The Department of Homeland Security is warning law enforcement officials about a rise in “rightwing extremist activity,” saying the economic recession, the election of America's first black president and the return of a few disgruntled war veterans could swell the ranks of white-power militias.
A footnote attached to the report by the Homeland Security Office of Intelligence and Analysis defines “rightwing extremism in the United States” as including not just racist or hate groups, but also groups that reject federal authority in favor of state or local authority.
“It may include groups and individuals that are dedicated to a single-issue, such as opposition to abortion or immigration,” the warning says.
The White House has distanced itself from the analysis. When asked for comment on its contents, White House spokesman Nick Shapiro said, “The President is focused not on politics but rather taking the steps necessary to protect all Americans from the threat of violence and terrorism regardless of its origins. He also believes those who serve represent the best of this country, and he will continue to ensure that our veterans receive the respect and benefits they have earned.”
The nine-page document was sent to police and sheriff's departments across the United States on April 7 under the headline, “Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment.”
It says the federal government “will be working with its state and local partners over the next several months” to gather information on “rightwing extremist activity in the United States.”
The joint federal-state activities will have “a particular emphasis” on the causes of “rightwing extremist radicalization.”
Homeland Security spokeswoman Sara Kuban said the report is one in an ongoing series of assessments by the department to “facilitate a greater understanding of the phenomenon of violent radicalization in the U.S.”
The report, which was first disclosed to the public by nationally syndicated radio host Roger Hedgecock, makes clear that the Homeland Security Department does not have “specific information that domestic rightwing terrorists are currently planning acts of violence.”It warns that fringe organizations are gaining recruits, but it provides no numbers.
The report says extremist groups have used President Obama as a recruiting tool.
“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,” the report says. “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.”
When asked about this passage, Secret Service spokesman Ed Donovan said, “We are concerned about anybody who will try to harm or plan to harm any one of our protectees. We don't have the luxury to focus on one particular group at the exclusion of others.”
Congressional debates about immigration and gun control also make extremist groups suspicious and give them a rallying cry, the report says.