Tags: homeland | security

Homeland Security Warns of Growing Domestic Terror Threat

Tuesday, 14 Apr 2009 02:49 PM

By Dave Eberhart

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A Homeland Security analysis being distributed to law enforcement agencies warns of a new era of domestic terrorism spawned by the election of the nation’s first black president, unemployment, rising poverty, a backlash against illegal immigration, and the return of disgruntled veterans from the nation’s war fronts.

The highly charged document, first reported by talk-radio host and World Net Daily columnist Roger Hedgecock, is entitled “Right-wing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment.”

“This is huge,” Brett Winterble, the Roger Hedgecock Show executive producer told Newsmax, as he described Hedgecock’s continuing coverage of the report and all it portends.

A Department of Homeland Security spokeswoman confirmed to both Fox News and The Washington Times that the report is real, and said it is part of a series of analyses of domestic terrorism. An analysis includes left-wing groups, but the department could offer no evidence of a report looking at the violent political left in America.

Perhaps one of the most disconcerting disclosures in the report is its disturbing analysis of the recent historic presidential election.

“Rightwing extremists are harnessing this historical election as a recruitment tool. Many rightwing extremists are antagonistic toward the new presidential administration and its perceived stance on a range of issues, including immigration and citizenship, the expansion of social programs to minorities, and restrictions on firearms,” the report states.

Although the antagonism toward President Barack Obama’s administration reportedly is mobilizing existing supporters, and broadening the extremists’ scope and appeal through propaganda, they have not yet turned to attack planning, the DHS report authors note on a rare upbeat note.

Most right-wing extremists’ statements have been rhetorical, expressing concerns about the election of the first black president — but stopping short of calls for violent action, the DHS report says.

However, 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.”

If there is a pervasive theme to the report, it is the economic crisis, which the study analyzes in depth and compares with other landmark moments in history.

The economic and political climate has some similarities to the 1990s, when right-wing extremism experienced a resurgence fueled largely by an economic recession, criticism about the outsourcing of jobs, and the perceived threat to U.S. power and sovereignty by other foreign powers, the authors note.

“During the 1990s, these issues contributed to the growth in the number of domestic rightwing terrorist and extremist groups and an increase in violent acts targeting government facilities, law enforcement officers, banks, and infrastructure sectors.

“Growth of these groups subsided in reaction to increased government scrutiny as a result of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing and disrupted plots, improvements in the economy, and the continued U.S. standing as the preeminent world power,” conclude the DHS experts.

Disgruntled Vets

The report mentions a simmering powder keg in noting a perceived role of U.S. troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan in domestic upheaval.

“The possible passage of new restrictions on firearms and the return of military veterans facing significant challenges reintegrating into their communities could lead to the potential emergence of terrorist groups or lone wolf extremists capable of carrying out violent attacks,” the report concludes.

The report further assesses that right-wing extremists will attempt to recruit and radicalize returning veterans to exploit their skills and knowledge derived from military training and combat:

  • “These skills and knowledge have the potential to boost the capabilities of extremists — including lone wolves or small terrorist cells — to carry out violence.

    “The willingness of a small percentage of military personnel to join extremist groups during the 1990s because they were disgruntled, disillusioned, or suffering from the psychological effects of war is being replicated today,” the experts warn.

  • After Operation Desert Shield/Storm in 1990-1991, some returning military veterans, including Timothy McVeigh, joined or associated with right-wing extremist groups.

  • A prominent civil rights organization reported in 2006 that “large numbers of potentially violent neo-Nazis, skinheads, and other white supremacists are now learning the art of warfare in the [U.S.] armed forces.”

  • What’s more, the FBI noted in a 2008 report on the white supremacist movement that some returning military veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have joined extremist groups.

    Illegal Immigration as a Flashpoint

    During the past five years, various right-wing extremists, including militias and white supremacists, have adopted the immigration issue as a call to action, rallying point, and recruiting tool, the DHS report says.

    “Debates over appropriate immigration levels and enforcement policy generally fall within the realm of protected political speech under the First Amendment, but in some cases, anti-immigration or strident pro-enforcement fervor has been directed against specific groups and has the potential to turn violent,” the report says.

    The DHS assessment is that right-wing extremist groups’ frustration over a perceived lack of government action on illegal immigration has the potential to incite individuals or small groups toward violence. If that occurred, it probably would be isolated, small-scale, and directed at specific immigration-related targets.

    Furthermore, prominent civil rights organizations have observed an increase in anti-Hispanic crimes during the past five years, the report says.

  • In April 2007, six militia members were arrested for various weapons and explosives violations. Open source reporting alleged that those arrested had discussed and conducted surveillance for a machine gun attack on Hispanics.

  • A militia member in Wyoming was arrested in February 2007 after communicating his plans to travel to the Mexican border to kill immigrants crossing into the United States.

    Blaming Jews for the Economic Downturn

    The right-wing extremist chatter on the Internet continues to focus on the economy, the perceived loss of U.S. jobs in the manufacturing and construction sectors, and home foreclosures, the report says.

    Significantly, anti-Semitic extremists attribute these losses to a deliberate conspiracy conducted by a cabal of Jewish “financial elites.” These “accusatory” tactics are employed to draw new recruits into right-wing extremist groups and further radicalize those already subscribing to extremist beliefs, the authors conclude.

    The DHS experts warn that this trend is likely to accelerate if the economy is perceived to worsen.

    Poverty and Radicalization

    While scholars and experts disagree over poverty’s role in motivating violent radicalization or terrorist activity, high unemployment has the potential to lead to alienation — thus increasing an individual’s susceptibility to extremist ideas, say the authors.

    There appears to be a strong association between a parent’s unemployment status and the formation of right-wing extremist beliefs in their children — specifically xenophobia and anti-democratic ideals, according to a 2007 study from the German Institute for Economic Research, the report says.

    “Rightwing extremists are increasingly galvanized by these concerns and leverage them as drivers for recruitment. From the 2008 election timeframe to the present, rightwing extremists have capitalized on related racial and political prejudices in expanded propaganda campaigns — thereby reaching out to a wider audience of potential sympathizers,” the authors write.

    Visions of the ‘End Times’ and Conspiracy Theory

    Historically, domestic extremists on the right have feared, predicted, and anticipated a cataclysmic economic collapse in the United States. Prominent antigovernment conspiracy theorists have incorporated aspects of an impending economic collapse to intensify fear and paranoia among like-minded individuals and to attract recruits during economic uncertainty, write the report authors.

    “Conspiracy theories involving declarations of martial law, impending civil strife or racial conflict, suspension of the U.S. Constitution, and the creation of citizen detention camps often incorporate aspects of a failed economy.

    “Antigovernment conspiracy theories and ‘end times’ prophecies could motivate extremist individuals and groups to stockpile food, ammunition, and weapons.

    “These teachings also have been linked with the radicalization of domestic extremist individuals and groups in the past, such as violent Christian Identity organizations and extremist members of the militia movement,” the report says.

    Lone Wolves and Small Terrorist Cells

    Lone wolves and small terrorist cells embracing violent right-wing extremist ideology are the most dangerous domestic terrorism threat in the United States, the report concludes.

    Indeed, information from law enforcement and nongovernmental organizations indicates that lone wolves and small terrorist cells have shown intent — and, in some cases, the capability — to commit violent acts.

    DHS has zeroed in on white supremacist lone wolves posing “the most significant domestic terrorist threat because of their low profile and autonomy — separate from any formalized group — which hampers warning efforts.”

  • Recent state and municipal law enforcement reporting has warned of the dangers of right-wing extremists’ embracing the tactics of “leaderless resistance” and of lone wolves carrying out acts of violence.

  • Arrests in the past several years of radical militia members in Alabama, Arkansas, and Pennsylvania on firearms, explosives, and other related violations indicates the emergence of small, well-armed extremist groups in some rural areas.

  • Right-wing extremist views bemoan the decline of U.S. stature and recently have focused on themes such as the loss of U.S. manufacturing capability to China and India, Russia’s control of energy resources and use of these to pressure other countries, and China’s investment in U.S. real estate and corporations as a part of subversion strategy.

    Legislative and Judicial Drivers

    Many right-wing extremist groups perceive recent gun control legislation as a threat to their right to bear arms and in response have increased weapons and ammunition stockpiling, as well as renewed participation in paramilitary training exercises, according to the report

    “Such activity, combined with a heightened level of extremist paranoia, has the potential to facilitate criminal activity and violence,” the report says.

    Legislation has been proposed this year requiring mandatory registration of all firearms in the United States. Similar legislation was introduced in 2008 in several states proposing mandatory tagging and registration of ammunition.

    “It is unclear if either bill will be passed into law; nonetheless, a correlation may exist between the potential passage of gun control legislation and increased hoarding of ammunition, weapons stockpiling, and paramilitary training activities among rightwing extremists,” conclude the report authors.

    Proposed imposition of firearms restrictions and weapons bans probably would attract new members into the ranks of right-wing extremist groups, as well as potentially spur some of them to begin planning and training for violence against the government.

    The high volume of purchases and stockpiling of weapons and ammunition by right-wing extremists in anticipation of restrictions and bans in some parts of the country continue to be a primary concern to law enforcement.

    Perceived Threat from Rise of Other Countries

    Right-wing extremist paranoia of foreign regimes could escalate or be magnified in the event of an economic crisis or military confrontation, harkening back to the conspiracy theories of the 1990s, the report says.

    The dissolution of Communist countries in Eastern Europe and the end of the Soviet Union in the 1990s led some right-wing extremists to believe that a “New World Order” would bring about a world government that would usurp the sovereignty of the United States and its Constitution, thus infringing upon their liberty.

    “The dynamics in 2009 are somewhat similar, as other countries, including China, India, and Russia, as well as some smaller, oil-producing states, are experiencing a rise in economic power and influence.

    “Fear of Communist regimes and related conspiracy theories characterizing the U.S. Government’s role as either complicit in a foreign invasion or acquiescing as part of a ‘One World Government’ plan inspired extremist members of the militia movement to target government and military facilities in past years,” the report says.

    The Bottom Line

    Threats from white supremacist and violent antigovernment groups during 2009 have been largely rhetorical and have not indicated plans to carry out violent acts, the authors conclude.

    Nevertheless, 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 similar to those in the past.

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