Some of Those That Work Fusion Centers Are The Same As Constitution-Enders

Oath Keepers in the Department of Homeland Security "would ultimately choose the Oath Keepers over the department," says Daryl Johnson, whom DHS canceled for warning about this kind of thing. PLUS: I'll be speaking at a Thursday press conference for clemency for drone whistleblower Daniel Hale.

Some of Those That Work Fusion Centers Are The Same As Constitution-Enders
Munich Marienplatz during the Beer Hall Putsch in November, 1923. Via the Bundesarchiv Bild, CC-BY-SA. 

Edited by Sam Thielman

IT SEEMS LIKE every couple of years, I have to dig out the story of Daryl Johnson.

Daryl was one of extremely few analysts at the Department of Homeland Security in the 2000s who didn't focus on jihadists. In 2009, he issued a rare warning about the acceleration of far-right militancy owing to the combination of Barack Obama’s election and the Great Recession. Conservatives objected that Johnson was committing a great ideological slander. Rather than take Johnson seriously, the Obama-era DHS revoked his warning, disbanded his analytic unit and basically pushed him out. And so every several years I have to write about how prescient his career-ending warning was.

The first time I did so was after the massacre at the Oak Creek Sikh temple in 2012. I caught up with him after the Tree of Life Synagogue murders in 2018. After that guy tried to bomb CNN, George Soros, and Robert DeNiro that same year. After Donald Trump sicced the Joint Terrorism Task Forces on antifascists in 2020. You get the idea.

When the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) and the Project on Government Oversight (POGO) reported on Monday that hundreds of Oath Keepers are affiliated with the Department of Homeland Security—that's on top of recent disclosures of the military personnel and cops enlisted in this same far-right street cadre—I definitely had to give Daryl a call.

"How can people, the general public, immigrants, people like this, trust the Department of Homeland Security, when you have people that belong to an extremist organization on your payroll?" Johnson said. "How can you trust them to make the right decision in the field and have an unbiased, objective view of things?"  

Great questions. Unfortunately, the Department of Homeland Security didn't respond to my email.

According to OCCRP and POGO, an Oath Keepers roster of dues payers includes 306 people "affiliated with DHS, including 21 who said they were working for the agency at the time their names were added." They include an absolute ton of Coasties—184—as well as 40 members of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and 11 members of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Daryl cautions that DHS has something like 250,000 employees.

"That said, I consider the Oath Keepers an insider threat, a counterintelligence concern, an operational security concern," Johnson said. "Anybody that's an Oath Keeper in the Department of Homeland Security is a concern to look at from a non-kinetic threat [perspective]. These people have sworn allegiance to an organization that's anti-government, that believes in all kinds of conspiracy theories, and doesn't have the department's interests as a priority. They would ultimately choose the Oath Keepers over the department, the oath they took to the department. They should look at every single one of these individuals as a counterintelligence, insider-threat, operational security concern."

As it happens, OCCRP and POGO make the revealing point that at least some of the DHS personnel who joined the Oath Keepers "were subject to agency insider-threat vetting and security review," which they evidently passed. This goes to underscore, yet again, that such vetting is simply not looking for affiliation with right-wing militias. By contrast, I don't know how many stories I wrote in the aftermath of Chelsea Manning's arrest on how the Pentagon was aiming insider-threat detection software at people who might leak the truth about, say, a drone strike, but it was a few.

As with the military, membership in the Oath Keepers may not be a fireable offense. (I asked DHS, for the record.) "Some of these people might be outstanding employees, so you might not have grounds to fire them," Johnson said. But that doesn't preclude the agency from using administrative discipline, "definitely taking them off of one assignment that has them in touch with the public, or immigrants, and put[ting] them at a desk job. Reviewing their clearance, because I don't believe these types of people should have security clearances and be trusted with national-security information, because they belong to a subversive organization, in my opinion," Johnson said. "But of course, if people have abused their authorities in any way, or they're using their government computers to do Oath Keeper-type responsibilities, then yes, that could potentially be a fireable offense."

While it'll be up to Congress to ban Oath Keeper membership in federal security agencies—something, incredibly, a Democratic Congress didn't do after January 6, and now won't happen under a Republican House—Daryl underscores a message in a recent piece he wrote for the New Lines Institute.

"The biggest thing the government needs to do right now—they look at these groups from a criminal or terrorist-type lens. They need to open the aperture and look at it [as] a counterintelligence/insider threat/operational security concern," he said, continuing:

That's what I encourage the inspector generals' offices, internal affairs offices of the different agencies and departments, to start understanding the entire spectrum of what these groups pose.
Yeah, some of them commit criminal acts, some of them may plot terrorism, but a vast majority of them are nonviolent – but they're still a concern from a counterintelligence, insider, operational security [perspective]. They can compromise an investigation by leaking stuff, by tipping off a fellow Oath Keeper under investigation. They can steal information, share it with adversaries, about the physical layout of different agencies' headquarters and field offices. They can tip people off to different strategies being used to try to cause problems within the agency itself.

It's amazing to behold, once again, that these Patriots embedded in the bureaucracy of the Department of Oathland Security don't consider themselves to have been Deep Stating all along.

SOMETHING WE SHOULD DO as a country is free Daniel Hale, the drone whistleblower. I'll be taking part in a press conference seeking a presidential commutation for Hale on Thursday at 11a.m. ET. I've never done something like this before, as newsroom rules would never allow for such blatant advocacy by a reporter, but no one can fire me anymore, [This is true.—Sam.] and I don't think Hale should be in prison, so there you have it. The other speakers are Rep. Ilhan Omar; Daniel Ellsberg; Steven Donziger; and Ruth Bray, Hale's sister. You can tune in here. I might write up my spiel for this newsletter.

IN 2021, the global arms market grew by 1.9 percent, despite COVID-19-related disruptions in the weaponry supply chain, and became a $592 billion industry. SIPRI, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, finds in its latest year-end wrap-up that the American arms industry contracted slightly—0.9 percent—but if you break down arms sales by company, American companies still held 51 percent of the entire market. Chinese companies, the next highest percentage, contributed just 18 percent of global arms sales. But their share is on the rise, with eight Chinese firms registering a total $109 billion in sales, "6.3 percent more than in 2020," SIPRI totals. I have questions about what the end of COVID Zero will mean for Chinese defense-industry growth next year.

If you're wondering about the impact on the arms industry of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the U.S./NATO response, SIPRI is the latest to point out that increases in arms manufacturing to replenish the stocks of artillery, armor and other hardware that NATO militaries have provided Ukraine will last for years:

[I]ncreasing arms-production output takes time and it could be several years before arms companies are able to adjust to the new demand created by the war in Ukraine, as exemplified by the USA’s order for Javelin anti-tank missiles. By the end of October 2022, the USA had supplied 8500 Javelin missiles to Ukraine, which is equivalent to four years of production. The Javelin Joint Venture partnership between Lockheed Martin and Raytheon Technologies plans to increase its current output of 2100 missiles per year to nearly 4000 per year, but doubling the pace of production could take two years to implement. Artillery rounds for 155-millimetre howitzers are also among Ukraine’s key requirements. As of the end of October 2022, the USA had supplied over 900,000 standard and 4000 precision-guided 155-mm artillery rounds to Ukraine. At the current pace of production (14,400 rounds per month), it would take five to six years to replenish US stocks to previous levels. Therefore, the USA has plans in place with manufacturers to increase the pace of production to 36,000 rounds per month, which will be implemented over the next three years.
Arms producers in Europe are also anticipating a substantial increase in demand for military equipment because of the war. Rheinmetall, for example, expects the order intake for its defence division to jump by 100–150 per cent between 2021 and 2022, and by another 30–40 per cent in 2023. This projection is based on the need to replenish stockpiles of armoured vehicles sent to Ukraine and on Germany’s plans to increase military expenditure. Similarly, the Swedish arms producer Saab foresees an increased order intake on the back of a projected rise in global military spending.

Revenue for arms sales from Russian companies among the top 100 arms manufacturers were up ever so slightly—0.4 percent in 2021, SIPRI finds—but I would expect that to drop off a cliff in 2022. Not only is Russia now importing weaponry to feed its invasion-turned-debacle in Ukraine, sanctions hurt Russian arms companies—"Almaz-Antey, for example, stated in March 2022 that it could not receive payments for some of its arms export deliveries," SIPRI notes—and they also have to deal with reduced access to semiconductors.

Something I didn't expect: the French are cleaning up. Despite the U.S. pushing the French out of a big submarine sale to Australia, manufacturer "Naval Group’s arms sales reached $4.7 billion, which was a 20 per cent increase on [its] 2020 [sales revenue]." The five French companies that rank among the top 100 of arms merchants grew a collective 15 percent in 2021 and reaped $28.8 billion.

A caveat to all this: Private-equity firms have been acquiring defense firms for the better part of a generation. SIPRI notes that their meager transparency requirements "mak[e] it increasingly difficult to establish an accurate picture of the size of the arms industry. The growing trend in private equity acquisitions is likely to continue due to the military sector’s historically strong financial performance and the expected higher demand for arms in the context of heightening geopolitical tensions."

For more on the shape and the development of the American arms industry, I listened to this episode of American Prestige over the weekend, featuring scholars Jennifer Mittelstadt and Mark Wilson, whose recent jointly-edited book I hope to check out.

SO THIS, which broke as we finished the newsletter, sure seems like it has the potential to recast humanity's economic, security, political, geopolitical and ecological future in the time it takes to reach scale. However long that takes, how is that however-long period best spent?

I CAN'T READ ENOUGH about Prince Heinrich XIII and his failed putsch. If you haven't come across this, here’s the short version: A Thuringian prince who styles his name with Roman numerals was supposed to become, I suppose, German Emperor after a planned seizure of power, known as Day X, conducted, in part, by a recently-disbanded special-forces unit of the German military that was infested with Nazi sympathizers. German police instead conducted countrywide arrests last week.

Philip Oltermann in The Guardian:

Even though none of the coup plotters were well-known public figures, their social background raised eyebrows: they included family doctors, judges, gourmet chefs and opera singers, and several of the ragtag bunch of wannabe revolutionaries seemed to have been radicalised in the comfortably well-off, respectable centre of society.

"Prince Heinrich XIII, 71, a well-off descendant of a 700-year-old noble family, may seem an unlikely ringleader of such a terrorist plot," wrote the Times. I would say he was a pretty likely ringleader!

Heinrich XIII, per the reporting, was part of a revanchist movement holding that the German state—either post-Versailles or post-Nazi, reports and surely versions of the theory vary—is illegitimate and cleared for putsching. It wasn’t just Heinrich's Reichsburger ideology that animated the conspirators, but an American import, according to prosecutor Peter Frank: "Those who have been arrested are supporters of conspiracy myths, from a conglomerate of narratives relating to the ideologies of the Reichsbürger and QAnon ideologies.” Day X, intended to be a storming of the Reichstag, has been described as inspired by January 6, which strikes me as confusing the remix for the original version. We're talking about fascist seizures of power, after all, in Germany, no less. At the same time, the scenes intermingle. Hitler took inspiration from Jim Crow America.

I'll let Jeff Stein of SpyTalk bring the Heinrich XIII Plot full circle with the Department of Oathkeeper Security stuff at the top of this newsletter:

The willingness of too many police and military leaders and supervisors to ignore, or even embrace, extremists in the ranks raises uncomfortable questions about whether the U.S. might well be facing an elaborate coup plot in 2024 like the one German authorities disrupted last week, despite the Biden Justice Department’s successful prosecution of hundreds of Jan. 6 rioters and conspirators, including Oath Keepers leaders Stewart Rhodes and Kelly Meggs, convicted on sedition and other charges.

I think of this more as persistent, accelerating structural rot than a specific threat for a particular year/election, but the point otherwise holds.

Tal Lavin brings it to a place of Elon but not specifically in this paragraph:

It remains the temptation of those who have known wealth, comfort and power for their entire lives to feel nonetheless that their fondest ambitions have been subject to external spoliation. So they seek to violently conquer the errant world, which has failed to offer them due adulation. Even the petulance of princes is grand; it seeks out victims.