Homeland Security Warns of Rise in Right-Wing Extremism
An intelligence assessment released to law enforcement last week claims news of recession, the election of an African American president, rumors of new gun restrictions and the inability of veterans to reintegrate create fertile ground for radicalizing and recruiting right-wing extremists
The Department of Homeland Security is warning law enforcement agencies that recent news is helping "right-wing extremist groups" recruit new members and could lead to violence, and warns about the possible recruitment and radicalization of returning veterans.
The report, issued last week, is part of an ongoing review of extremists on both ends of the political spectrum.
The latest assessment by DHS' Office of Intelligence and Analysis found no specific information that domestic right-wing terrorists are currently planning acts of violence, but right-wing extremists may be gaining new recruits by playing on fears about the recession and the election of the first African American president. The office called them "unique drivers for right-wing radicalization and recruitment."
"Right-wing extremists have capitalized on the election of the first African American president, and are focusing their efforts to recruit new members, mobilize existing supporters and broaden their scope and appeal through propaganda, but they have not yet turned to attack planning," the assessment reads.
"The current 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.," it continues.
The report also suggests that returning veterans are attractive recruits for right-wing groups looking for "combat skills and experience" so as to boost their "violent capabilities." It adds that new restrictions on gun ownership and the difficulty of veterans to reintegrate into their communities "could lead to the potential emergence of terrorist groups or lone wolf extremists capable of carrying out violent attacks."
"Proposed imposition of firearms restrictions and weapons bans likely would attract new members into the ranks of right-wing extremist groups ... 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," the report says.
The assessment notes that right-wing recruitment grew in the 1990s but subsided after increased scrutiny by the government following the 1995 Oklahoma City bombings.
It does state that in 2009 "threats from white supremacist and violent antigovernment groups ... have been largely rhetorical and have not indicated plans to carry out violent acts."
"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 right-wing extremists and even result in confrontations between such groups and government authorities similar to those in the past," reads a key finding in the assessment.
DHS spokeswoman Sara Kuban said the April 7 assessment is one in an ongoing series published by DHS "to facilitate a greater understanding of radicalization in the United States."
"DHS has no specific information that domestic right-wing terrorists are currently planning acts of violence, but right-wing extremists may be gaining new recruitments by playing on their fears about several emerging issues," Kuban said.
But some critics have said the DHS is equating conservative views to right-wing terrorism, but a DHS official countered that earlier this year, the department issued a mirror intelligence assessment of left-wing extremist groups.
"This is the job of DHS, to assess what is happening in this country, with regard to homegrown terrorism, and determine whether it's an actual threat or not, and that's what these assessments do. This is nothing unusual. These assessments are done all the time. This is about awareness," the official told FOX News on Monday.
FOX News has obtained a copy of the assessment, dated Jan. 26 and titled "Left-wing Extremists Likely to Increase Use of Cyberattacks Over the Coming Decade." It concentrates largely on the technical savvy of left-wing extremists and not bloodshed.
"The perception that cyberattacks are non-violent aligns well with ideological beliefs, strategic objectives and tactics of many left-wing extremists," the earlier report reads. "The increasing reliance of commercial business and other enterprises on cyber technologies, including interconnected networks and remote access, creates new and expanding vulnerabilities that technically savvy left-wing extremists will exploit."
The report specifically mentions "eco-terrorist" Earth Liberation Front, which has been accused of firebombing construction sites, logging companies, car dealerships and food science labs. The report notes that left-wing extremists prefer economic damage on businesses to get the message across.
"Their no-harm doctrine includes claiming to ensure the safety of humans, animals and the environment even as they attack businesses and associated operations," the report reads. " Direct actions range from animal releases, property theft, vandalism and cyber attacks, all of which extremists regard as non-violent, to bombings and arson."
The assessment says it "focuses on the more prominent leftwing groups within the animal rights, environmental, and anarchist extremist movements that promote or have conducted criminal or terrorist activities."
FOX News' Mike Levine contributed to this report.