DHS Sees Resurgence in Rightwing Extremism

04.14.09 | 2 min read | Text by Steven Aftergood

Updated below

“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,” according to a new assessment (pdf) from the Department of Homeland Security Office of Intelligence and Analysis.

“In addition, the historical election of an African American president and the prospect of policy changes are proving to be a driving force for rightwing extremist recruitment and radicalization.”

“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 DHS report said.

See “Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment,” Department of Homeland Security Office of Intelligence and Analysis, April 7, 2009 (For Official Use Only).

The report has drawn attention from several conservative bloggers and talk show hosts, who interpreted the report’s references to right-wing positions on abortion, immigration and gun control as defamatory in this context.  The “document targets most conservatives and libertarians in the country,” according to The Liberty Papers blog.

The report, however, describes “extremists” more narrowly as those “that are primarily hate-oriented” and those that “reject federal authority,” not those who simply oppose abortion or immigration.

A 2001 report prepared for the U.S. Department of Energy examined “Left-Wing Extremism: The Current Threat” (pdf).

DHS reportedly issued its own analysis of left-wing extremism earlier this year. (See Leftwing Extremists Likely to Increase Use of Cyber Attacks over the Coming Decade [pdf], Department of Homeland Security Office of Intelligence and Analysis, January 26, 2009.)

Update: “Unfortunately, this report [on Rightwing Extremism] appears to have blurred the line between violent belief, which is Constitutionally protected, and violent action, which is not,” wrote House Homeland Security Committee chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson in an April 14 letter (pdf) to DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano. “I am disappointed and surprised that the Department would allow this report to be disseminated to its State, local and tribal partners in its present form.”

In an April 15 statement on the report, Secretary Napolitano said: “We are on the lookout for criminal and terrorist activity but we do not – nor will we ever – monitor ideology or political beliefs.”