Dangerous vacuum

Dangerous vacuum

Two weeks ago, Frazier Glenn Miller Jr. headed to the Kansas City Jewish communal complex in Overland Park, Kan., and started shooting.

Before long, three people – one a 14-year-old – were dead.

Motivation wasn’t hard to find after Miller was captured. Miller is a neo-Nazi who headed a Ku Klux Klan group more than 30 years ago. In 1987, he served three years in prison for weapons charges and for threatening to kill Morris Dees, founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors the Klan and other extremist hate groups.

“I’ve been obsessed ever since 1974 when I became Jew-wise,” the SPLC quoted him as saying.

So here’s a question: How come right-wing commentators such as Rush Limbaugh rushed to blame a Jew who was born in 1977 for inspiring Miller’s murders?

Limbaugh and others claimed that Miller was “inspired” by 37-year-old Max Blumenthal, an anti-Israel Jewish journalist. True, Miller had quoted Blumenthal’s writings in dozens of his tens of thousands of posts he had made on the anti-Semitic Vanguard News Network website. But there is no evidence that any of Blumenthal’s writings did anything but reinforce Miller’s longstanding anti-Semitic views – views that he adopted three years before Blumenthal was born.

So why focus on Blumenthal?

Here’s one suggestion: It served to deflect the question of whether the U.S. government has been working hard enough to track right-wing extremists and prevent their attacks.

In 2009, a Department of Homeland Security analyst wrote a report warning that “right-wing extremists will attempt to recruit and radicalize returning veterans in order to boost their violent capabilities.” Republicans – including Limbaugh – were livid, and the Obama administration folded in the face of right-wing pressure. Before long, the analyst, Daryl Johnson, was let go, and only one person remained at DHS to deal with all forms of domestic non-Islamic terrorism.

And on August 5, 2012, Wade Michael Page – like Miller, an army veteran and white supremacist – attacked a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wis., killing six.

“DHS is scoffing at the mission of doing domestic counterterrorism, as is Congress,” Johnson told Wired’s Spencer Ackerman afterward. “There’ve been no hearings about the rising white supremacist threat, but there’s been a long list of attacks over the last few years. But they still hold hearings about Muslim extremism. It’s out of balance.”

It is indeed. In the years since 9/11, the government has worked diligently to find Muslims who might be considering murder, and then offering them the encouragement just this side of entrapment needed to indict and convict them of terrorism. It’s time for the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security to apply the same policy toward white supremacists.

Those looking to pin the Kansas City killings on Blumenthal said they “didn’t emerge from a vacuum.” Wrong. They emerged from a law enforcement vacuum. It’s time for that vacuum to end.