I’m not entirely sure why but there’s been some hysteria over a recently leaked report by the DHS about the possible rise of right wing extremism. Michelle Malkin’s screeching will probably be picked up by remote alien civilizations it’s so loud. It really would be nice if these people would read the document before they start screaming about the destruction of the constitution.
This assessment is very typical of the sorts of warning that have been put out since 9/11. Like Greenwald and Sullivan point out, we didn’t hear a peep from these quarters when the federal government was collecting intelligence and issuing warning about various peace groups and kids keying SUVs.
The truth is much closer to Marc Ambinder‘s assessment. The report doesn’t mention any groups or specific threats but is rather a general assessment of what the law enforcement/intelligence community might see in the future. C’mon people, this is what your intelligence analysts are supposed to do. Now, it is true, as Marc says:
The report is pretty absurd. Absurd in that a government report was prepared and disseminated to tell law enforcement officials something everyone already knows: instability nourishes discontent, some racists dislike Obama, and as the “out” group, the fringes of the right are more unhappy than usual.
Unfortunately, that is the general level of analytical product circulating nowadays and (equally disturbing) is not something ‘everyone already knows’. Just because the FBI and DHS elements in Washington D.C. have a good understanding of domestic extremism (and given some of the products I’ve read about animal extremism over the years, I’m not entirely convinced of that) that can not be considered evidence that offices and agencies further away from the hub are equally well attuned.
Mark also makes a great observation that the report really sugar coats some of the motivations of right wing extremism, particularly with regards to immigration. While the report identifies wage deflation as the cause of anger over illegal immigration that does gloss over the xenophobia that underlies much of the movement.
I agree the assessment is generally fluff and could have been summarized to a page or less but I’m guessing most of its ten pages was designed to insulate the DHS from just the sort of criticism it is now facing by trying to provide some context to their assertions. The report goes out of its way to avoid talking about mainstream political opposition in fact, ignoring the numerous ‘mainstream‘ sources which seem to be claiming that the current administration is planning to destroy the Republic in order to establish some sort of Communist regime and coming as close to inciting violence as they can while maintaing plausible deniability.
In fact, if you read Malkin’s post you’ll see that all of her objections rely on living in her paranoid world where:
“In Obama land, there are no coincidences.”
Ah, yes. Obama the puppet master. Pulling the strings and controlling the vast left wing conspiracy.
Now, I’m not one who believes ‘What’s good for the goose…’ in this situation. If the rights of Americans are being violated then it’s a disaster for all of us. Even if they are bat-shit crazy. But that’s not the situation here. There are no warnings about the infamous ‘Tea-Parties’ or any political groups names. If Ms. Malkin were truly as “familiar with past assessments [the DHS] and the FBI have done” then she would know the same cannot be said of past assessments about eco-extremists over the past ten years. One needn’t look far to find countless examples of warnings issued about legal activities conducted by law abiding citizens simply because they share similar ideological beliefs (yet to a less extreme degree).
After all, despite being active for over 30 years and consistently being labeled the most serious domestic terrorist threat in the United States, ecological extremists still haven’t managed to kill anyone.
It’s also not insulting vets. It’s simply saying that vets might be targeted for recruitment by extremist groups. Just like they are supposedly recruited by street gangs. There’s absolutely nothing new there. Move along.
Like the recent dust up over a similar assessment by the Missouri Information Analysis Center this may be a weak intelligence product but it’s not sinister. In fact, if you are convinced the government is salivating over the chance to kick your dog and take your guns you should be feeling pretty good about this assessment. Is this really the best the new Maoist/Stalinist intelligence community can do when they’ve been mobilized to attack freedom loving patriots?
So my problems with the assessment are rather banal. Annoying lack of details, over classification, no sourcing of information, no good indicators to identify illegal extremist activities and the use of the word ‘chatter’. But that doesn’t mean assessments like this shouldn’t be done. They just need to be done correctly. It is can be a tricky row to hoe in not crossing the line and collecting on legitimate political activity but that’s what we are paying our intelligence professionals for. The wrong thing to do would be to cave into pressure and stop all examination of political extremism because of hysterical rantings by people whose livelyhood depends on dividing the country.
I’d recommend checking out AJStrata’s comments of this little drama. Today was the first I ever saw his blog but anyone concerned about the future of the Republican party/conservative movement should read his posts as a warning of what’s in store if they continue along their path.