09: The seal of the F.B.I. hung in the Flag Room at the bureau’s headquaters March 9, 2007 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

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UPDATED 3:45 PM PT – Thursday, March 25, 2021

Critics are sounding the alarm over the U.S. Intelligence Community’s increasing involvement in domestic politics.

In mid-March, a declassified report produced by the Department of Justice, Department of Homeland Security and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, claimed “domestic violence extremism poses a heightened threat in 2021.”

According to the Intelligence Community, domestic extremists “motivated by a range of ideologies” pose an elevated threat to the homeland. The attorney general, FBI, CIA and other agencies also contributed to the report.

The seal of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is seen at CIA Headquarters in Langley, Virginia, April 13, 2016. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP) (Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)

The seal of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is shown at CIA Headquarters in Langley, Virginia, April 13, 2016. (Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)

 

The report listed “domestic violent extremists” as those who resist the government in the belief that it is purposely exceeding its constitutional authority, or who oppose federal and state laws, particularly those related to firearms ownership.

It also identified extremists as those who oppose governing institutions which are perceived as harmful to society. Anyone believed to be an extremist could be subjected to surveillance, monitoring and other restrictions.

Critics, however, pointed out that while the government should investigate and prevent violence, it’s important to recognize the limits the Intel Community has to involve itself in domestic law enforcement and domestic political activity.

Analysts said the Intelligence Community’s involvement in citizens’ domestic activity is “one of the most dangerous breaches of civil liberties the U.S. government can perpetrate.”

Intelligence overreach into the life of a private citizen was highlighted in 2016, when the FBI launched surveillance against former Trump aide Carter Page.

At the same time, the CIA investigated the so-called “Russia-gate” affair, with an apparent intent to alter the outcome of the election.

President Trump in 2017 tweeted the Intelligence Community was building a case against him. This was referenced by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), who said opposing the Intelligence Community would be a mistake.

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 15:  U.S. Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) speaks at a press conference outside New York Penn Station calling for a greater funding and safety for U.S. railways on May 15, 2015 in New York City. The four point plan comes on the heels of an Amtrak train accident outside Philadelphia that killed 8 people and injured more than 200 others.  (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

NEW YORK, NY – MAY 15: U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) spoke at a press conference outside New York Penn Station on May 15, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

 

“You take on the Intelligence Community, they have six ways from Sunday at getting back at you,” Schumer said. “So, even for a practical, supposedly hard-nosed businessman, he’s being really dumb to do this.”

In 2018, the House Intelligence Committee raised questions about the surveillance against Page, saying the agency was biased against President Trump. Then, in 2020, the Justice Department Inspector General found the FBI disregarded its own procedures when it targeted Page.

In light of the report, Republicans in the House and Senate, including Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), called on the IG to testify.

WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 19:  U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) questions Ambassador Kurt Volker, former special envoy to Ukraine, and Tim Morrison, a former official at the National Security Council, as they testify before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill November 19, 2019 in Washington, DC. The committee heard testimony during the third day of open hearings in the impeachment inquiry against U.S. President Donald Trump, whom House Democrats say held back U.S. military aid for Ukraine while demanding it investigate his political rivals. (Photo by Jacquelyn Martin - Pool/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON, DC – NOVEMBER 19: Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) is shown on Capitol Hill November 19, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Jacquelyn Martin – Pool/Getty Images)

 

“They had a random sample, and every single one they looked at had significant errors,” Jordan said. “This management advisory letter that they sent out to the Justice Department is basically like pulling the fire alarm with this whole FISA process, and I think what it really underscores is, why won’t Jerry Nadler, why won’t Chairwoman Maloney over on the Oversight Committee, why won’t they bring in Mr. Horowitz for an investigation.”

Recently, the Biden administration and top Democrats have been pushing to have war on terror law applied for domestic purposes, with Homeland Security shifting from outside threats to so-called “domestic extremists.”

Critics have likened the shifting focus from external to internal threats to the Soviet KGB-style of state security.

Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2020 said he could see working with Joe Biden and his administration, since they shared common ground in Soviet ideologies.

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