CINCINNATI, Ohio – This month, thousands of ordinary residents in cities across the nation will attend expos to learn about better preparation for emergencies that can impact everyday lives.
Little did they know that new guidelines set forth by the Obama Administration could make prepared individuals targets for surveillance as they attend church or school, or visit the doctor’s office.
For most, prepping is a natural, prudent activity in the wake of an increasing number of natural disasters and manmade threats to the American society.
Unfortunately, for many government leaders, including police and federal law enforcement, people identified as preppers are considered dangerous and extremists. In numerous cases, self-identified preppers have been targeted for investigations and arrests by local police.
Some of these cases were legitimate. Several self-described preppers threatened or actually attacked their neighbors. Some were felons who illegally purchased weapons and bragged about it on television.
But for every legitimate case, there are those like Terry Porter of Maryland.
In his case, he told neighbors that he was a prepper, owned guns and disliked President Obama. According to local reports, that information about Porter was given anonymously to local police, and it was all law enforcement needed to raid his home. Those same reports also raise troubling questions by claiming that police did not know he was a felon with illegal weapons until after the initial raid.
For some government watchers and commentators, these kinds of cases raise concerns about whether law enforcement actually targets preppers by assuming they are dangerous.
But it’s one thing when a misinformed citizen turns informant believing the prepper next door is a threat, and the police respond. It’s a whole other situation when the federal government actively seeks everyday citizens to turn into neighborhood spies.
This is the case for a new initiative of the Obama Administration, and it’s scary.
According to Reuters, the federal government, at the direction of the Obama Administration, plans to use “local intervention teams” to spy on neighbors, patients and even fellow church members in order to root out potentially violent “extremists.”
The teams will be made up of mental health professionals, faith-based groups, educators and community leaders.
The Obama Administration claims the targets are white supremacists and Muslim extremists, but the preparedness community knows they are often lumped into the same basket as domestic terrorists.
The irony, of course, would be that the very same politicians leading this new effort to create neighborhood informants also took part in declaring September as Emergency Preparedness Month.
Here is the Reuters article in full:
White House Plans Community-Based Prevention of Violent Ideologies
By Julia Edwards | WASHINGTON
A new White House plan aims to convene teachers and mental health professionals to intervene and help prevent Americans from turning to violent ideologies, work that is currently mostly done by law enforcement, a draft of the policy seen by Reuters shows.
The 18-page plan, to be announced on Wednesday, marks the first time in five years that the Obama administration has updated its policy for preventing the spread of violent groups. Authorities blamed radical and violent ideologies as the motives for attacks in the last year in Charleston, South Carolina; San Bernardino, California; Orlando, Florida; New York and New Jersey.
A self-styled white supremacist is accused of shooting dead nine black people inside a historic African-American church in Charleston and the other shootings and bombs were inspired by Islamist militants.
Both Republicans and Democrats in Congress have questioned Department of Homeland Security officials over the delay in updating the department’s approach to countering recruitment strategies by Islamic State, which controls parts of Iraq and Syria, and other groups.
Congress does not have the authority to reject the plan, but it could withhold funding to prevent it from being fully implemented. The White House says the plan can be implemented at current funding levels, but it will need dedicated funding in the future to “fully realize the goals of the strategy.”
Civil liberties groups, including the Council on American-Islamic Relations, have criticized the current model as one that sows distrust in Muslim communities in the United States. Federal prosecutors, who are charged with conducting terrorism investigations, also lead prevention efforts.
Prosecutors would still have a role in prevention efforts under the new policy, including arranging after-school programs, but they would not be allowed to use those settings for intelligence gathering.
In Minneapolis, U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger prosecuted 10 Somali-American men earlier this year for plotting to fight with the Islamic State overseas while simultaneously leading community outreach efforts with the same Somali community.
Studies have shown family members and friends are most likely to notice a loved one may be considering violence, the policy explains. But some may be reluctant to report the behavior to law enforcement.
“Successful efforts to counter violent extremism are, in large part, predicated on trust,” the policy states.
Under the new guidelines, “local intervention teams” made up of mental health professionals, faith-based groups, educators and community leaders will assess the needs of individuals who may be showing signs of converting to a violent ideology.
Local law enforcement officers may also be part of the team, but not federal prosecutors.
“We determined that efforts to build intervention teams are less likely to succeed if they are driven by the federal government,” said Brette Steele, acting deputy director of the U.S. government’s Countering Violent Extremism Task Force, suggesting that the teams should instead be community-led.
Only when a person is believed to “pose a threat or be immediately capable of committing a crime,” should law enforcement actions be taken, the policy states.
The policy also calls on the Justice Department to implement rehabilitation strategies that could include using former converts to violence as counselors for those convicted of terrorism.