Throughout the presidential campaign, the public saw extreme right-wing rhetoric on display at several McCain rallies, with some yelling “kill him” about President Obama — and others even calling him a “terrorist.”
The extreme right — those who are “hate-oriented,” “mainly antigovernment,” or those dedicated to a “single issue” — is a legitimate threat that law enforcement must deal with, according to a new assessment from the Office of Intelligence and Analysis at the Department of Homeland Security. The report, which was coordinated with the FBI and is being given to federal, state, and local law enforcement, warns:
[R]ightwing extremists may be gaining new recruits by playing on their fears about several emergent issues. The economic downturn and the election of the first African American president present unique drivers for rightwing radicalization and recruitment.
Most extremists have made “rhetorical” statements and have “stopp[ed] short of calls for violent action,” but since the 2008 election, right-wing extremists are “reaching out to a wider audience of potential sympathizers.” Some highlights from the report:
Anti-immgration: “Rightwing extremist groups’ frustration over a perceived lack of government action on illegal immigration has the potential to incite individuals or small groups toward violence. If such violence were to occur, it likely would be isolated, small-scale, and directed at specific immigration-related targets.”
Recruiting returning vets: “Rightwing extremists will attempt to recruit and radicalize returning veterans in order to exploit their skills and knowledge derived from military training and combat.”
Gun-related violence: “Heightened interest in legislation for tighter firearms … may be invigorating rightwing extremist activity, specifically the white supremacist and militia movements.”
If the “uncertain economy” and a “perceived rising influence of other countries” continues, “rightwing extremism is likely to grow in strength,” the report adds. “[L]one wolves and small terrorist cells embracing violent rightwing extremist ideology are the most dangerous domestic terrorism threat in the United States.”
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.” 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.”
Conservative bloggers — such Michelle Malkin and Newsbusters — are up in arms over the report. A DHS official responded to the right’s criticism, noting that DHS did an assessment of left-wing extremism in January. “This is nothing unusual. … This is about awareness,” the official said.
The Southern Poverty Law Center also reports that the “number of hate groups operating in the United States continued to rise in 2008 and has grown by 54 percent since 2000 – an increase fueled last year by immigration fears, a failing economy and the successful campaign of Barack Obama.”
,Newt Gingrich tweets: “The person who drafted the outrageous homeland security memo smearing veterans and conservatives should be fired”
,Jonathan Chait writes: “The report is about murderous lunatics. I kind of figured conservatives would try to define potential domestic terrorists as the fringe right. And, indeed, I’d agree that, for all its rhetorical and ideological excesses, conservatism is an ideology that usually stops short of fomenting violence against lawful authorities. But there’s Michelle Malkin calling potential terrorists ‘conservatives.'”