On April 7, the Department of Homeland Security distributed a counterterrorism assessment to local law-enforcement types entitled "Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment." The nine-page paper has many on the right questioning what is going on in Washington.
The assessment reads like a sophomore's bad political science essay in, for example, noting that right-wing extremism "may include groups and individuals that are dedicated to a single issue, such as opposition to abortion or immigration."
"This is a very unfortunately named document," Department of Homeland Security spokesperson Sara Kuban told me. No lie. The not-quite-classified-but-also-not-meant-for-public-distribution assessment reads like a rookie mistake penned by political lightweights. But Kuban told me it was written by "career officials" who had been working on the assessment for more than a year. (Read: DHS started working on this when George W. Bush was in charge.) That career officials would write such tripe should scare you.
Fox News posted a Jan. 26, 2009, assessment entitled "Leftwing Extremists Likely to Increase Use of Cyber-Attacks over the Coming Decade." This would suggest equal-opportunity political targeting.
Not so. The "left-wing" assessment named entities -- the Earth Liberation Front, Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty, The Hacktivist, the Internet Liberation Front -- and explained the methods used in specific and recent cyber-attacks. It also warned how specific groups -- loggers, farmers and named corporations -- were or could be targeted. That is, the "left-wing" assessment included information that would be useful to officials investigating crimes.
The "right-wing" document, however, targeted, not activities, but political thought -- opposition to abortion, immigration amnesty and gun laws. While the "left-wing" assessment reported on known criminal activities, the "right-wing" document started with the acknowledgment that Department of Homeland Security intelligence "has no specific information that domestic rightwing terrorists are currently planning acts of violence." (The italics are mine.) Then: "The economic downturn and the election of the first African American president present unique drivers for right-wing radicalization and recruitment."