Conservatives Decry Homeland Security Report on "Rightwing" Extremism

Yesterday, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich tweeted that "The person who drafted the outrageous homeland security memo smearing veterans and conservatives should be fired."

Gingrich was referring to this report prepared by the Department of Homeland Security's Extremism and Radicalization Branch, Homeland Environment Threat Analysis Division, and coordinated with the FBI.

As Fox News has reported, DHS also issued a study of the threat of leftwing extremists (read it HERE .) But the report on the rightwing extremists is the one attracting heat in the conservative bloggosphere, from Gingrich, Michelle Malkin , Powerline , and elsewhere.

The report states that while DHS "has no specific information that domestic rightwing terrorists are currently planning acts of violence...rightwing extremists may be gaining new recruits by playing on their fears about several emergent issues."

DHS defines "rightwing" as "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 rejecting government authority entirely. It may include groups and individuals that are dedicated to a single issue, such as opposition to abortion or immigration."

The "emergent issues," the DHS report states, include both "the election of the first African American president" and "a prolonged economic downturn—including real estate foreclosures, unemployment, and an inability to obtain credit," which DHS says "present unique drivers for rightwing radicalization and recruitment."

"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.'"

Other potential dynamics that could help these groups' recruitment, the report states, included proposed "imposition of firearms restrictions and weapons bans" and the debate over illegal immigration.

"Over the past five years, various rightwing extremists, including militias and white supremacists, have adopted the immigration issue as a call to action, rallying point, and recruiting tool," the report states. "Debates over appropriate immigration levels and enforcement policy generally fall within the realm of protected political speech under the First Amendment, but in some cases, anti-immigration or strident pro-enforcement fervor has been directed against specific groups and has the potential to turn violent."

The report states concern that returning "veterans possess combat skills and experience that are attractive to rightwing extremists," who may attempt to recruit and radicalize the veterans "in order to exploit their skills and knowledge derived from military training and combat. These skills and knowledge have the potential to boost the capabilities of extremists—including lone wolves or small terrorist cells—to carry out violence. The willingness of a small percentage of military personnel to join extremist groups during the 1990s because they were disgruntled, disillusioned, or suffering from the psychological effects of war is being replicated today."

"After Operation Desert Shield/Storm in 1990-1991, some returning military veterans—including Timothy McVeigh—joined or associated with rightwing extremist groups," the report states. "A prominent civil rights organization reported in 2006 that 'large numbers of potentially violent neo-Nazis, skinheads, and other white supremacists are now learning the art of warfare in the [U.S.] armed forces. The FBI noted in a 2008 report on the white supremacist movement that some returning military veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have joined extremist groups."

Sean Hannity and Dr. James Dobson chatted about this report on Fox News last night, which Hannity interpreted as targeting "people who think maybe we're not controlling our borders" and "people who have pro-life bumper stickers."

“What do you think of that interpretation, especially coming from a guy that started his political career in the home of an unrepentant terrorist who bombed our Pentagon and Capitol and sat in Reverend Wright's church for 20 years?” Hannity asked.

Dobson said "there are no Timothy McVeighs out there right now. They're making a big deal out of something that hasn't happened and may not happen."

- jpt

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