Friday, June 25

Delayed Homeland Security Report Warns of ‘Lethal’ White Supremacy

WASHINGTON — The Department of Homeland Security warned on Tuesday that violent white supremacy was the “most persistent and lethal threat in the homeland” in an annual assessment that a former intelligence chief had accused the agency of withholding in deference to President Trump.

The intelligence chief-turned-whistle-blower last month accused the department of blocking the report and directing analysts to play down the threat of violent white racism as well as Russian election interference to align the agency’s message with the president’s. But the final report appeared to do no such thing.

The threat assessment highlighted white supremacists as the most deadly among domestic terrorists in recent years and Russia as the primary threat to spreading disinformation.

“I am particularly concerned about white supremacist violent extremists who have been exceptionally lethal in their abhorrent, targeted attacks in recent years,” Chad F. Wolf, the acting secretary of homeland security, wrote in the foreward to the assessment. The threat report also stated that “Russia is the likely primary covert influence actor and purveyor of disinformation and misinformation within the homeland.”

The report also warns that extremist groups could be inspired to attack because of restrictions to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

“We also remain particularly concerned about the impacts from Covid-19, where anti-government and anti-authority violent extremists could be motivated to conduct attacks in response to perceived infringement of liberties and government overreach,” the report said.

It also indicated that the department was preparing for an increase in migration to the southwestern border. Homeland security analysts warned that the easing of coronavirus restrictions could lead to an increase in border crossings by land and sea.

The department has cited the pandemic in using a public health emergency to seal the border to migrants, rapidly returning most to Mexico or other countries without offering to review their asylum claims.

In an interview with CBS published on Monday, Mr. Wolf defended the assessment, noting that the Russia threat was mentioned multiple times. But he also asserted that “the most long-term strategic threat to Americans, to the homeland and really to our way of life would be the threat from China,” a position that mirrors Mr. Trump’s. Mr. Wolf has faced criticism for refusing to single out the threat from Russia but rather placing it on the same level as Iran and China.

In the report, analysts described China as exploiting shortages of critical supplies, committing intellectual property theft and waging disinformation campaigns on the internet. As for election interference, China and Iran have for the most part targeted Mr. Trump, but intelligence officers have said that Russia presented a more severe short-term threat.

Javed Ali, a former senior director at the National Security Council under Mr. Trump, said the homeland threat assessment was reassuring “given the significant politicization that has occurred” in the Homeland Security Department.

“It was good to see the H.T.A. take a more objective, nonpartisan and analytically driven perspective on cataloging the major homeland threats,” Mr. Ali said, referring to the assessment.

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