A Critical Look at the DHS Report on Rightwing Extremism

Filed in Politics, Social IssuesTags: Constitutional Rights, Democrats, Military, Republicans, War on Terror

I know I'm a few days late in responding to this story, but it has taken me a while to put my response together.

Mere weeks after the MIAC terrorism report came to light (and was subsequently rescinded due to public outrage), The Liberty Papers and Roger Hedgecock broke the story about an eerily similar report out of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, titled Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment (PDF report from Michelle Malkin).

Generally speaking, the issues with the Rightwing Report, which the DHS has confirmed and stands behind, can be grouped as follows:

  1. Overly broad definition of "rightwing extremism" (RWE) that conflates right-wing ideology/socio-political views with extremism/violence (i.e. MIAC II)
  2. Failure to identify RWE groups or individuals, identify any evidence of risk of impending rightwing extremist violence, or specify/quantify assessments
  3. Downplaying the differentiation between mainstream rightwing groups and lone wolf fringe extremists, and the relative risk of each
  4. Conflation of militia movement with extremism/voilence (i.e. MIAC II)
  5. Conflation of disagreement with liberal policy changes with racism
  6. Conflation of racism (and anti-semitism) and "rightwing extremism"
  7. Conflation of racist beliefs with anti-government beliefs
  8. Conflation of economic downturn/poverty with rightwing radicalization
  9. Failure to cite sources for assessments/assertions

Each of these points will be addressed at length, below.

Very quickly, the story exploded on the right, including Michelle Malkin, Red State (including Moe Lane, Warner Todd Huston, and Hogan), WorldNetDaily, The Anchoress, Legal Insurrection, HotAir, and PowerLine (to whose post I will return shortly).

The outrage hasn't been limited to the blogosphere. This Ain't Hell, Michelle Malkin, and Gateway Pundit reported on the American Legion's response to the report's implications toward returning military veterans. Likewise, Michelle Malkin and RedState (including Warner Todd Huston and E Pluribus Unum) report that seven U.S. Senators have sent a letter to Janet Napolitano demanding that she produce the evidence used as the basis for the report. Also, Designated Conservative reports that the Thomas More Law Center has filed a request with the DHS challenging the report.

Apparently, though, some don't seem to understand the problem. Charles Johnson of LGF has deemed outrage at the report to be the stuff of the "black helicopter" crowd. Informed Speculation (the erstwhile Decision '08) fails to understand the indignation. Strata-sphere calls the response "hemming and hawing", and "shrillness." Likewise, "moderates" are dismissing the outrage.

The primary argument of those who dismiss this outrage is that DHS has issued similar reports regarding leftwing extremism. The secondary argument appears to be that DHS should be concerned with potential acts of violence, whether they originate from the left or from the right. The final - and most particularly asinine - argument is that the report originated with the Bush Administration.

(Ed Morrissey and Michelle Malkin smack down the latter argument. Napolitano was in such a hurry to get the report out that she failed to address internal civil liberties concerns regarding wording of the report's definition of "rightwing extremism.")

Since the story first broke, the Leftwing Extremism report has surfaced: Leftwing Extremists Likely to Increase Use of Cyber Attacks over the Coming Decade (PDF report from FOX News). Unfortunately, the Leftwing Extremism report in no way resembles the Rightwing Extremism report, as I will address shortly. Also, a reading of the two reports provides the response to the latter argument. Real, hard evidence of past and continued leftwing extremist violence exists and provides the basis and support for the Leftwing Extremism report; however, baseless conjecture provides the basis and support for the Rightwing Extremism report, which even states that no evidence whatsoever exists that rightwing extremist violence represents a current threat.

(Note: The Rightwing Extremism report was prepared by the Extremism and Radicalization Branch, Homeland Environment Threat Analysis Division and coordinated with the FBI. The Leftwing Extremism report was prepared by the Strategic Analysis Group, Homeland Environment and Threat Analysis Division.)

Rather than the mere existence of a Leftwing Extremism report quelling the expressed concern regarding the Rightwing Extremism report, a reading of the Leftwing Extremism report actually confirms much of that concern:

First, the Leftwing Extremism report provides a very narrowly focused definition of leftwing extremism, including in the definition not just ideology but also that such extremists display a willingness to violate the law to acheive their objectives.

Second, the Leftwing Extremism report specifically names the extremist groups to which the report applies. The report differentiates between animal/environmental rights extremists and anarchist extremists. The report lists by name such animal/environmental groups as Animal Liberation Front, Earth Liberation Front, Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty, elements of Animal Defense League, and Earth First; and such anarchist groups as Crimethinc, the Ruckus Society, and Recreate 68.

Note: oddly, the report includes not merely "anti-government" but also the following ideologies under "anarchist": anticapitalist, antiglobalization, communist, and socialist, anti-Western-government, and anti-large-business. Regardless of the "anarchist" designation for these ideologies, the report - rightly so - includes them as leftwing (further putting the lie to the Rightwing Extremism report that attempts to lump some of these ideologies under rightwing extremism).

Rather than imagining some perceived risk or threat of violence where no supporting evidence exists, the report identifies concrete examples of recent leftwing extremist violence, and bases its assessments on those examples.

Third, rather than implying that all ideologically similar groups fall under the extremist definition, the report clearly states in its definition of Leftwing Extremists that these such groups tend to be composed of lone wolves, small cells, and splinter groups, rather than being hierarchally organized.

Fourth, the Leftwing Extremism report provides a source summary statement, explaining its methodology and sourcing of information from which the report's assessments are derived.

Each of these points is in direct, stark contrast with the Rightwing Extremism report, as I will explain. (Related: Jonah Goldberg posts quite a few reader comments making similar points comparing and contrasting the two reports.

The critical point that the nay-sayers appear to be missing is that such a report has consequences. Already, (via Liberty Papers) the report has led to tea party protesters in southern Maryland being labeled as a potential concern. And as the NRO Corner points out, the report is part of a pattern for Obama.

Now, on to the report itself. Here are my issues with the report, point by point.

#1 Overly broad definition of "rightwing extremism" (RWE) that conflates right-wing ideology/socio-political views with extremism/violence (i.e. MIAC II)

Unlike the Leftwing Extremism report, which differentiated between ideology and proclivity toward acts of violence, the Rightwing Extremism report makes no such differentiation.

A footnote on page 2 of 9 of the report provides the report's definition of "rightwing extremism":

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

This definition of "rightwing extremism" is the foundation for the report, and the assessments made thereafter reflect this foundation - including its inherent problems and incorrect conflations. Both this definition and the report itself incorrectly conflate racism (including anti-semitism) with rightwing extremism, racist beliefs with anti-government beliefs, the militia movement with extremism/violence, right-wing ideology/socio-political views with extremism/violence, and disagreement with liberal policy changes with racism. In so doing, both this definition and the report itself fail to identify RWE groups or individuals and fail to offer any specification or quantification of the assessments made.

Later, having implicated the "militia movement" and white supremacists as falling within its definition of "rightwing extremists", the report identifies the ideological issues of these entities. Under Revisiting the 1990s on page 4 of 9 of the report:

Paralleling the current national climate, rightwing extremists during the 1990s exploited a variety of social issues and political themes to increase group visibility and recruit new members. Prominent among these themes were the militia movement's opposition to gun control efforts, criticism of free trade agreements (particularly those with Mexico), and highlighting perceived government infringement on civil liberties as well as white supremacists' longstanding exploitation of social issues such as abortion, inter-racial crimes, and same-sex marriage.

The report's definition of RWE also includes the following:

Rightwing extremism in the United States ...may include groups and individuals that are dedicated to a single issue, such as opposition to abortion or immigration.

Of course, the report takes a page from the MIAC report - and typical liberal obfuscation - by claiming rightwing opposition to "immigration", when in fact rightwing ideology is opposed not to immigration but rather to illegal immigration. Opposition to illegal immigration is generally a rightwing issue; however, xenophobia - which is far more likely to lead to anti-immigrant (illegal or otherwise) violence - is by no means a rightwing ideology.

Anti-abortionism is clearly a rightwing ideology, and abortion clinic bombing and other similar acts of violence are rightly considered to be rightwing extremism. Oddly, the report neither discusses the past trends in, nor assesses the future risk of, such anti-abortion extremism.

Thus, putting together all of the above, all of the following ideologies are included as potentially related to "rightwing extremism":

  • hatred of particular religious, racial or ethnic groups
  • antigovernment
    • rejecting federal authority in favor of state or local authority
    • rejecting government authority entirely
  • abortion
  • (illegal) immigration
  • opposition to gun control efforts
  • criticism of free trade agreements (particularly those with Mexico)
  • "perceived" government infringement on civil liberties
  • inter-racial crimes
  • and same-sex marriage.

This definition of "rightwing extremism" is so overly broad that it actually includes leftwing ideology. The report frequently references and discusses racism and white supremacists; however, white supremacists (National Socialists, Aryan Nation, etc.) generally adhere to socialist - i.e. leftwing - ideology. Likewise, most criticism of free trade agreements has come from not from the right but rather from the left.

Worse, having made an overly broad definition of "rightwing extremism", the report later asserts that "rightwing extremists" are, as a group, mutually exclusive from "law-abiding Americans". On page 6 of 9, under Judicial Drivers, the report states:

Open source reporting of wartime ammunition shortages has likely spurred rightwing extremists - as well as law-abiding Americans - to make bulk purchases of ammunition. These shortages have increased the cost of ammunition, further exacerbating rightwing extremist paranoia and leading to further stockpiling activity. Both rightwing extremists and law-abiding citizens share a belief that rising crime rates attributed to a slumping economy make the purchase of legitimate firearms a wise move at this time.

Not once, but twice in the same paragraph, the report indicates that "rightwing extremists" are not law-abiding Americans.

Whether intentional or unintentional, the implication being made by the report is unmistakable: rightwing extremism is defined by ideology devoid of proclivity toward violence, and rightwing extremists are by definition not law-abiding citizens.

#2 Failure to identify RWE groups or individuals, identify evidence of risk of impending rightwing extremism violence, or specify/quantify assessments

Unlike the Leftwing Extremism report, which explicitly names the leftwing groups to which the report applies, the Rightwing Extremism report fails to identify any rightwing groups explicitly. Further, unlike the Leftwing Extremism report, which identifies explicit acts of violence committed by leftwing extremists (as well as communications indicating intent to continue such acts) and bases its assessments on those acts, the Rightwing Extremism report indicates that no evidence exists that rightwing extremists are intending to commit any acts of violence - and then proceeds to assert baseless speculation of an increased risk of rightwing extremists committing acts of violence. The Rightwing Extremism report consistently references "extremist groups" and "militia members", but likewise consistently fails to identify any such groups or militias by name. The report identifies only two entities by name: Timothy McVeigh, and Christian Identity.

On page 2 of 9, under Key Findings, the report states:

The DHS/Office of Intelligence and Analysis (I&A) has no specific information that domestic rightwing terrorists are currently planning acts of violence, but rightwing extremists may be gaining new recruits by playing on their fears about several emergent issues.

The report asserts that "rightwing extremists" may be gaining new recruits, but fails to identify any such groups. Nor does the report offer any statistics on increase in numbers of recruits.

The first bullet point under this paragraph indicates:

Threats from white supremacist and violent antigovernment groups during 2009 have been largely rhetorical and have not indicated plans to carry out violent acts.

Again, the report apparently has some specific knowledge of some sort of rhetoric, yet fails to identify the groups for which this rhetoric is known.

The second bullet point makes a similar assertion:

Rightwing extremists have capitalized on the election of the first African American president, and are focusing their efforts to recruit new members, mobilize existing supporters, and broaden their scope and appeal through propaganda, but they have not yet turned to attack planning.

Once again, the report apparently has some specific knowledge of some groups capitalizing on the election of the first African American president, yet fails to identify any such groups.

On page 3 of 9, under Exploiting Economic Downturn, the report states:

Rightwing extremist chatter on the Internet continues to focus on the economy, the perceived loss of U.S. jobs in the manufacturing and construction sectors, and home foreclosures.

Again, the report apparently has some specific knowledge of extremist Internet "chatter", yet fails to identify the source of or the groups participating in such chatter.

On the same page, under Historic Presidential Election, the report states:

Rightwing extremists are harnessing this historical election as a recruitment tool. Many rightwing extremists are antagonistic toward the new presidential administration and its perceived stance on a range of issues, including immigration and citizenship, the expansion of social programs to minorities, and restrictions on firearms ownership and use. Rightwing extremists are increasingly galvanized by these concerns and leverage them as drivers for recruitment. From the 2008 election timeframe to the present, rightwing extremists have capitalized on related racial and political prejudices in expanded propaganda campaigns, thereby reaching out to a wider audience of potential sympathizers.

Again, the report apparently has some specific knowledge of RWEs harnessing the election as a recruitment tool, yet fails to identify any such groups. Nor does the report offer any statistics on increase in numbers of recruits.

The subsequent bullet point states:

Most statements by rightwing extremists have been rhetorical, expressing concerns about the election of the first African American president, but stopping short of calls for violent action.

Again, the report apparently has some specific knowledge of some sort of rhetoric, yet fails to identify the groups for which this rhetoric is known.

The bullet point continues:

In two instances in the run-up to the election, extremists appeared to be in the early planning stages of some threatening activity targeting the Democratic nominee, but law enforcement interceded.

And again, the report references specific incidents, yet fails to identify the involved parties (much less, any group to which they may have belonged).

On page 5 of 9, under Illegal Immigration, the report states:

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.

Again, the report apparently has some specific knowledge of militias and white supremacists adopting the illegal immigration issue, yet fails to identify any such groups. Nor does the report offer any statistics on increase in numbers of recruits.

On page 5 of 9, under Legislation and Judicial Drivers, the report states:

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.

Once again, the report apparently has some specific knowledge of groups increasing weapons and ammunition stockpiling and renewing participation in paramilitary training exercises, yet fails to identify any such groups. Nor does the report offer any statistics on increase weapons/ammunition stockpiling.

The report offers the same treatment of so-called disgruntled military veterans; however, this discussion is addressed previously and not repeated here.

On page 8 of 9, under Outlook, the report states:

  • Following the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah federal building in Oklahoma City, the militia movement declined in total membership and in the number of organized groups because many members distanced themselves from the movement as a result of the intense scrutiny militias received after the bombing.
  • Militia membership continued to decline after the turn of the millennium as a result of law enforcement disruptions of multiple terrorist plots linked to violent rightwing extremists, new legislation banning paramilitary training, and militia frustration that the "revolution" never materialized.
  • Although the U.S. economy experienced a significant recovery and many perceived a concomitant rise in U.S. standing in the world, white supremacist groups continued to experience slight growth.

And once again, the report apparently has some specific knowledge of a decline in number of militia groups as well as a decrease in militia group membership rolls, yet fails to identify the groups or offer any statistics on that decline. Likewise, the report offers no statistics on the asserted slight growth in white supremacist groups and fails to identify those groups. Perhaps most interestingly, the report asserts both that militia membership has been in decline for more than a decade, and may now be increasing - yet offers no statistics whatsoever to support either assertion.

#3 Downplaying the differentiation between mainstream rightwing groups and lone wolf fringe extremists, and the relative risk of each

The report consistently references (and maligns) militias as "rightwing extremist" groups, and associates a risk of potential violence with such groups; however, the report downplays its conclusion that the greatest risk comes not from militia groups, but rather from "lone wolves" and "small terrorist cells". Even worse, the report actually concludes that the greatest risk comes not from militia members at all, but rather from white supremacists.

From a sidebar titled Lone Wolves and Small Terrorist Cells on page 7 of 9, the report states:

DHS/I&A assesses that lone wolves and small terrorist cells embracing violent rightwing extremist ideology are the most dangerous domestic terrorism threat in the United States. Information from law enforcement and nongovernmental organizations indicates lone wolves and small terrorist cells have shown intent - and, in some cases, the capability - to commit violent acts.

  • DHS/I&A has concluded that white supremacist lone wolves pose the most significant domestic terrorist threat because of their low profile and autonomy - separate from any formalized group - which hampers warning efforts.
  • Similarly, recent state and municipal law enforcement reporting has warned of the dangers of rightwing extremists embracing the tactics of "leaderless resistance" and of lone wolves carrying out acts of violence.
  • Arrests in the past several years of radical militia members in Alabama, Arkansas, and Pennsylvania on firearms, explosives, and other related violations indicates the emergence of small, well-armed extremist groups in some rural areas.

On the same page, under Disgruntled Military Veterans, the report conflates the risk of lone wolves and small terrorist cells with militias:

[Returning veterans' military training and combat] 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.

If the real threat comes from lone wolves and small terrorist cells, why does so much of the report focus on the militia movement and militia groups - groups that have repeatedly and consistently repudiated the extremist viewpoints and ideologies of those lone wolves and cell groups?

#4 Conflation of militia movement with extremism/voilence (i.e. MIAC II)

In a near carbon-copy of the MIAC report, the DHS report conflates militias and the militia movement with extremism and violence. Going even further, the report implies that militias are part of the "domestic rightwing terrorist and extremist groups" designation. To wit, on page 2 of 9, under Key Findings, the report indicates:

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.

  • During the 1990s, these issues contributed to the growth in the number of domestic rightwing terrorist and extremist groups and an increase in violent acts targeting government facilities, law enforcement officers, banks, and infrastructure sectors.
  • Growth of these groups subsided in reaction to increased government scrutiny as a result of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing and disrupted plots, improvements in the economy, and the continued U.S. standing as the preeminent world power.

This assessment under Key Findings does not specifically address or identify militias; however, the Key Findings section is a summary of findings that are further discussed and elaborated in the rest of the report. Compare that summary statement with the following assessment found on page 8 of 9 of the report, under Outlook:

A number of law enforcement actions and external factors were effective in limiting the militia movement during the 1990s and could be utilized in today's climate.

  • Following the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah federal building in Oklahoma City, the militia movement declined in total membership and in the number of organized groups because many members distanced themselves from the movement as a result of the intense scrutiny militias received after the bombing.
  • Militia membership continued to decline after the turn of the millennium as a result of law enforcement disruptions of multiple terrorist plots linked to violent rightwing extremists, new legislation banning paramilitary training, and militia frustration that the "revolution" never materialized.

Comparing these two assessments clearly indicates that the report is implying that DHS considers the "militia movement" as (at least part of) the "domestic rightwing terroriswt and extremist groups" that saw a decline in membership as a result of increased government scrutiny following the bombing of the Oklahoma City Federal Building bombing.

Having established this implication, the report then uses the possible correlation of issues of concern in order to conflate even further militias and extremism/violence. Under Revisiting the 1990s on page 4 of 9 of the report:

Paralleling the current national climate, rightwing extremists during the 1990s exploited a variety of social issues and political themes to increase group visibility and recruit new members. Prominent among these themes were the militia movement's opposition to gun control efforts, criticism of free trade agreements (particularly those with Mexico), and highlighting perceived government infringement on civil liberties as well as white supremacists' longstanding exploitation of social issues such as abortion, inter-racial crimes, and same-sex marriage. During the 1990s, these issues contributed to the growth in the number of domestic rightwing terrorist and extremist groups and an increase in violent acts targeting government facilities, law enforcement officers, banks,and infrastructure sectors.

The report asserts that, somehow, the militia's issues of concern (gun control, free trade agreements, government infringement of civil liberties) relate to white supremacists' issues (abortion, inter-racial crimes, same-sex marriage - though why abortion and same-sex marriage would be issues for white supremacists I have no idea). Having made this assertion, the report then makes the blanket statement that "these issues contributed to the growth in number of domestic rightwing terrorist and extremist groups and an increase in violent acts targeting government facilities, law enforcement officers, banks, and infrastructure sectors."

Lest any pretense remain, the report then directly calls militias "rightwing extremists." Under Illegal Immigration on page 5 of 9 of the report:

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.

And again, under Outlook on page 8 of 9:

DHS/I&A assesses that the combination of environmental factors that echo the 1990s, ...as well as several new trends, ...may be invigorating rightwing extremist activity, specifically the white supremacist and militia movements.

Having thus grouped militias (as a whole) under the "rightwing extremist" designation, the report then attempts to correlate militia membership with violence/extremism. Under the same Illegal Immigration section, the report lists three examples of violence directed toward illegal immigrants, two of which involve militia members:

  • In April 2007, six militia members were arrested for various weapons and explosives violations. Open source reporting alleged that those arrested had discussed and conducted surveillance for a machinegun attack on Hispanics.
  • A militia member in Wyoming was arrested in February 2007 after communicating his plans to travel to the Mexican border to kill immigrants crossing into the United States.

The problem, of course, is that (once again) the report fails to demonstrate an understanding of the principle that correlation does not prove causation. As with the MIAC report, the DHS report fails to address whether or not the militias of which these criminals were members sponsored or condoned their criminal actions. Further, the report fails to indicate that such occurrences are not the norm, but rather the extreme exception for militias and militia members. Oh, and JustOneMinute (h/t Transterrestrial Musings) uses some "open source reporting" of his own to debunk both points.

The report goes on to conflate further the actions of fringe extremists with militias. On page 6 of 9, under Perceived Threat from Rise of Other Countries, the report indicates:

  • Fear of Communist regimes and related conspiracy theories characterizing the U.S. Government's role as either complicit in a foreign invasion or acquiescing as part of a "One World Government" plan inspired extremist members of the militia movement to target government and military facilities in past years.
  • Law enforcement in 1996 arrested three rightwing militia members in Battle Creek, Michigan with pipe bombs, automatic weapons, and military ordnance that they planned to use in attacks on nearby military and federal facilities and infrastructure targets.

(Note that the first bullet point includes the report's only reference thus far to a potential differentiation between militias and extremists.)

Once more, in a sidebar titled "Lone Wolves and Small Terrorist Cells" on page 7 of 9 of the report:

Arrests in the past several years of radical militia members in Alabama, Arkansas, and Pennsylvania on firearms, explosives, and other related violations indicates the emergence of small, well-armed extremist groups in some rural areas.

Again, in all cases, the report still gives no indication of whether or not any militia sponsored or condoned such extremist activities.

However, perhaps the most insulting assertion in the report's conflation of militias with extremism and violence is the report's association with military veterans with extremism and violence. On page 7 of 9, under Disgruntled Military Veterans, the report states:

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.

  • After Operation Desert Shield/Storm in 1990-1991, some returning military veterans - including Timothy McVeigh - joined or associated with rightwing extremist groups.
  • 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.

Allow me to digress for a moment, on the matter of Timothy McVeigh. McVeigh - rightly so - is the poster child for extremist violence and domestic terrorism. He is not, however, an example of rightwing extremism. Timothy McVeigh associated primarily with neo-Nazis. The book that influenced his bombing, The Turner Diaries, was written by a neo-Nazi. Neo-Nazis - that is, National Socialists - are leftwing, not rightwing. Socialism is a leftwing ideology (an issue that I will address in a later post). McVeigh was not a member of any militia, nor did any militia support, endorse, or condone his actions. Even the ADL - no friend of militias - admits frankly that Timothy McVeigh was not connected to the militia movement:

No, [Timothy McVeigh] was not [connected with the militia movement]. He was not really connected to any particular movement. On the "hate" side, he obviously loved "The Turner Diaries" by William Pierce and read The Spotlight, the publication of the extremist and anti-Semitic Liberty Lobby. On the "anti-government" side, he attended a couple of militia meetings and half-heartedly attempted to start a militia group in Arizona, which came to nothing. He never really joined anything, either as a card-carrying member or even an explicit endorsement. This is also one reason why there was little support for McVeigh, simply because no one viewed him as one of "their own."

Also, as Gateway Pundit points out, McVeigh was military trained not as a bomb-maker, but as a gunner. He did not get his terrorist training in the U.S. military.

It is striking to note that, in a report released in 2009, the only (and, ostensibly, best) example of a military veteran/militia member/terrorist is someone who committed a terrorist attack almost fifteen years ago and one whose alleged militia association has been thoroughly disproven. As the American Legion points out, Timothy McVeigh is one of several million military veterans of contemporary warfare.

I could address these obvious insults to our military veterans, but the American Legion and others did a much better job already.

Also, the good folks at PowerLine (linked above) have already addressed and debunked the source information to which the report alludes, regarding extremists joining the military and returning veterans joining extremist groups.

On the report's assertion 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" [emphasis mine, links in original]:

The "prominent civil rights organization" is the left-wing Southern Poverty Law Center. But what support is there for SPLC's assertion that there are "large numbers" of "white supremacists" serving in the armed forces--as opposed to, say, a "tiny handful"? The SPLC's full report is entirely anecdotal; the closest thing to data is this:

[Scott] Barfield, who is based at Fort Lewis, said he has identified and submitted evidence on 320 extremists there in the past year.

But even this alleged statistic appears to be false. Barfield was a gang investigator, and what he actually said was: "I have identified 320 soldiers as gang members from April 2002 to present." So we now have the Department of Homeland Security defaming our servicemen on the basis of a press release by a left-wing pressure group that misrepresented the principal empirical support for its claim. Nice.

On the report's assertion that "[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" [emphasis mine, link in original]:

So, how many are "some"? You can read the FBI report, titled "White Supremacist Recruitment of Military Personnel since 9/11," here. Notwithstanding the deliberate vagueness of the Homeland Security document, the FBI was actually very specific:

A review of FBI white supremacist extremist cases from October 2001 to May 2008 identified 203 individuals with confirmed or claimed military service active in the extremist movement at some time during the reporting period. This number is minuscule in comparison with the projected US veteran population of 23,816,000 as of 2 May 2008, or the 1,416,037 active duty military personnel as of 30 April 2008. ...

According to FBI information, an estimated 19 veterans (approximately 9 percent of the 203) have verified or unverified service in the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

There you have it: a whopping 19 actual or alleged veterans of Iraq or Afghanistan have joined the "extremist movement." (The FBI notes that some of these "may have inflated their resumes with fictional military experience to impress others within the movement.")

#5 Conflation of disagreement with liberal policy changes with racism

The report's definition of "rightwing extremism" includes "those groups, movements, and adherents that are primarily hate-oriented (based on hatred of particular religious, racial or ethnic groups)". The first paragraph under Key Findings (page 2 of 9) lists "the election of the first African American president" as a "unique [driver] for radicalization and recruitment." The first bullet point under this paragraph references "white supremacists" as one group of such RWE.

On pages 3 and 4 of 9, under Historical Presidential Election, the report states:

Rightwing extremists are harnessing this historical election as a recruitment tool. Many rightwing extremists are antagonistic toward the new presidential administration and its perceived stance on a range of issues, including immigration and citizenship, the expansion of social programs to minorities, and restrictions on firearms ownership and use. Rightwing extremists are increasingly galvanized by these concerns and leverage them a drivers for recruitment. From the 2008 election timeframe to the present, rightwing extremists have capitalized on related racial and political prejudices in expanded propaganda campaigns, thereby reaching out to a wider audience of potential sympathizers.

The bullet point that immediately follows (on page 4 of 9) states:

Most statements by rightwing extremists have been rhetorical, expressing concerns about the election of the first African American president, but stopping short of calls for violent action. In two instances in the run-up to the election, extremists appeard to be in the early planning stages of some threatening activity targeting the Democratic nominee, but law enforcement interceded.

The problem with conflating racism with RWE is that racism, bigotry, and other "hate-oriented" ideologies are not a right-or-left political matter. The right/left political spectrum involves the level of government involvement in and control over the life of the individual. The right favors individualism/federalism and the left favors socialism/statism. One can adhere to an ideology of bigotry while ascribing to a right or left political viewpoint.

Right-wing ideological groups do not inherently support or condone racism. With respect to racism against "African Americans", it was the right that led the abolitionist movement, fought for an end to slavery against the southern Democrats (figuratively in the legislature and literally in the Civil War), issued the Emancipation Proclamation, and introduced the Equal Rights Amendment. With anti-Hispanic racism and violence, the issue is mostly apolitical and manifests in inner-city/gang violence between "African Americans" and Hispanics.

Consider also that the report defines not only racists as "rightwing extremists", but applies the broad "hate-oriented (based on hatred of particular religious, racial, or ethnic groups)" description. Much of this type of bigoted ideology belongs to leftwing extremists.

On page 5 of 9, under Illegal Immigration, the report "notes that prominent civil rights organizations have observed an increase in anti-Hispanic crimes over the past five years."

The problem with this statement is that the "prominent civil rights organization" is (once again) the Southern Poverty Law Center, and the SPLC's "observation" is an intentional misrepresentation of FBI crime statistics. As this press release from FAIR (h/t 24Ahead) explains:

When examined responsibly, the FBI hate crime data show a dramatically different story than the one the SPLC portrays. First, in order to suggest an artificially large increase in the raw number of hate crimes, the SPLC selects 2003 as its base year, one of lowest years on record for hate crimes against Hispanics. If one compares the number of hate crimes between 1995 (the earliest report available on the FBI's website) and 2006 (the most recent statistical year available), one would see that the number of hate crimes has increased only 17 percent.

But even this is not the whole story. The SPLC conveniently forgets to index the raw hate crime data with the population, a step always taken by the FBI to more accurately depict an increase or decrease in crime. Thus, when one indexes a 17 percent increase in hate crimes against Hispanics with a 67 percent increase in the Hispanic population between 1995 and 2006, it becomes clear that the rate of hate crimes against Hispanics has in fact dropped dramatically -- by about 40 percent.

#6 Conflation of racism (and anti-semitism), anti-government beliefs, and "rightwing extremism" (RWE)

On page 3 of 9, under Current Economic and Political Climate, the report indicates that "the historical election of an African American president and the prospect of policy changes are proving to be a driving force for rightwing extremist recriutment and radicalization." As an example of this threat, the report references the recent Pittsburgh police shootings, and stating (among other things) "The alleged gunman's reaction reportedly was influenced by his racist ideology and belief in antigovernment conspiracy theories related to ...a Jewish-controlled 'one world government.'" On the same page, under Exploiting Economic Downturn, the report states, "Anti-Semitic extremists attribute [U.S. job] losses to a deliberate conspiracy conducted by a cabal of Jewish 'financial elites.'"

With respect to anti-semitism, this ideology is found predominantly on the left.

Returning to the report's definition of "rightwing extremism":

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 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 report conflates hate-based groups, movements, and adherents with antigovernment groups, movements, and adherents, without offering any reasoning whatsoever for why these two ideologies should be grouped together. The only example offered of such reasoning is the previously mentioned Philadelphia police shooting incident. According to the report, "[t]he 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." The report conflates the ideologies but fails to observe the fundamental concept that correlation does not prove causation.

In reality, leftwing extremist groups (including white supremacist groups) tend to be racist, anti-Christian, and anti-government, and tend to favor violent opposition to and overthrow of government. The militia movement - from which rightwing extremism ostensibly comes (and with scant evidence to support the assertion, at that) - tends to be race-agnostic, Christian, and vigilant toward government, and tend to favor defensive readiness in case of government oppression.

Note also that for leftwing white supremacist groups extremism is the norm, while for rightwing militia groups extremism is the (incredibly rare) exception.

#7 Conflation of economic downturn/poverty with rightwing radicalization

The report asserts that economic downturn and poverty is a driver for rightwing radicalization. On page 3 of 9, under Current Political and Economic Climate, the report states:

DHS/I&A assesses that a number of economic and political factors are driving a resurgence in rightwing extremist recruitment and radicalization activity.

Further on the same page, under Exploiting Economic Downturn, the report states:

Rightwing extremist chatter on the Internet continues to focus on the economy, the perceived loss of U.S. jobs in the manufacturing and construction sectors, and home foreclosures. Anti-Semitic extremists attribute these losses to a deliberate conspiracy conducted by a cabal of Jewish "financial elites." These "accusatory" tactics are employed to draw new recruits into rightwing extremist groups and further radicalize those already subscribing to extremist beliefs. DHS/I&A assesses this trend is likely to accelerate if the economy is perceived to worsen.

(Strange, but I don't remember the G-20 protesters being particularly rightwing; quite to the contrary, such protesters have been traditionally leftwing.)

On page 4 of 9, under Economic Hardship and Extremism, the report states:

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.

On the same page, in a sidebar titled Perceptions on Poverty and Radicalization, the report states:

Scholars and experts disagree over poverty's role in motivating violent radicalization or terrorist activity. High unemployment, however, has the potential to lead to alienation, thus increasing an individual's susceptibility to extremist ideas. According to a 2007 study from the German Institute for Economic Research, there appears to be a strong association between a parent's unemployment status and the formation of rightwing extremist beliefs in their children - specifically xenophobia and antidemocratic ideals.

Oddly, the unemployment lines and welfare rolls swell with people who generally adhere to leftwing ideologies. Further, 50 years of welfare state have led to a class of citizens who adhere to and who vote for candidates who adhere to leftwing ideologies. If poverty and unemployment were drivers for formation of rightwing extremist beliefs, then our major metropolitan areas and inner cities would not be the liberal bastions that they have become.

On page 5 of 9, under Illegal Immigration, the report states:

Rightwing extremists were concerned during the 1990s with the perception that illegal immigrants were taking away American jobs through their willingness to work at significantly lower wages. They also opposed free trade agreements, arguing that these arrangements resulted in Americans losing jobs to countries such as Mexico.

Later, under Perceived Threat from Rise of Other Countries, on page 6 of 9, the report states:

Rightwing extremist views bemoan the decline of U.S. stature and have recently focused on themes such as the loss of U.S. manufacturing capability to China and India, Russia's control of energy resources and use of these to pressure other countries, and China's investment in U.S. real estate and corporations as a part of subversion strategy.

The report obfuscates the issues of illegal immigration and domestic job losses to illegal immigrants with the issues of free trade agreements and domestic job losses due to outsourcing. The former are indeed rightwing issues, and have led to almost no extremist activity or violence; however, the latter are generally leftwing issues, and have led to several instances of extremist activity and violence. Further, given recent news, it is clearly no longer merely a perception that illegal immigrants are taking jobs away from American citizens.

#8 Failure to cite sources for assessments/assertions

The report repeatedly asserts potential outcomes (things that may happen, or are likely to happen, etc.), and fails to cite even one source.

The most significant of such assertions may be the first sentence of the report (page 2 of 9) [emphasis added]:

The DHS/Office of Intelligence and Analysis (I&A) has no specific information that domestic rightwing terrorists are currently planning acts of violence, but rightwing extremists may be gaining new recruits by playing on their fears about several emergent issues.

Summarizing other such assertions, page by page, starting with page 2 of 9 [emphasis added]:

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.

The possible passage of new restrictions on firearms and the return of military veterans facing significant challenges reintegrating into their communities could lead to the potential emergence of terrorist groups or lone wolf extremists capable of carrying out violent attacks.

Page 3 of 9 [emphasis added]:

Proposed imposition of firearms restrictions and weapons bans likely would attract new members into the ranks of rightwing extremist groups, as well as potentially spur some of them to begin planning and training for violence against the government.

DHS/I&A is concerned that rightwing extremists will attempt to recruit and radicalize returning veterans in order to boost their violent capabilities.

DHS/I&A assesses this trend is likely to accelerate if the economy is perceived to worsen.

Page 5 of 9 [emphasis added]:

DHS/I&A assesses that 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.

Such activity, combined with a heightened level of extremist paranoia, has the potential to facilitate criminal activity and violence.

Page 6 of 9 [emphasis added]:

It is unclear if either bill will be passed into law; nonetheless, a correlation may exist between the potential passage of gun control legislation and increased hoarding of ammunition, weapons stockpiling, and paramilitary training activities among rightwing extremists.

Open source reporting of wartime ammunition shortages has likely spurred rightwing extremists - as well as law-abiding Americans - to make bulk purchases of ammunition.

Weapons rights and gun-control legislation are likely to be hotly contested subjects of political debate in light of the 2008 Supreme Court's decision in District of Columbia v. Heller in which the Court reaffirmed an individual's right to keep and bear arms under the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, but left open to debate the precise contours of that right.

Because debates over constitutional rights are intense, and parties on all sides have deeply held, sincere, but vastly divergent beliefs, violent extremists may attempt to co-opt the debate and use the controversy as a adicalization tool.

Rightwing extremist paranoia of foreign regimes could escalate or be magnified in the event of an economic crisis or military confrontation, harkening back to the "New World Order" conspiracy theories of the 1990s.

Page 7 of 9 [emphasis added]:

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.

Page 8 of 9 [emphasis added]:

DHS/I&A assesses that the combination of environmental factors that echo the 1990s, ...as well as several new trends, ...may be invigorating rightwing extremist activity, specifically the white supremacist and militia movements.

To the extent that these factors persist, rightwing extremism is likely to grow in strength.

Unlike the earlier period, the advent of the Internet and other informationage technologies since the 1990s has given domestic extremists greater access to information related to bomb-making, weapons training, and tactics, as well as targeting of individuals, organizations, and facilities, potentially making extremist individuals and groups more dangerous and the consequences of their violence more severe.

Of the few statistics to which the report alludes, sources are referenced but not cited properly or even named specifically. To wit:

On page 5 of 9, under Illegal Immigration, the report states [emphasis added]:

DHS/I&A notes that prominent civil rights organizations have observed an increase in anti-Hispanic crimes over the past five years.

On page 6 of 9, under Legislative and Judicial Drivers, the report states [emphasis added]:

Open source reporting of wartime ammunition shortages has likely spurred rightwing extremists - as well as law-abiding Americans - to make bulk purchases of ammunition.

On page 7 of 9, under Disgruntled Military Veterans, the report states [emphasis added]:

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.

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.

And as was shown previously, failure to disclose sources for such statistics prevents the reader from discerning any potential bias in the source material. Considering that one of the "prominent civil rights groups" referenced in the report is the Southern Law Poverty Center, a well-known liberal activist group, conclusions drawn from such a source must be buffered against the inherent bias of the source. Likewise, failure to cite the specific FBI report facilitates the report's out-of-context use of the source to mis-construe its results.