Virtual Meeting: CFR Master Class Series With Bruce Hoffman

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Shelby Cullom and Kathryn W. Davis Senior Fellow for Counterterrorism and Homeland Security, Council on Foreign Relations; @hoffman_bruce


Vice President, Deputy Director of Studies, and Nelson and David Rockefeller Senior Fellow for Latin America Studies, Council on Foreign Relations; @shannonkoneil

Bruce Hoffman discusses domestic terrorism in the United States.

The CFR Master Class Series is a weekly 45-minute session hosted by Vice President and Deputy Director for Studies Shannon O’Neil in which a CFR fellow will take a step back from the news and discuss the fundamentals essential to understanding a given country, region of the world, or issue pertaining to U.S. foreign policy or international relations.

O'NEIL: Great, thanks so much Teagan. Welcome. I'm Shannon O'Neil here at the Council on Foreign Relations and welcome back to our Master Class Series this afternoon. And this is where we go beyond the headlines and we go in depth on a particular issue or country with one of our senior fellows. So today, we are going to be discussing the history of domestic extremism in the United States. And with us, we have our senior fellow Bruce Hoffman. He is the Shelby Cullom and Kathryn W. Davis Senior Fellow for Counterterrorism and Homeland Security. He always introduces himself that way with that whole title, I know. But he has been looking at these issues and studying terrorism for many years, for decades. And he has brought his expertise to the Congress. He was the commissioner and then the lead author of an independent commission and report that reviewed post 9/11 responses to terrorism in the United States. He has brought it to the CIA, where he was for many years a scholar in residence, advising the government that way. He has brought it to Baghdad, where he was an official advisor to the Coalition Provisional Authority. I know in and out of all of this, he's advised many members of Congress, the executive branch, and other places informally. And then he also brings it to Georgetown students today on a regular basis. And we're very lucky to have him sharing a little bit of his expertise with us today in this Master Class. So, as we do I'm going to turn it over to him for eight to ten minutes to kick us off and set the stage. And then we will open up to discussion with all of you members. So please, Bruce, go ahead.

HOFFMAN: Thanks so much, Shannon, for the very kind introduction. Well, what I'll do in the next ten minutes is not give the complete history of domestic terrorism in the United States, probably a history of the modern history of domestic terrorism in the in the United States. Of course, as you know, it goes back, certainly to the mid-19th century, if not after, but I wanted to concentrate really on the trend line that we see as most prominent today. And a good starting point is actually this morning's Washington Post and if you happen to have read that, there was an article about the deployment of federal law enforcement officers primarily from the Homeland Security Investigations, division of the Department of Homeland Security to Portland and Seattle with President Trump saying that they would be deployed to Chicago and other cities with blue state mayors and the President had said, "this is worse than anyone's ever seen."

In other words, the situation in Portland and perhaps Seattle, that has necessitated this deployment. Actually, it's not. And this is why it's often important to take a historical view of it. In point of fact, during a single 18-month period in 1971, and 1972, there were 2,500. That's 2,500 politically motivated bombings in the United States. And if you work that out, mathematically, that's an average of five bombings per day during that time and this is according to the to the FBI. Now, we don't remember them, mainly because the overwhelming majority of them were non-lethal. I mean, it was almost true terrorism for symbolic purposes. Bombs went out off outside of banks, for example, outside of airlines, foreign countries’ embassies, New York City, I suppose, then as now was an epicenter of a lot of this violence because of the presence of United Nations, and the embassies and consulates there. But the point is that there was a period in the United States when there was a lot of terrorism and it wasn't of the 9/11 model of terrorists coming from there to attack us here.

These were Americans, in many cases carrying out terrorist attacks. Perhaps not surprisingly, given an era when the United States was intensely involved overseas in Indochina. Very controversial military deployments, not least because of a national draft. I don't think it'll surprise anyone that radical left wing organizations were the most active. In fact, again, long forgotten in November 1983. A group comprised entirely of women, interestingly, bombed the United States Capitol. They placed the bomb in the Senate's cloakroom. It's actually the subject of a book that was published this year by a friend and colleague William Rosenau, Tonight We Bombed the U.S. Capitol is the title. I mean, this is something if it happened today would of course, have really profound repercussions. But it's something that happened during the first term in office, rather, of the Reagan administration and the M-19 Group, which by the way, took its name from the coincidental birthday of May 19 of both Malcolm X and Ho Chi Minh was one of six left wing groups active during the 1970s and less so in the 1980s, they began to taper off.

But it was iconic groups like the Weathermen that then rebranded themselves the Weather Underground, so it's not to be sexist. The United Freedom Front, the SAM Melville--Jonathan Jackson Unit, Revolutionary Armed Task Force, the Black Liberation Army, and another long forgotten group that was enormously consequential in the mid-1970s, the Symbionese Liberation Army, which of course kidnapped the Hearst newspaper heiress, Patty Hearst. So, there were at least a half dozen left wing terrorist groups that were responsible for the majority of those terrorist incidents, but they were certainly not alone during the 1970s and 80s. And don't forget, this was also the era of President Nixon in a very much of a law and order president. There are any number of ethno nationalist separatist organizations as well. There were Puerto Rican Independistas and groups like the National Armed Liberation Front or the FALN are responsible for 125 bombings in the 1970s and mid-1980s. Again, this is why we don't remember it, 125 bombings total, no less tragic that five people were killed, but comparatively modest fatalities compared to a lot of the terrorism that we see today. There were Armenian, at least three Armenian diaspora terrorist groups seeking to avenge the genocides perpetrated against the Armenian peoples at the end of the 19th century and the during World War One. In fact, in 1982, the Turkish Consul General was assassinated in Wilshire Boulevard in Westwood in Los Angeles. Very graphic assassination as well.

There were groups like the Jewish Defense League that attacked Soviet targets, but also in 1985, assassinated an Arab-American activist named Alex Odeh with a car bomb in Orange County. And there were also some incidents of terrorism that were state sponsored in 1980. For example, the Ayatollah Khomeini managed to persuade a U.S. Postal employee named David Belfield to assassinate the Shah of Iran's former press secretary, a man named Ali Tabatabai by in Washington, DC. And of course in 1976, and a particularly infamous incident, the former Foreign Minister of Chile, Orlando Letelier, was killed in a car bomb. So the United States has had its share of terrorism. Today, I would say the threat is twofold, at least domestically violent, far left extremism and of course, violent far right extremism which you've heard a lot of. On the violent far left group. It's not even a group, it's really an amalgamation, known as ANTIFA for anti-fascist is at least allegedly the most active but it's not like any of the terrorist groups that we've confronted over the past 20 years. There's no leader, there's no organization, there's no income stream to disrupt. It takes its name anti-fascist. It was a movement that began in Europe in the 1960s, to actively counter fascism under the assumption that if more people to take into the streets in the 1930s in Italy, and in Germany, there wouldn't have been the fascism and the fascists or Nazis would not have come to power.

They appeared in the United States in the 1980s. They were then called the Anti-Racist Action Group. And they confronted skinheads and other white supremacists regularly in the 19, well, really in the 2000s, they became more concerned with what they regard as a creeping authoritarianism in the United States and became particularly active at the time of President Trump's inauguration. And since, these are mostly street protests, some acts of vandalism smashing of windows setting fire to SUVs, but we shouldn't be mistaken, it's not as if there's no such thing as left wing terrorists. In the United States in June 2017, an individual shot, attacked a Congressional baseball practice by Republican members of Congress. Six individuals were wounded, two critically amongst them was the House Minority Leader, Steve Scalise. And then in July 2019, there was an attempted firebombing of an Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility in Tacoma, Washington. And that's about the extent of it very briefly, because I see we're just about coming on to 4:12. Violent right wing extremism, obviously has been very much in the news, the Boogaloo movement. I'm happy to answer questions on that.

But let me just make two important points. The two most consequential trends we see in global terrorism today, lone wolves and radicalization via the internet or social media are not terrorist tactics imported from overseas by groups like Al-Qaeda, and especially ISIS, who of course hardest use this, but they originated in the United States, in the early 1980s. From the violent, far right extremist movement from white supremacist. And obviously, in the digital age, these have become much more common. Let me just wrap up and give you a set of statistics from the Anti-Defamation League, which for decades has tracked domestic terrorism. Because of the complexities of not having a domestic terrorism law, federal figures are sometimes less accessible. Between 2009 and 2019, a total of 435 persons, which is a significant number, were killed in the United States as a result of politically motivated violence that is to say domestic terrorism. Far-right groups or individuals were responsible for more than three quarters of those by comparison, left wing groups were responsible for 3%, domestic Islamic extremists were responsible for about 20%. Finally, snapshot of 2019 total of 42 deaths, in my view, astonishingly 91%, attributed to violent far right extremists with the other 9% basically a hodgepodge. So let me stop there, turn the floor back over to Shannon.

O'NEIL: Great. Wow, there's so much here to talk about. And I'm going to let Teagan sort of remind people how they can ask a question and then I'll start off with the first one.

STAFF: (Giving queuing instructions)

O'NEIL: So first, let me start you off asking a little bit about how I mean there's all these different kinds of terrorism, but how the U.S. reacts, or the U.S. government reacts to it and manages it. And so both, I'd be interested, over this, you know, 40, 50-year span, how has the U.S. government changed or evolved its way of trying to deal with these domestic groups, either because it has new laws or tools or the like, or because there are different kinds of groups? How does how does the U.S. government when they face these kinds of things, and these 400 plus deaths? What do they do and how has that changed over time?

HOFFMAN: Well, I think in a nutshell, an easy way to answer that is in the 1980s. I think one of the major tools that was brought to bear against domestic terrorism and proved enormously effective were the Rico statutes, the racketeering and influenced corrupt organizations, legislation that was originally passed to target organized crime, the mafia of Cosa Nostra in the United States, and then was very effectively applied to a raft of terrorist organizations. Violent far-right extremists were extremely active in the 1980s violent left-wing extremists, I described, the Puerto Rican Independista movement among others. And what was so critical is as Eric Ambler very famously wrote in Coffin for Dimitrios "it's not the man that throws the bomb who's important but who paid for it." So in other words, it's the commander, and this gave the FBI and the authorities the ability to prosecute individuals for conspiracy to commit crimes. And after all terrorism is assassination shootings, bombings, arson, and so on. So that was that was the most important step forward, I would argue.

O'NEIL: Great. Let me turn it to the first question from members.

STAFF: We will take our first question from Fred Hochberg.

Q: Hi there. One of the issues that came up a few years ago, I can't recall it precisely but how the FBI acknowledged that since 2000, they somewhat really ignored looking at white supremacist organizations and the kind of terrorism that they have wreaked on our country. How do you understand that? What was the cause for it being overlooked? Was it just a hangover from 9/11? That we just did not look at our in our own backyard, but how do you best understand that?

HOFFMAN: That's a very, that's a very good and very important question. Well, I worked at the FBI headquarters when I was a Congressionally appointed commissioner for 15 months and took a very deep dive into what the Counterterrorism Division in particular was doing and I have to admit in that entire period, I never heard or saw any investigation differentiated between whether it was from ISIS or whether it was from violent far-right extremists or from militant environmentalist, whoever it was terrorism was terrorism it was treated the same. I think what happened at the time, and was part of I think this this really glacial shift that followed 9/11 is that, firstly, the FBI transition from being certainly much more of an intelligence gathering and especially analytical agency than it had been before. And this was part of the reforms from 2004 from the Intelligence Reform Act. But overwhelmingly, of course, everyone's attention was on foreign terrorist threats. I mean, my own attention. I actually, interestingly, for me, perhaps that I'm coming back and focusing so much now on domestic terrorism is that when I started my career, nearly 40 years ago, the first publication I ever had was on right-wing terrorism. Violent far right extremism as it was today. And during the 1980s through Oklahoma City, my main focus was on domestic terrorism in the United States.

But then like everyone else, the FBI included after 9/11, it shifted and was overwhelmed by the multiplicity of threats because we had a global movement, like Al-Qaeda. And then of course, the rapid appearance, and I think very dynamic threat that ISIS posed. And it meant that there were for not mistaken, two main FBI divisions dedicated to international terrorism and only one to domestic. So it was never ignored. But everyone's attention and emphasis was on foreign terrorism and predominantly terrorism coming from Salafi jihadi actors. That began to shift as there was this resurgence of violent far right extremism, especially after the Tree of Life Synagogue shootings in Pittsburgh, almost two years ago, and we've seen the FBI move more in that direction. But I would never say that it was ignored completely. It's just the balance of effort because really the preponderance of the threat came from groups like Al-Qaeda and ISIS in their affiliates and less so domestically. That has changed. And I think the response has changed accordingly.

O'NEIL: Just following up on that since you started writing first about domestic right wing extremism and terrorism, and now you're looking back at it again? How has it changed in the United States from the 80s to today?

HOFFMAN: Well, this is the subject of a book I'm working on for CFR exactly this.

O'NEIL: (Laughs) Just a snapshot, right.

HOFFMAN: As Yogi Berra said, it's deja vu all over again, in many respects. In the 1980s, for example, we saw this tremendous transition of domestic far-right extremism from Ku Klux Klan and American Nazis to something that was more insidious where disillusionment from prolonged overseas military commitments. Back then it was Indochina. Now we see that it's the ongoing war on terrorism. A strident opposition to immigration, which we see, we see now very much, but then was very strong. Alienation from elected conservative politicians. In other words, Ronald Reagan had succeeded a liberal Democrat, less Liberal Democrat, Jimmy Carter, but was not going nearly as far. But the fact that he was elected was seen as opening up the door. And President Reagan, by the way, regularly repudiated white supremacism. There was the same profound distrust of big government and of Washington, fervent embrace of conspiracy theories, which now is made even exponentially more easier because of social media, and very good communication skills that we see today. So everything that the foundations unfortunately were laid, the 1980s, and it's this new generation that I think very sadly is building upon them why they've become such a threat so quickly.

O'NEIL: Let's take the next question.

STAFF: We will take the next question from Audrey Cronin.

Q: Hi, this is Audrey Kurth Cronin. I'm from American University. Hi, Bruce. Thank you for a great presentation. Actually, it's serendipitous that you were just talking about the patterns in the 1980s. Because what I wanted to ask you about is to comment a little bit about opening the historical aperture a little and talking about the patterns at the turn of the century in the late 1900s and early 20th century, sorry, 1800s and early 20th century, because the anarchists also engaged in quite a lot of terrorism in the United States. And much of that terrorism was a similar intersection between a tool, dynamite, and communications that were vastly increased, and the reaction was similar. Because there was a huge cut in immigration. So in any case, can you talk about the late 19th century, please?

HOFFMAN: Sure. That's a great question. Well, Audrey, as you know from your book about terrorism and technology of the first car bomb actually originated in the 1920s and had been used by anarchist terrorists. And back then the anarchist terrorists were actually quite lethal as well. They assassinated several heads of states, including President McKinley, in the United States, a Haymarket Square bombing in Chicago killed two dozen people. But you're absolutely right. This was added in an era when firstly, international travel had become much more possible than it had been in the past and you did have very much of an international movement with the anarchists. They're able to communicate with one another, they were able to take advantage of developments in modern weaponry such as dynamite that made it easier to smuggle explosives, and in some instances, they also targeted mass transit, subways, which were a new phenomenon at the end of the 19th century, and also commuter trains.

So some of the patterns that we've seen over the past 20 years, I would say, probably more so with the global Salafi Jihadi Movement have a lot of parallels to the anarchist movement. I think that one of the big differences is that, at least in the Salafi Jihadi context, they've been much better organized on the 21st century and more coordinated and have more I think of a salient strategy than might have been the case with the anarchists. The problem that we're seeing and attempting to counter both left and right, violent extremism today. And one thing that that troubles me and I find fascinating is that as I said earlier, there are no organizations there are no clear leaders, there may be ideological leaders, there may be people that that aren't involved in the movements directly issuing orders that at least provide an ideological framework. But the sort of neat command and control systems and financial systems and organizational dynamics that we've traditionally seen in terrorist groups don't apply to these groups, which I think makes it far more difficult for intelligence and law enforcement, not just to track them, but also to anticipate and prevent these types of attacks.

O'NEIL: Great, let's take another question.

STAFF: We will take the next question from Henry Willis.

Q: Hi, Bruce, Henry Willis. Great presentation. The 60s and 70s were also a time of significant nonviolent protests. And I'm curious if you've studied at all or can comment at all on intersections between the violence you talked about in some of the nonviolent protests, where it was their alignment, were they targeted in a similar way that what we're seeing now? I'd be interested in your observations.

HOFFMAN: That's a really good question. It's, I think this was one of the big errors of the left wing groups that were active at the time, is that they misinterpreted opposition to the war in Vietnam and U.S. military involvement in Indochina, and especially a universal draft to domestic support for a communist revolution. And I think what happened is that groups like the Weather Underground or the Weatherman, and then they evolved into the Weather Underground, and the other groups that I described, were able to gain support up until about 1975 or so. And then once the United States had withdrawn from Indochina, once the draft ended, and we move to an all-volunteer service, their support, precipitously dwindled, and you had groups in the late 70s, and early 1980s, almost ideology shopping, like attempting to grab onto new causes that they hoped would animate both the movements and inspire new recruits.

And that was one of their problems is that, I mean, as you well know, from your own research at RAND, I mean, terrorist groups can’t survive unless they're recruiting new members and they're replenishing their ranks, especially as in the 1970s and 1980s, whose federal authorities were getting very effective in disrupting and imprisoning the leaders. They were unable to replicate both the rank and file and leadership because there just weren't people that were answering their calls. So the short answer is that a lot of the demonstrations and the protests that we saw in the 60s and 70s really faded away with the end of the Vietnam War. They started a bit again in the 1980s, as the United States became more intensely involved in Central America backing the Contras for instance in Nicaragua. Back in the Salvadoran government against the FMLN, an umbrella group of left wing insurgents. Protests began but they were never on the scale of Indochina. And that's one reason why these groups, for instance, bombed the capital. I mean, they were desperate to try to get attention to themselves in their cause. They were, of course, you know, often very concerned with not causing casualties or fatalities. It was a kind of terrorism that seems to have, unfortunately faded into oblivion. It was more symbolic. But the point is, once the Vietnam War ended, they never got they never regained the traction they once had.

O'NEIL: Let's take the next question.

STAFF: We will take the next question from Ria Bailey-Galvis.

Q: Hi, this is Ria, I work with Google. But my question is really informed by earlier in my career when I worked in Latin America, for the Colombia desk, at State and for the Colombian government. So, looking at Latin America in the 70s and 80s, I think of some of the variables you brought up, such as political polarization. And now something we're seeing new in the United States: unmarked police forces. And in Latin America, you know, you'd be concerned about the potential for para militarism to pop up due to the circumstances. So potentially, as you referred to earlier, there's a lack of organization in the United States. Is this enough to kind of damper that risk? And potentially a provocative question, but I'd love to hear your thoughts on it.

HOFFMAN: Well, I think there's always a danger in being complacent and underestimating the threat of terrorism because even one death is what is one too many. But I think, you know. Police forces, law enforcement needs intelligence, needs information, whether it's to solve crimes or whether to counter terrorism and in many instances, the best information is going to come from local police forces that hopefully are properly trained and are serving the community and not abusing and alienating the community. So you know, the situation in Latin America was, of course, very, very different. I mean, firstly, there were often national police forces, and you had a systemic problem. Whereas one hopes in the United States, it's much more isolated and is being addressed now. And then also the levels of domestic violence across Latin America, certainly in the 1960s and the 1970s. And then especially with the rise of narcoterrorism in the 1980s, was on a much vaster scale than in than in the United States.

I mean, even some of those incidents I described in the 1980s would pale in comparison to what was occurring in Colombia, for example, or Peru, we're faced with the Shining Path, so it's a very different situation. But it is a warning. I mean, don't forget one of the most effective terrorist groups of that period was the Tupamaros in Uruguay and Uruguay was described in the 1960s as the Switzerland of Latin America. It was a thriving democracy, actually a very, very stable and robust economy. It seemed unlike Argentina or Colombia, or Peru, it seemed a less likely country because of because they had a functioning democracy in a good economy that it would be swept into this kind of violence. And of course, a tragedy of vast proportions was visited upon them with the rise in terrorism, but then more so the absolute repression that destroyed the democracy and led to a very brutal military junta that really victimized the Uruguayan population.

O'NEIL: Next question, please.

STAFF: We will take our next question from Dan Caldwell.

Q: Dan Caldwell from Pepperdine University. Bruce, thanks very much for a very interesting overview. In contrast to the last couple of questions, I'd like to ask you to come up to the present and focus on what you think are the most significant errors that the Trump administration has either made or actions that they failed to take in regard to domestic counterterrorism?

HOFFMAN: Well, the obvious one, and I hesitate to say the original sin, but I think it had such a profound impact was the statement that there are good people on both sides after the Charlottesville violence and demonstrations in 2017. This isn't my opinion, when you look at the violent far-right extremist internet space, it was clear that they had seen this, whether it was attended as such is a different story. And I'm not I'm not making a comment one way or the other, but its impact unfortunately and energizing this movement I think was enormously significant and has led to a lot of the violence and a lot of the continued confrontations we see today. I mean, Charlottesville was followed by a significant street battle, for instance, in Berkeley. And now we have, as we've seen on TV screens and in the news over the past three months, I mean, in my view, and maybe I'm old fashioned, but there's something completely abhorrent about individuals coming to a state capitol, armed to the teeth and wearing body armor. I mean, this is something that should be totally unacceptable in any democratic country. And yet, we have another statement that called on people in any number of states to liberate their capitals from the President, which I don't think was at all helpful, either. So in this sense, I think, the leadership that would be necessarily in damping a lot of I think, drift towards defining what would have been unacceptable some years ago, more acceptable or tolerated, to tolerate it is indeed quite, quite worrisome. And we see it now in the Boogaloo movement, for example, I mean that the fact that people can call for outright sedition publicly and is a phenomena that I that I don't think I could have myself I could have ever anticipated.

O'NEIL: Next question.

STAFF: We will take our next question from Rachel Robbins.

Q: So following up again on the right wing extremism, you mentioned the lone wolves and the radicalization of social media and the challenge of intelligence authorities being able to get the right intelligence, especially with lone wolves. So what are your views on the best way to combat this phenomenon of extreme right wing violence?

HOFFMAN: Well, I think the simplest thing, answer but it's also has its own complexities is some domestic terrorism legislation. The reason I say that is because we mainly have to rely on the statistics gathered by the Anti-Defamation League or the Southern Poverty Law Center, or other NGOs that have long tracked very accurately and effectively, these types of movements, because federal figures, are scattered and not as accessible as they might be in terms of international terrorism. I think we have to be careful with domestic terrorism legislation in this sense in two respects. I mean, firstly, we don't want it to be used as a political weapon or a tool against people that are exercising their first amendment rights and that we may disagree with, but are perfectly entitled to express those views as long as they are not advocating violence, but even more so from a practical dimension.

People have argued that if we have a domestic terrorism law, it should also contain a domestic terrorism designation. I mean, that's really the anchor of our foreign terrorist organizations, legislation and approach in countering international terrorism, where material support can be used to prosecute individuals for variety in any kind of assistance to a terrorist group. The reason I'm more hesitant about that in a U.S. context is firstly, I think the political polarization that we see could result in groups, and I've heard this in many discussions, for instance, people saying Black Lives (Matter) as a terrorist organization, they should be designated. And ANTIFA is my point is neither of those are terrorist organizations within Osama Bin Laden or Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi, in other words, with a leadership that we could target with financial flows that could actually be interdicted. So I think there's value in domestic terrorism legislation, but we have to be very careful about it and especially be very sensitive to how it could be used. On a personal level, I think that it should be illegal to dox individuals’ home addresses, for example. Often that there's a case now winding its way through federal courts. I'm blanking on the name, but it's against Andrew Anglin and the Daily Stormer, a woman in Montana whose claims its first amendment right, these things are done in a threatening harassing purpose. So I think we should also look at our legislation and make sure that it has kept pace with the technology like social media that enables you to basically blast someone's personal details and mobilize individuals to attack them, the pizza gate scenario.

O'NEIL: Let me ask when you have looked at sort of U.S. government responses both inside the United States and outside the United States, so one right is this sort of material support, but what are the different tools or what are the different approaches? Is it easier or harder to do it abroad or do it at home? Or in what ways? Is it easier and harder in each place?


Well, I mean, think about one of the major tools that we've used in counterterrorism over the past decade and a half targeted assassinations, and the use of drones, for example, which supplanted what used to be the snatch and grab arresting apprehension of terrorists leaders. I mean, obviously, that's completely inapplicable. The freedoms that certainly intelligence has would be very different in the United States just to amass data on foreign individuals, there are not the constraints that there are in the United States. Even in terms of softer things like public diplomacy, one has to be very careful in the kinds of messages that the U.S. government generates for overseas audiences that they can affect domestic ones. So it's, it's not quite an apples and oranges but the United States because the Constitution is quite unique and it means there never is, I would argue a one size fits are encountering any terrorist threat, you always have to tailor it to the environment and to the conditions to the culture and history, and so on. But it becomes even more profound when we're dealing with threats in the United States and that line between law enforcement and intelligence.

O'NEIL: Let's take another question.

STAFF: We'll take the next question from Jay Vogelson.

Q: Hello, I'm Jay Vogelson from Texas. I was surprised that you didn't talk more about Portland. I consider that to be undemocratic and a fascist way of functioning for a president on his own against the wishes of state government to send troops into a city, unmarked troops with unmarked cars. I think that is scary. And this President is threatening to do the same in Chicago and other Democratic controlled cities. What do you think about that?

HOFFMAN: Well, somewhat elliptically. But I was talking about that when I said that just as information is needed to solve crimes intelligence is needed to counter terrorism. And that often comes best from the local authorities that know the population that fit into the culture of the community. And that are there to serve the people. I would say that deployments of homeland security forces to places like Portland, I mean, firstly, what's going on in Portland, there may be people who object to it perfectly justified that may see this as inappropriate in a democracy. But that still doesn't mean it's terrorism. And it still doesn't mean that it merits a federal counter terrorist response. And there are elements of that response and the President has been fairly clear that's what he's doing. I think it's inadvisable and we’ll have I think, consequences that we perhaps don't even anticipate now that will be very problematical.

O'NEIL: Next question, please.

STAFF: We will take the next question from Joan Spero.

Q: Ah, thank you, Bruce. I wanted to follow up on the last question and ask you how the Portland events might spin out and whether there are constitutional legal court ways to stop this what one could call an anti-terrorism activity by the U.S. government?

HOFFMAN: Well, bear in mind I'm a terrorism analyst, not a jurist and not legal authority of what strikes me from the start as odd about it is there is an agency in the United States that since the night 1985, in fact, has been designated as lead age federal agency responsible for counterterrorism. That's the Federal Bureau of Investigation. In my view, it's fascinating that the FBI is not involved in this, that it's the, the investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security. I mean, that suggests to me problem right there that it's not terrorism otherwise the FBI would be involved in the FBI doesn't believe. Of course, there's Joint Terrorism Task Forces throughout the country that have been enormously effective in countering terrorism. So, you know, from my perspective, as a terrorism analyst, it seems we're not talking about countering terrorism, but we're talking about something that is politically motivated in an election year and is of course highly charged for exactly the reasons that that your questions and Mr. Vogelson's question underscore.

O'NEIL: Let's take another question.

STAFF: We will take the next question from Matt Driskill.

Q: Hey, Bruce. I appreciate your comments on both sides. I want to just make one quick comment and ask you a question. So I would agree with you that it's not helpful at all to have militias of any type, marching with weapons and body armor. I pull apart the argument that all of those if you were making it that those were all right wing extremists at some of those capitols. My understanding is that a lot of actually individual business owners and so forth that were protesting policies and I didn't, at least from the journalists, I follow see, any violence from that but to your point, which I agree with, about those militias being unhelpful. I'd like you to comment since you're a terrorism expert on what you see again, going back to Portland and  Seattle, because that's where my friends are in law enforcement, that do say that there is, you know, a huge element of anarchists and other militias, mainly leftist there, and then you have the NFAC that gathered at Stone Mountain, which was heavily armed and you can't repeat what they even stand for on this and all those that express that they're not affiliated with any sort of social justice or racial justice movement. So, you know, if the response by the government is incorrect, then please help us understand what steps our agencies should take to protect certain properties or quell this violence so citizens can live in peace and order is restored in a constitutionally appropriate way.

HOFFMAN: Well, again, I mean, I'm a terrorism specialist, not a jurist, and certainly not a constitutional authority. But my assumption would be that it's up to the local authorities. Especially given states’ rights and the powers that are not vested in federal authorities to meet these threats on their own and to request federal assistance. And there always needs, I think, to be consideration of the local sensibilities involved. I mean, to my mind, anarchists are not necessarily terrorists. I mean, we may not like that, we may not approve of what they're doing in Portland or Seattle, but it's not terrorism. It may be illegal, but that also doesn't mean that it's that it's terrorism. And I think that in every country that I have studied, that is applied counterterrorism measures, one of the most important things is having the confidence of the public and the support of the public and whatever measures are being taken. And this has been highly controversial. And it certainly goes against the wishes of the local authorities, which in my view, I mean, I'm in no position of authority, but in my view, they should have the say in this. And also, you may have access to information intelligence that I don't have. I only know what I read in the newspapers. But again, I don’t see that as what we're seeing now is actual terrorism, certainly not, as I was describing it, as occurred in the 1970s and 1980s. And I also don't want to say people showing up arms and in body armor to state capitols also wasn’t terrorism. My point was, though, that there's no place for that in a democracy and there's no reason it should exist in a democracy, whether it's right or left or anybody else.

O'NEIL: Right, well, we've reached the end of our time. So Bruce, everyone's joining me in thanking you for that tour de force at the last century plus of terrorism in the U.S. and also outside. For those of those who are following this Master Class series, next week we're going to focus on Nigeria, a country with terrorism challenges in and of itself, along with others. And John Campbell will be with us to talk about that. So, let's say goodbye to you all. And thank you, Bruce, for today's session.

HOFFMAN: You’re very, welcome. Thank you.

STAFF:Ladies and gentlemen, at this time, you are welcome to disconnect from this virtual meeting.


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