04.30.2009 0

Monitoring Extremism

  • On: 05/07/2009 12:30:05
  • In: Homeland Security
  • By Isaac MacMillen

    “We are on the lookout for criminal and terrorist activity but we do not – nor will we ever – monitor ideology or political beliefs.”—Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.

    When a Department of Homeland Security memo on “Right-Wing Extremism” was leaked last month, questions were raised about the role of the government in monitoring private citizens’ political activities. In the midst of the outcry, DHS Secretary Napolitano issued a press release in which she emphatically denied ever monitoring ideological or political beliefs.

    But with the accidental release of another DHS document—which has now gone public—the truth behind that commitment appears questionable at best. At worst, it puts to lie Secretary Napolitano’s categorical denial that the Department is monitoring political beliefs. The DHS Domestic Extremism Lexicon, whose release the Department claims was a mistake, contains 9 pages of terms and political identifications that the DHS links to potential domestic terrorists. The definition of “rightwing extremism” also appears in the new report.

    The report was made by the same office who wrote a previous controversial memo on “rightwing extremism,” for which the Department is already under fire. The now-infamous “rightwing extremism” report expressed “concern” that “rightwing extremists” might target veterans for recruitment. Perhaps most startling about the report is that it did not contain actual report of any active recruitment: “DHS/I&A is concerned that rightwing extremists will attempt to recruit and radicalize returning veterans in order to boost their violent capabilities.”

    In fact, there was no evidence provided in last month’s memo that any of the groups were engaged in any sort of recruitment, planning of attacks, or anything even remotely associated; only that such a possibility existed: “The DHS/Office of Intelligence and Analysis (I&A) has no specific information that domestic rightwing terrorists are currently planning acts of violence, but rightwing extremists may be gaining new recruits by playing on their fears about several emergent issues. The economic downturn and the election of the first African American president present unique drivers for rightwing radicalization and recruitment.”

    It appears that much of the information for these reports is gleaned from the Internet. The “rightwing extremism” memo states, “Rightwing 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 [emphasis added].” Which begs the question: If the Department is not monitoring political beliefs, how did it come upon this Internet chatter.

    The memo then goes on to note that threats in 2009 “have been largely rhetorical and have not indicated plans to carry out violent acts.” It then faults them for potentially recruiting new members, mobilizing supporters, and attempting to spread their message, although noting that they “have not yet turned to attack planning.”

    Let’s look at this again—with emphasis added: “not indicated any plans” “not yet turned to attack planning.” In short, the DHS is now in the business of condemning “extremists” for what they “Not yet”? As in, “we expect them to, eventually”?

    As one can clearly see, the memos of last month were based entirely on conjecture as to these groups’ possible course of action—a course of action assumed apparently by reason of their political ideology, since the reports do not illuminate on any credible threat reporting.

    So when the DHS turns around and states that it does not, nor ever will, monitor ideological beliefs, its words ring about as hollow as the “facts” upon which the memos were based.

    Certainly some of the ideological groups being monitored by DHS may espouse ideas repugnant to many Americans. But many other groups are broadly defined as sharing the same values which millions of Americans also share: support for limited government, federalism (including the primacy of state and local governance), 2nd Amendment rights—even “alternative media,” the name many bloggers use to describe themselves, is listed.

    Perhaps the DHS should add a new entry to their lexicon:

    “Paranoid DHS Official: A government agent who suspects ordinary American citizens of being dangerous terrorists without any evidence to support the claim.”

    And, perhaps Americans need to more carefully monitor the DHS—at least as much as the Department apparently monitors them—and what it does with their taxpayer dollars. For that defines true extremism.

    Isaac MacMillen is a Contributing Editor to ALG News Bureau.

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