Intelligence must be shared
Tuesday, March 26, 2019
Star Tribune of Minneapolis
As the world mourns the loss of 50 lives in the New Zealand mosque shooting, leaders across the globe need to stop and ask a vital question:
What is being done to prevent the next hate-filled extremist from getting swept up in a toxic mix of white supremacy and nationalism then acting upon it to take innocent lives?
Brenton Harrison Tarrant, 28, is stands accused of the slaughter that took place in two houses of worship. Before he acted, Tarrant chillingly outlined in a 74-page manifesto the abhorrent ideology he embraced. It’s likely that the same technology that enabled publication of his sick screed is one of the main culprits in his radicalization. The digital age has made it easier for propaganda from hate groups to metastasize.
Sadly, Minnesotans have had a front-row seat when it comes to witnessing the rise of online terror recruiting and its impact on the state’s Somali-American community. In 2016, nine men from Minnesota were sentenced by a federal judge for their efforts to aid the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
While Western nations have understandably focused on Islamic extremism, similar international cooperation is needed to thwart individuals who subscribe to Tarrant’s stated beliefs. The U.S. and its closest allies have built up impressive infrastructure to monitor and share intelligence about international terror, but there’s no comparable approach for domestic terror.
Homegrown terrorists who espouse extreme nationalism are generally seen as a problem for domestic law enforcement and security agencies to confront. The reality is that this malignant ideology transcends national borders. Online groups have followers from around the world. They venerate killers from a wide number of nations.
The antiquated parameters that hinder intelligence sharing about this threat must end. Stronger recognition of the threat posed by extreme nationalists, neo-Nazis and others of a similar ilk is also needed from political leaders. In 2017, 20 of the 34 extremist-related murders in the United States, or 59 percent, were related to right-wing extremism, according to the Anti-Defamation League.
The Trump administration has lent far too little support to efforts like this and, at one point, specifically pulled funding to one of the organizations working to combat right-wing terrorism.
Another critical issue that needs airing: What are social media companies’ responsibilities when it comes to harboring users spreading radical, dangerous ideology? And what about their obligation to quickly shut down violent video of crimes perpetrated in real-time?
Violent right-wing extremism has thrived in part because it has fallen between the cracks of international intelligence sharing.