Conservatives outraged at DHS assessment warning of violent 'rightwing extremism'
An April 7 report by the Department of Homeland Security is causing waves of indignation among conservatives for labeling "rightwing extremism" the "most dangerous domestic terrorism threat in the United States."
In its key findings, the 10 page document (PDF link) put forward by the Office of Intelligence and Analysis states that there is "no specific information that domestic rightwing terrorists are currently planning acts of violence," but warns law enforcement agencies that the economic recession, coupled with the recent election of the first African-American President of the United States, is driving radical groups' recruitment.
"The DHS under President Bush was apparently more reluctant to make such assessments about the right. According to CQ, a 2005 report outlining terrorist threats 'does not mention anti-government groups, white supremacists and other radical right-wing movements,'" noted Think Progress. "Bush's report did, however, list the threat of left-wing groups such as the Animal Liberation Front and the Earth Liberation Front. And a 2001 report from the Energy Department examined "Left-Wing Extremism: The Current Threat."
Rightwing blogger and occasional Fox News editorialist Michelle Malkin referred to the analysis as "a sweeping indictment of conservatives."
Her blog on the topic came on the same day as a Washington Times report on the analysis and a high-profile link from rightwing news blogger Matt Drudge.
Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich said in a 'tweet' late Tuesday afternoon, "The person who drafted the outrageous homeland security memo smearing veterans and conservatives should be fired."
The first outlet to carry details of the DHS paper was Alex Jones' InfoWars.
"A recent example of the potential violence associated with a rise in rightwing extremism may be found in the shooting deaths of three police officers in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on 4 April 2009," the report states. "The alleged gunman’s reaction reportedly was influenced by his racist ideology and belief in antigovernment conspiracy theories related to gun confiscations, citizen detention camps, and a Jewish-controlled 'one world government.'"
Richard Poplawski, the Pittsburgh shooter, was linked to the white supremacist group Stormfront by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette following discovery of posts he made to the group's Web site. The paper, along with a broad range of media sources, also fallaciously linked Poplawski to Jones, a self-described paleoconservative and supporter of Republican Congressman Ron Paul.
"[It] should be noted that on numerous occasions Alex Jones has advocated non-violence and advised listeners to avoid confrontation with the police and authorities," noted InfoWars writer Kurt Nimmo. "None of the critics [...] have bothered to note this fact as they attempt to make a connection between the deranged Poplawski and Jones."
The DHS report also states: "Rightwing extremism in the United States can be broadly divided into those groups, movements, and adherents that are primarily hate-oriented (based on hatred of particular religious, racial or ethnic groups), and those that are mainly antigovernment, rejecting federal authority in favor of state or local authority, or ejecting government authority entirely. It may include groups and individuals that are dedicated to a single issue, such as opposition to abortion or immigration."
The reference to "rejecting federal authority in favor of state or local authority" appears to be aimed at supporters of the State Soverignty movement, which seeks to assert states rights over the federal government as outlined in the 10th Amendment to the Constitution. On Tuesday, Texas Governor Rick Perry affirmed his support for the cause, which has spread across numerous states.
"I believe that our federal government has become oppressive in its size, its intrusion inton the lives of our citizens, and its interference with the affairs of our state," said Perry. "That is why I am here today to express my unwavering support for efforts all across our country to reaffirm states' rights affirmed by the Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
"I believe that returning to the letter and spirit of the U.S. Constitution and its essential 10th Amendment will free our state from undue regulations, and ultimately strengthen our Union."
Furthermore, the report points toward ammunition stockpiling and opposition to gun control as hallmarks of rightwing extremism.
"Many rightwing extremist groups perceive recent gun control legislation as a threat to their right to bear arms and in response have increased weapons and ammunition stockpiling, as well as renewed participation in paramilitary training exercises. Such activity, combined with a heightened level of extremist paranoia, has the potential to facilitate criminal activity and violence."
Two recent reports have fingered the Obama Administration and the assault weapons ban's most ardent supporter in Congress -- Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) -- as putting off any effort to regulate high-powered weapons. Congressional officials told a reporter in comments published Saturday that Obama and top White House aides have all but abandoned a push for tighter gun control, indicating they can't stomach a fight with the National Rifle Association when they're focused on other issues.
Seven million people have applied for criminal background checks since November in an effort to buy guns, according to the FBI. That figure doesn't include Virginia, whose gun shows don't require any background checks.
The buying bonanza has stripped some stores almost bare of assault weapons and yielded a national ammunition shortage.
Feinstein said there isn't support for the assault weapons ban in Congress. Pro-gun Democrats picked up seats in the last election.
The report also cites concern that "rightwing extremists will attempt to recruit and radicalize returning veterans in order to boost their violent capabilities."
Finally, in an ominous-sounding passage on page eight, the report outlines plans to continue gathering information on groups which fall under its strikingly broad definition of rightwing extremism.
"DHS/I&A will be working with its state and local partners over the next several months to ascertain with greater regional specificity the rise in rightwing extremist activity in the United States, with a particular emphasis on the political, economic, and social factors that drive rightwing extremist radicalization."
A Homeland Security-funded law enforcement fusion center in Virginia included groups some may categorize as "leftwing" among those it considers to be terrorism threats. In a lengthy assessment, reported on by RAW STORY April 6, groups such as the anti-Scientology movement "Anonymous," the "New Black Panthers" and even environmental group "Earth First!" are said to be domestic terrorism risks. The Virginia assessment even alleged that the nation's oldest colleges are "radicalization nodes" for terrorist recruitment.
"This is the job of DHS, to assess what is happening in this country, with regard to homegrown terrorism, and determine whether it's an actual threat or not, and that's what these assessments do," a Homeland Security official told Fox on Monday. "This is nothing unusual. These assessments are done all the time. This is about awareness."
With reporting by John Byrne.
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