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August 12, 2009

DHS "Rightwing Extremists" Report is Exactly What We Thought It Was
Plus: Where Did DHS Get The Idea to Call Veterans "Potential Terrorists"

The Department of Homeland Security had no particular groups or individuals under investigation and used no collected data on "right-wing extremists" threatening national security to create the report. Rather, they just read news articles from the main stream media like MSNBC and CNN (and sometimes not-so-mainstream media like the "Vernon County Broadcaster"). However, by far the most frequent source for the report was articles and blog posts from the Southern Poverty Law Center, according to a FOIA response obtained by Americans for Limited Government.

The response is here (PDF). According to DHS:

[W]e have identified 217 pages of material responsive to your request [for all data, studies, reports or other documents used or reviewed to draft the report]. Of those pages, I have determined that all 217 pages are releasable in their entirety, all of which are publicly available...As the responsive documents are publicly available, we have not enclosed hard copies with this response. We are providing the following website links for the 217 pages of publicly available responsive material.

The list does not have functioning hyperlinks, but ALG has helpfully provided a summary table of them here (PDF).

I was particularly struck by the inclusion of articles like this one from the NY Times which recounts the increase in gun sales just days after a particularly gun-unfriendly president was elected. No mention is made in the article, so far as I can tell, about "right-wing extremism." DHS relied on several similar articles.

From the list, it looks like they had some interns google articles and grab a bunch from the SLPC. Then somebody wrote up a hit-job on the Right because...well, we don't know who wrote it or who directed that it be created or when. That information was not in the FOIA disclosure.

At least we know why the report was so short (only ten pages) and unprofessional (no citations to sources). It took no specialized knowledge or skill to create. Just an internet connection and a desire to brand the Right as fringe and dangerous. Remember that we might not even know about the report if members of local law enforcement hadn't leaked it. And it was conveniently timed to coincide with the Tea Parties in April.

One other thing I didn't find when I scanned through the list, however, was anything which would lead to the conclusion of the DHS report that veterans face "significant challenges reintegrating into their communities" which could lead them to become "terrorist groups or lone wolf extremists capable of carrying out violent attacks".

The reports and blog posts listed in the release on extremists in the military come from the SPLC which found that members of white supremacy groups and other extremist groups were attempting to join the military to get weapons training. In other words, these sources are about people who are extremists first and then joined the military--not the conclusion of DHS that veterans are prone to transforming into "terrorists" after service.

So if DHS didn't get that sweeping conclusion in the news articles and SPLC posts it relied on to create the report, where did it get it? Did DHS leave something out of this FOIA release? Or did it just make the conclusions up out of whole cloth?

Thanks to the Very Nice Deb.






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