The Department of Homeland Security apparently pushed out it’s report “Right-wing Extremists” despite objections from their internal civil liberties watchdogs:
Homeland Security Department officials disregarded warnings from their internal civil liberties watchdogs before releasing a security assessment of “right-wing extremism” that had Secretary Janet Napolitano apologizing to veterans Thursday.
A spokeswoman confirmed that the department’s Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties raised objections about some of the language in the nine-page report before it was sent to law enforcement officials nationwide.
The office “did object to a part of the document, which was not resolved before the product went out. This was a breakdown of an internal process that we will fix in the future,” said spokeswoman Amy Kudwa.
Homeland Security officials declined to elaborate on or describe in detail the objections of the civil liberty officials, or say whether Ms. Napolitano was made aware of the objections when she was briefed on the general nature of the threat before the report’s release on April 7.
However, Rep. Bennie Thompson, Mississippi Democrat and chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, is demanding answers on how the report was cleared with privacy and civil liberty officials.
My problem with the report (PDF) is not that it doesn’t contain valid information, in a broad sense it does. It’s that it it provides no new information or specifics on potential threats and uses overly broad generalities that effectively, even if unintentionally, lump mainstream conservatives and veterans in with extremists. Simply put it’s not a particularly useful intelligence assessment.
That said the report does provide a stark reminder that certain fringe elements on the right, and the on left, are using the current political and economic climate to boost their recruiting efforts. There is a very real possibility that one or more these groups could turn to violent action. The hyper partisan and/or populist rhetoric being used by many of our elected leaders and by some in the media is simply adding fuel to the fire.
I should note the Wall Street Journal is reporting that the FBI has tracked a small number of veterans for extremist activity… Because they joined extremist groups, not because they were veterans:
Michael Ward, FBI deputy assistant director for counterterrorism, said in an interview Thursday that the portion of the operation focusing on the military related only to veterans who draw the attention of Defense Department officials for joining white-supremacist or other extremist groups.
“We’re not doing an investigation into the military, we’re not looking at former military members,” he said. “It would have to be something they were concerned about, or someone they’re concerned is involved” with extremist groups.
Mr. Ward said that the FBI’s general counsel reviewed the operation before it began, “to make sure any tripwires we set do not violate any civil liberties.”
That’s how the system should work — and it highlights the problem with this report… Just compare it to the report on left-wing extremism (PDF). One relies on broad generalities, the other on specifics.
Update: I doubt this will go anywhere but:
The Thomas More Law Center, a national public interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, announced that yesterday evening it filed a federal lawsuit against Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. The lawsuit claims that her Department’s “Rightwing Extremism Policy,” as reflected in the recently publicized Intelligence Assessment, “Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment,” violates the civil liberties of combat veterans as well as American citizens by targeting them for disfavored treatment on account of their political beliefs. Read the rest…