Right Wing Extremist Vets, Left Wing Extremist Puter Hacks, Oh My...

The Department of Homeland Security recently disseminated two FOUO reports - Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment (7 April 09) and Leftwing Extremists Likely to Increase Use of Cyber Attacks over the Coming Decade (26 January 09) - that are now in the public domain. These two reports - which say absolutely nothing helpful to those on the frontlines of defending our nation - will most certainly stoke partisan bickering.

David Rehbein, National Commander of the American Legion, expressed his concern over such analytical mush as this nugget from the "right-wing" report...

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.

... in a 13 April letter to Secretary Janet Napolitano at the DHS:

... The best that I can say about your recent report is that it is incomplete. The report states, without any statistical evidence, "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 American Legion is well aware and horrified at the pain inflicted during the Oklahoma City bombing, but Timothy McVeigh was only one of more than 42 million veterans who have worn this nation's uniform during wartime. 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...

The cited DHS report is almost as sad as this Penn State 'instructional video' entitled The 'Worrisome' Veteran.

Penn State University's Office of Student Affairs, in partnership with President Graham Spanier, produced this vignette on "worrisome student behaviors" featuring a stereotypical "aggressive" veteran who threatens his professors.

Update:

US Officials: Recession Could Fuel Right-Wing Extremism - Voice of America

Homeland Security Warns of Rise in Right-Wing Extremism - FOX News

US Officials Warn of Radical Activity - United Press International

Federal Agency Warns of Radicals on Right - Washington Times

Right-wing Extremists Seen as a Threat - Los Angeles Times

Napolitano Defends Report on Extremism - Washington Post

Napolitano Says 'Risks' Monitored, Not Ideology - Reid Wilson, The HIll

Napolitano Defends DHS Report - Politico

Six Things You Should Know About the Homeland Security Report on 'Rightwing Extremism' - Judge Andrew Napolitano, FOX News

Homeland Security Report Characterizing Veterans as Potential Terrorists is "Offensive and Unacceptable" - Congressman John Boehner

Legion Objects to Vets as Terror Risk - Washington Times

Homeland Insecurity - San Francisco Chronicle

Top Dem 'Dumbfounded' by 'Extremism' Report - Washington Times

Republicans Criticize Report on Right-wing Groups - Associated Press

The New McCarthyism: DHS Reports on Right-Wing Extremism - US News & World Report

DHS Report on Right-Wing Extremists Is No Attack on Tea Party Conservatives - US News & World Report

You Might Be A Right-Wing Extremist If... QandO

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Comments

Thanks Dave for weighing in. I dismissed the report as banal, inane and vacuous. Yours was a thoughtful, studied, smart and experienced way of saying that the report is banal, inane and vacuous. But I especially appreciate your concluding paragraph. I hadn't thought that far into it, because, well, I had dismissed the report as banal, inane and vacuous.

All above noted and well said. As background, I spent a generation in a previous job-life producing intelligence assessments for various organizations to include the USMC, Joint Staff, USCENTCOM and DIA. I was a voting member (USMC) for at least five National Intelligence Estimates in the '90s. Based on that experience - but more importantly - based on gut-level plain common sense - I see no analytical rigor in the cited report that DHS hails as an "Intelligence and Analysis Assessment".

I wont argue that the demographic categories DHS targeted might one-day produce a domestic terror event - so might disgruntled union members and elements of other organizations with ideological or issue differences combined with organizational and operational skills willing to 'take it to the streets.

That said, the DHS study does not cite or footnote their methodology and source material for reaching the conclusions contained in the key findings. The whole document reads as a sophomoric attempt to position DHS to say "we told you so" when the next domestic terrorist event occurs. Im sure that, with little imagination, such an event could be "creatively tied" to those with military experience, those disgruntled with immigration and / or economic issues / policies, those who espouse 2nd Amendment rights, those with anti-abortion viewpoints - ad nausea.

Such generalized intelligence products are a disservice to true analytical work. Im surprised that anyone at DHS would be surprised that this assessment - with its phony-baloney FOUO caveat - would be leaked. The distribution list on such an assessment is huge - they knew it would end up in the public domain - and thats a fact.

Hey cugino Napolitano, capite?

--Dave Dilegge

"How many of you are experts on the domestic terrorist threat and have access to the same information our law enforcements agents have?"

The point of my comment is a very narrow one.

It is sometimes well to be quite skeptical about the "information our law enforcement agents have" or think they have. Not so many years ago a number of agencies thought they had good information about satanic cults ritually abusing children. Their information wasn't good and innocent people suffered for it.

There are some ambitious people out there who are sensitive to what sells and will run with it. Human nature. Cops can be as human as everybody else.

Mike,

There has been a decent amount of press regarding gang members who join the military for a couple years simply to get military training that they bring back to the streets. CBS news did report on it a bit ago and there was an article in Stars and Stripes, as well as a bunch of other miscellaneous reports about it. I think there was even an hour long episode about it on the discovery channel too.

Yes, the overwhelming vast majority of service members who get out are perfectly normal and do not need to be feared by general society, however there is always that 1% of a given sample size who will screw up and do bad things that damage the reputation of the greater group.

It's not that much different for Muslims however, who often feel that Islamic extremists that make up less than 1% of the Muslims population are to blame for being targeted.

If veterans think they are being targeted unfairly by the federal government because a very small minority of vets are actually using their training for devious purposes then so be it, however that's only a small taste of what the average Muslim feels on a day to day basis.

Scott

Schmedlap,

"I'm not, but I don't think this is really about security. I'm no expert on domestic terror, but I am pretty well versed in information operations and I would categorize this as a very skillful influencing message - what one could perhaps categorize as gray PSYOP or even a deception if it were done in a theater of operations."

A PSYOP campaign against who though? Again, DHS has reports about both right and left wing extremist groups. They are charged with monitoring everyone from neo-nazi groups and lone-wolf gunmen to leftist eco-terror groups and G-8 anarchist rioters.

As Napolitano explained recently:

"Let me be very clear: We monitor the risks of violent extremism taking root here in the United States. We don't have the luxury of focusing our efforts on one group; we must protect the country from terrorism whether foreign or homegrown and regardless of the ideology that motivates its violence."

She went on and apologized to veteran groups if they were offended, however she defended the report as it stood.

"I would assert that these papers were published and leaked specifically for the purpose of stirring up political discord. However, I also think it likely that this decision could have been made by some individuals far down the totem pole, exercising the old "good initiative, bad judgment" combo."

I believe most likely it's the later, however I question the "bad judgment" caveat. I can see how someone may think this was politically motivated based on vague information, however there's probably a classified version of this report that has intelligence on specific groups with message traffic to go behind it the assessments. Unclassified versions of classified reports are released all the time that the public gets their hands on, in the chopping process a lot of the specific details about sources and methods of collection are cut out so it may appear the analyst is just making stuff up.

"The former is absolutely not an issue of fact. Whether statements are right or left, extremist or not, and rhetorical or not, are all judgment calls. Membership in domestic terror groups increasing? Perhaps that is true. I'll take your word for it."

You're right, it's not a fact but just looking at the news it sounds very feasible and I can easily see how someone who studies the issue for a living can draw the same conclusion, however that may indeed just be the media trying to spice things up.

However, I recall specifically during the election season vague threats on Obama's life from white supremest groups that the secret service mentioned occurred at an abnormally high frequency even for a presidential candidate.

Again Scott, good input. I'm not sure of the direct answers to your questions so I'll suggest we seperate the term "domestic extremists groups" into two distinct parts:

1. Domestic Terrorist- Lone Wolf, possibly 0.00001% of overall military population. Their intent is to conduct acts of violence. I'm not an expert on these dudes so I do not know how to target them, but I would suggest they are an outlier.

2. Insurgent groups, gangs, narco-terrorist- these are the one's I'm concerned with. Maybe 1-2% of military population could be attracted to join these types of groups in order to fit in, make money, or continue combat operstaions. Intentions of these groups are to overthrow the government or engage in the drug trade. Recruitment will be driven based off perceived grievances (stoked by DHS reports and 24-7 media coverage).

I think we need to remember the lesson that took us so long to learn in Iraq:

Sometimes the more you try to protect (the country), the less secure you are.

v/r

Mike

Thanks for the response Mike. That is a good point and I do question why the public needs to read such reports in the first place, however it's not like unclassified national intelligence estimates aren't also available to the public.

Intelligence assessments should not be changed simply because some people might have their feelings hurt if the assessment was made public.

The DHS is not in the business of picking up veterans and helping them to integrate into society, there are other designated agencies with that task that generally do a good job in that regard.

Given our nation's history with known domestic extremist groups as well as military trained lone wolves like McVeigh and Nichols, Oswald, Charles Whitman, John Allen Muhammad (the DC Sniper), and others, this assessment doesn't appear to be that far off from the mark when you look at the spike in domestic terrorist group activity in the 90s under Clinton.

Ignoring domestic threats out of fear that simply monitoring and writing reports about them would create some sort of self-fulfilling prophecy is not the wisest course of action I would argue. It's not like the DHS is violating people's rights like the controversial CIA and FBI infiltrations of suspected radical groups in the 50s and 60s. If we returned to those days that would indeed be an issue, but there is nothing that suggests this yet.

Just recently a report came out mentioning Somali-Americans being recruited at an extremist associated mosque in Minnesota to go over and fight with the Islamic Terrorist group al-Shabaab in Somalia. Do you think it's a bad idea for DHS to write reports and assessments about potential American al-Shabaab recruits considering Somali-Americans might feel singled when these reports were made public?

I myself am a veteran who was medically discharged from the Army a year ago due to injuries suffered in combat. I also have some symptoms of PTSD. I don't think this report has anything to do with me or any other veteran that's going to obey the law.

If someone truly is so offended by this report that it would drive them over the edge to actually revolt violently then they have some severe issues to begin with and they deserve to be monitored by law enforcement agencies.

Scott,

Good input. I disagree, but you make some good points. I concur with Mike F's rebuttal and would add a few more...

"How many of you are experts on the domestic terrorist threat and have access to the same information our law enforcements agents have?"

I'm not, but I don't think this is really about security. I'm no expert on domestic terror, but I am pretty well versed in information operations and I would categorize this as a very skillful influencing message - what one could perhaps categorize as gray PSYOP or even a deception if it were done in a theater of operations.

"Thankfully DHS published this paper despite knowing the potential political backlash."

I would assert that these papers were published and leaked specifically for the purpose of stirring up political discord. However, I also think it likely that this decision could have been made by some individuals far down the totem pole, exercising the old "good initiative, bad judgment" combo.

"This paper is only focusing on the extreme right wing and lone wolf types, it has nothing to do with mainstream, peaceful conservatism or your average military service member. If you're not an extremist, the paper isn't talking about you."

If you take the paper at face value, and accept that it was not intended to be leaked, then I would believe that. And that is what makes it effective. Most people will believe that.

"It is not a political based claim to mention there has been an increase in right-wing extremist rhetoric and an increase in membership in domestic terrorist groups like the Aryan nation, it's simply an observable fact."

The former is absolutely not an issue of fact. Whether statements are right or left, extremist or not, and rhetorical or not, are all judgment calls. Membership in domestic terror groups increasing? Perhaps that is true. I'll take your word for it.

"If there was some major attack by a domestic terrorist group you can bet the media and the general public would be the first to complain about the DHS not doing its job by not effectively monitoring these threats."

I would assert that they did themselves no favors here. This is political BS, imo, not a genuine attempt to accomplish anything constructive.

Hi Scott. Thank you for contributing, but I would like to make a rebuttal. I do not believe that anyone here is denying the potential threat of a problem. We're are discussing the approach. It's a matter of perceived grievances. David Kilcullen discusses this to much degree in The Accidental Guerilla. One of the biggest examples is when we outlawed the Ba'ath Party and disbanded the Iraqi Army in 2003. It is the same thing. Yes, soldiers come back from combat far differently than when they left. Most adjust in time with proper coping mechanisms (life skills, environmental support,etc..). Some do not. For those that feel rejected, isolated, or betrayed, there is a possibility of them revolting violently. One means to counter that is appropriately reintegrating them back into society- essentially saying, "Welcome home, and we thank you for your service." By publishing articles such as DHS just did, you are creating secondary and tertiary effects unrealized whether or not there is factual evidence. We've walked down this path before. I would recommend that you take some time studying the militarization of Hispanic gangs in the 1980's throughout the prison system of California. Hispanic American Vietnam Vets joined the gangs and implemented military discipline, OPORDs, etc out of perceived racism and other grievances in the communities. There is no need to go down that path again.

v/r

Mike

I agree the Penn State video is completely ridiculous, however you're off base on the DHS paper.

Simply put, DHS wouldn't be doing it's job if it was not monitoring both left and right wing radicals. You are blind if you claim that there is no risk to national security from fringe groups on either side of the political spectrum.

Are we to assume that just because there hasn't been a massive Oklahoma City style bombing recently that domestic terrorism is not something we need to be concerned with? How many of you are experts on the domestic terrorist threat and have access to the same information our law enforcements agents have?

Thankfully DHS published this paper despite knowing the potential political backlash.

Believe it or not, there is such a thing as a right wing extremist just as there are left wing extremists. Where is the outrage when papers are published mentioning left wing extremist groups?

This paper is only focusing on the extreme right wing and lone wolf types, it has nothing to do with mainstream, peaceful conservatism or your average military service member. If you're not an extremist, the paper isn't talking about you.

It is not a political based claim to mention there has been an increase in right-wing extremist rhetoric and an increase in membership in domestic terrorist groups like the Aryan nation, it's simply an observable fact. The last time we had a democratic president this was a pretty big issue and this current president has the potential to be even more polarizing.

It's a situation that needs to be monitored if you work at DHS or any law enforcement agency. If there was some major attack by a domestic terrorist group you can bet the media and the general public would be the first to complain about the DHS not doing its job by not effectively monitoring these threats.

I wonder if there is a correlation between the % who serve (and have served) and the level of ignorance about the former?

Here is to our vets, they are a far better lot than many they will meet on the outside.

Best to all, Rob

Ideological spin or the perception thereof by the Administration in power. How very unusual. No one else has ever done that...

Well, not since last year, anyway.

I think I'll go kill some of my brain cells by hoisting a drink to all veterans. Then another for the poor worker bees at DHS. Then one for the rapid death of partisan foolishness.

Then another for the veterans who take a lot of dumb licks from folks who, in the immortal words of Brother Dave Gardner "haven't never..." Then I will await the next brouhaha about very little.

Absurd and inane, the stuff of gum smacking little girls trying to talk over each other, but not surprising (at least to me). Is anyone really surprised that Napolitano came out with something like this?

Really? Honestly? And does the answer to that question say something more troubling?

Schmedlap,

On a lighter note, I wonder if that "concerned" professor would have felt threatened when Burr and Hamilton decided to settle their debates with a civilized deul?

Ahh, the good ole days when life was easy.

v/r

Mike

While I am sure that I killed brain cells by browsing those two reports, I am slightly less sure as to whether I did something illegal by viewing them. There are a bunch of "for our eyes only" types of statements in both of those reports.

Is there a probability of veterans revolting? Of course in the same fashion that California may have the BIG earthquake tomorrow and fall into the sea.

Is there a president of it happening? Yes. Hell's Angels and Hispanic gang militarization from disenfranchised vets.

So what do you do?

Further isolate them with these type of reports or reintegrate them back into society???

The solution seems apparent. It is all about perceived grievances just like insurgencies. Address the grievences not suffer in silence.

The counter-argument would be sometimes America doesn't deserve her military (apologies to Emma Sky). The disgruntled/isolated vets are simply trying to cope from returning from war.

v/r

Major Michael Few