Before the San Diego synagogue attack, Trump administration disbanded domestic terror unit amid rising far-right violence

The subject of white nationalism as a source of domestic terrorism is in the news once again with the shooting at the Chabad of Poway Synagogue near San Diego on Saturday having resulted in one death and three injuries. And this attack follows the elimination of a domestic terror unit in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

The DHS has claimed that the threat of “homegrown” terrorism has been reduced. But according to analysis by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), 39 out of 50 killings committed by political extremists in 2018 were committed by white nationalists.

At the Chabad of Poway Synagogue, 60-year-old Lois Gilbert-Kaye was killed after throwing herself in front of Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, quite possibly saving his life. Goldstein and two others suffered injuries but survived.

The Daily Beast’s Betsy Woodruff first reported on the elimination of DHS’ domestic terror unit in early April. A former intelligence official, interviewed on condition of anonymity, told Woodruff that the end of the unit was “especially problematic given the growth in right-wing extremism and domestic terrorism we are seeing in the U.S. and abroad.”

The Chabad of Poway attack is the latest in a series of white nationalist and far-right terror attacks or plots that have occurred in the U.S. during the Trump era. Eleven worshippers were killed when a gunman attacked the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh on October 27, 2018, and domestic terrorist Cesar Sayoc has pled guilty to mailing a series of packages containing pipe bombs to a long list of well-known Democrats last year—including Bill and Hillary Clinton, Barack and Michelle Obama, billionaire George Soros, actor Robert De Niro, Rep. Maxine Waters, former Attorney General Eric Holder and former Vice President Joe Biden.

A U.S. Coast Guard lieutenant, now facing criminal charges, was stockpiling firearms (according to federal prosecutors) and had a hit list of Democrats and media figures he planned to attack. The list of potential targets—all of whom have been critical of President Donald Trump—ranged from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Sen. Kamala Harris to Van Jones and Chris Cuomo of CNN and Joe Scarborough and Chris Hayes of MSNBC.

Three African-American churches in Louisiana were burned in March/April, and in October 2018, two older African-Americans, Maurice Stallard and Vickie Lee Jones, were randomly killed in a racially motivated attack in Louisville, Kentucky.

One of the deadliest white nationalist terror attacks of 2019 occurred not in the U.S., but in Christchurch, New Zealand—where, on March 15, far-right white supremacists attacked two mosques and killed 50 people (many others were injured but survived). And the suspect in the Chabad of Poway attack, according to police, said he was motivated by the Christchurch and Tree of Life attacks.


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