The Oklahoma City bombing woke up U.S. counterterrorism officials to violent white supremacy and other forms of right-wing extremism. But 9/11 and political pressure turned their attention elsewhere — and "now, they have no idea how to stop" far-right extremists, The New York Times details in Thursday's episode of The Daily podcast.
After Timothy McVeigh's deadly 1995 attack, an FBI crackdown "somewhat succeeded in sending the far right underground," Times contributor Janet Reitman reports on The Daily. Then 9/11 arrived, and "the entire national security apparatus," including the FBI under then-director Robert Mueller, shifted to "countering Islamic extremism," Reitman says. Just one man — Daryl Johnson — was left to probe domestic right-wing extremism under the newly formed Department of Homeland Security.
Things seemed quiet until former President Barack Obama gained national prominence, and Johnson — a registered Republican — correctly assumed the first black president would reinvigorate white supremacists. Under Obama, Johnson authored a report warning of this new threat, which was largely taking shape online, Johnson tells The Daily. But conservative media didn't like tying "right-wing" to "extremism," Johnson said. And their intense backlash led then-Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to rescind the report altogether.
National security monitoring of violent white supremacy only faded from there. Johnson was reassigned to a new job and eventually left DHS, and today, not a single person at DHS is dedicated solely to right-wing extremism, Johnson tells The Daily.
This shift may have successfully prevented another 9/11. But "white supremacists and other far-right extremists have killed more people in the United States ... than any other category of domestic extremist" in the meantime, per the Times. Listen to more on The New York Times' The Daily.