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.”
If Malkin, Gingrich, Drudge and the usual chorus of rightwing echoes are the serious responsible adults they claim to be, we can all assume they read the DHS reports on the rightwing extremists and the left.
(U//LES) Threats from white supremacist and violent antigovernment groups during 2009 have been largely rhetorical and have not indicated plans to carry out violent acts. Nevertheless, the consequences of a prolonged economic downturn—including real estate foreclosures, unemployment, and an inability to obtain credit—could create a fertile recruiting environment for rightwing extremists and even result in confrontations between such groups and government authorities similar to those in the past.
So conservatives, who have claimed for years their movement does not have a large faction of racists is offended over the government sounding the alarm over white supremacists and violent anti government groups. The conservative movement’s propensity toward knee jerk reactionaryism has once again betrayed them.
(U//FOUO) The current economic and political climate has some similarities to the 1990s when rightwing extremism experienced a resurgence fueled largely by an economic recession, criticism about the outsourcing of jobs, and the perceived threat to U.S. power and sovereignty by other foreign powers.
An obvious reference to the Oklahoma City bombings and its ties to the ideology espoused by the militia movement and Christian Identity movement. The only way that the National Review and Malkin could take offense at that and similar passages is if they feel some political kinship with those movements.
(U//FOUO) Historically, domestic rightwing extremists have feared, predicted, and anticipated a cataclysmic economic collapse in the United States. Prominent antigovernment conspiracy theorists have incorporated aspects of an impending economic collapse to intensify fear and paranoia among like-minded individuals and to attract recruits during times of economic uncertainty. Conspiracy theories involving declarations of martial law, impending civil strife or racial conflict, suspension of the
U.S. Constitution, and the creation of citizen detention camps often incorporate aspects of a failed economy. Antigovernment conspiracy theories and “end times” prophecies could motivate extremist individuals and groups to stockpile food, ammunition, and weapons. (emphasis mine)
Recent talk and actions by what the right considers its most popular pundits only lends credence to the above excerpt. Perrspectives recently cataloged some of the violence and inflammatory rhetoric by the right. In that post was this remarkable bit of deflection by Alaska Governor Sarah Palin,
WILLIAMS: Is an abortion clinic bomber a terrorist, under this definition, governor?
PALIN: (Sigh). There’s no question that Bill Ayers via his own admittance was one who sought to destroy our U.S. Capitol and our Pentagon. That is a domestic terrorist. There’s no question there. Now, others who would want to engage in harming innocent Americans or facilities that uh, it would be unacceptable. I don’t know if you’re going to use the word terrorist there.
Maybe it is the case the Right genuinely believes that it’s terrorism is not terrorism. Most terrorists in their own judgment believe their cause is just. Media Matters also documented the often repeated shrill paranoia that seems to have blinded the right and replaced anything resembling rational discourse,
Beck: “I was wrong. Our government is not marching down the road towards communism or socialism… they’re marching us to a brand of non-violent fascism… towards 1984”
FNC’s Napolitano says Wagoner’s resignation is “an absolute power grab and it’s the road to fascism”, “this is Mussolini on the Potomac”
Discussing Obama “power grab,” Gingrich says Goldberg’s “frighteningly prescient” Liberal Fascism describes “how the left is thinking this year”
MacCallum on Rep. Bachmann’s claim that Obama proposals are a “lurch toward socialism”: “I think you’re absolutely right about that”
Rodgers claims Obama “clearly is more sympathetic with the long-term goals of world communism, and let’s be blunt about it, Muslim terrorists, than with any legitimate American goals”
These speakers are all considered mainstream conservatives. The same conservatives that think the DHS rightwing extremism report is about them. None of the major Democratic blogs or Democratic officials thought the leftwing extremists report by the DHS was about them or took personal offense.
Disgruntled Military Veterans
(U//FOUO) DHS/I&A assesses that rightwing extremists will attempt to recruit and radicalize returning 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.
Newt Gingrich and Joe Scarborough think this section of the report is an insult to all veterans – if there is a way to use or hide behind the military to deflect criticism, the right can always be depended upon to do so. Newt and Joe also seem to believe all veterans are allied with the most radical conservatism, in addition to ignoring the fact that some domestic terrorists have had a military background ( Timothy McVeigh and abortion clinic bomber Eric Rudolph were both veterans). Whether we will see violence from a few veterans, whether their motivations are political or otherwise is a legitimate concern, from 2006, U.S. is recruiting misfits for army
In February, the Baltimore Sun wrote that there was “a significant increase in the number of recruits with what the Army terms ‘serious criminal misconduct’ in their background” — a category that included “aggravated assault, robbery, vehicular manslaughter, receiving stolen property and making terrorist threats.” From 2004 to 2005, the number of those recruits rose by more than 54 percent, while alcohol and illegal drug waivers, reversing a four-year decline, increased by more than 13 percent.
One wonders if the tea smokers will be protesting their tax money used to train felons to use assault weapons and explosives. From a 2008 report, still on Bush’s watch, Military Waivers for Ex-Convicts Increase
Pentagon officials acknowledged that the requirement to recruit more troops — part of an effort to expand the Army and Marine Corps by tens of thousands by 2011 — coupled with declining interest in military service in part caused by the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, has led to accepting more recruits with criminal backgrounds. By contrast, felony waivers in the Navy fell from 48 in 2006 to 42 last year and the Air Force had none in either year.
“We’re digging deeper into the barrel than we were before” as a result of the difficult recruiting environment, said a Defense Department official, who requested anonymity because he had not been authorized to speak publicly. “Would I like to see the waivers lower? Yes.”
Domestic terrorism is not a new issue and reports on the right and left have been coming from the FBI for some time now, New trouble at home
Shank, who is based in the Chicago area, says the concerns about domestic terrorism range from anti-abortion extremists who threaten to attack clinics and doctors to some violent biker gangs that may be involved in organized crime. And the FBI said in June that eco-terrorism — acts of violence, sabotage or property damage motivated by concern for animals or the environment — was the nation’s top domestic terrorism threat. The bureau said then that eco-terrorists had committed more than 1,100 criminal acts and caused property damage estimated at least $110 million since 1976.
Alleged terrorist plots by U.S. citizens are not new, but many of the recent conspiracies were overshadowed by 9/11 and the hunt for terrorists abroad. Most of the foiled plots didn’t get very far. And few got much publicity. But there were some potentially close calls, such as the scheme by William Krar, an east Texas man who stockpiled enough sodium cyanide to gas everyone in a building the size of a high school basketball gymnasium before he was arrested in 2002.
Shank, whose unit mainly searches for fugitives, including some wanted on domestic terror-related charges, led the manhunt for Clayton Lee Waagner, 48, of Kennerdell, Pa. Waagner was convicted in December of mailing hundreds of threat letters containing bogus anthrax to abortion clinics in 24 states.
Lots of Democrats and a few Republicans care about the environment, but most of us are hardly offended that the FBI is keeping an eye on organizations like the Animal Liberation Front. My take is that we’re partly a paranoid nation and partly a nation in which elected officials live in abject fear that they will be blamed should something go wrong. While Republicans tend to be the worse offenders, Democrats have a streak of paranoia themselves. Except for his condemnation of torture, Obama seems to be keeping all of Bush’s excessive claims of executive power when it comes to domestic surveillance, state secrets and national security in general. A 2006 report from The Center for Law and Security certainly put a damper on the rightwing silliness post 9-11 that the country was saturated with al-Qaeda sleeper cells,
Only four individuals have been convicted of federal crimes of terrorism per se. They are Zacarias Moussaoui, Richard Reid, Chao Tung Wu and Shahawar Matin Siraj. These individuals were convicted of attempting to commit terrorism. Three of the four had ties to militant Islamic fundamentalism. Moussaoui, once thought to be the 20th 9/11 hijacker, turned out not to be. Reid, the “shoe-bomber,” was apprehended by other passengers on a transatlantic flight. Wu tried to import Chinese surface-to-air missiles into the United States. Siraj was convicted for planning to bomb a New York City subway.