The Department of Homeland Security has issued an "intelligence" report dated 07APR09 that discusses their belief that the country faces a heightened threat from "rightwing extremists." I have read the DHS assessment and am simultaneously amused, disgusted and terrified. But the most important take-away from this report, which you can and should read here, is that it contains little to no hard data, merely speculation based upon repeated references to domestic terrorist activity in the 1990s. Indeed, it cops to this fact in the opening line, stating, "The DHS/Office of Intelligence and Analysis (I&A) has no specific information that domestic rightwing terrorists are currently planning acts of violence…" Its definition of "rightwing extremism" is also vaguely articulated 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." You’ll note that nowhere in the DHS definition is the mention of the adherence to violence as a means to achieve political goals. According to the DHS, I am a rightwing extremist and subject to suspicion as I in large measure reject "federal authority in favor of state or local authority," …as did Thomas Jefferson.
I do recognize that rightwing extremism of a violent stripe does exist, has existed and has resulted in acts of domestic terrorism, such as the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. White supremacists, fundamentalist groups and others do have a track record of murder, rioting and violence in general and warrant scrutiny. But to release an intelligence assessment that lumps rational conservatives in with those despicable sects as a potential threat to the national security of the United States is offensive and alarming, to say the least.
Where is the intelligence assessment speculating that far-left radicals may present a security threat in light of the Wall Street collapse? Why is the federal government not just as publicly casting a suspicious eye on anti-capitalist radicals, anarchists and others on the far-left fringe who might use the economic collapse as a recruiting tool just as handily as far-right groups? How can we not conclude that this intelligence assessment is politically motivated?
I can cast my gaze back and see a linear chain of events that makes this DHS assessment chilling. The bi-partisan push for the PATRIOT Act, supported primarily by Republicans but also the sitting Democrat president, Barack Obama, gives the federal government wide latitude to spy on US citizens that are perceived as a national security threat. Republicans short-sightedly favored the PATRIOT Act because they wanted to catch jihadists. Liberals and leftists may now see its value as a political tool. Perhaps I’m falling too deeply into conspiracy theory here (another sign of rightwing extremism according to the DHS), but when you can’t count the threats to your liberty without using your toes, you find yourself gazing into the abyss.
I entreat you to read this assessment if you haven’t already. All conservatives should know that some of their core beliefs (opposition to onerous federal authority, support of gun rights and the integrity of immigration law) are being lumped in with racism and economic protectionism as dangerous to American security. I can’t think of anything more sadly ironic.