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The right-wing threat

National Security | Homeland security is watching you

Issue: "On the road again," May 9, 2009

The Department of Homeland Security, under Secretary Janet Napolitano, sent a report to local law enforcement across the country in April warning of the threat of "right wing extremism" following election of an African-American president and the economic downturn. The report acknowledges that the agency has "no specific information" that any groups are planning any violence, but warns of "potential emergence of terrorist groups," groups "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 ownership and use."

The report mentions the threats of white supremacists, violent antigovernment groups, and violent Christian Identity groups-but also warns of broader "extremists." That extremism could include "groups and individuals that are dedicated to a single issue, such as opposition to abortion or immigration."

While Napolitano has refrained from using the word "terrorism" in public, saying instead "man-caused disasters," the report didn't refrain from calling violent right-wing groups the "most dangerous domestic terrorism threat."

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The newest report also identifies returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan as potential threats because they could be recruited to extremist causes. It points to Timothy McVeigh, responsible for the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, who was a Gulf War veteran. National Commander David K. Rehbein of American Legion, a veterans' group, penned a letter to Napolitano saying, "To continue to use McVeigh as an example of the stereotypical 'disgruntled military veteran' is as unfair as using Osama bin Laden as the sole example of Islam."

House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), said he was "dumbfounded" by the report and called for a congressional hearing. "This report appears to raise significant issues involving the privacy and civil liberties of many Americans," he wrote in a letter to Napolitano.

Napolitano, while defending the report, apologized to veterans for making them appear to be a threat to the nation. She said the report was not an "accusation," simply an "assessment." Department officials confirmed that its civil liberties office had objected to some of its language.

Emily Belz
Emily Belz

Emily, who has covered everything from political infighting to pet salons for The Indianapolis Star, The Hill, and the New York Daily News, reports for WORLD from New York City. Follow Emily on Twitter @emzleb.

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