Veterans, Pro-Lifers Blast Gov't Report Labeling Them As Possible Rightwing Extremists
April 15, 2009 - 9:48 AM<br />
The report, dated April 7, warns that an extended economic downturn along with the election of the nation’s first black president could make it easier for “rightwing extremists” to recruit new members, although the report offers no evidence that such a thing is actually happening.
The American Center for Law and Justice wants DHS to remove the following reference from its April 7 report:
Rightwing extremism in the United States can be broadly divided into those groups, movements, and adherents that are primarily hate-oriented (based on hatred of particular religious, racial or ethnic groups), and those that are mainly antigovernment, rejecting federal authority in favor of state or local authority, or rejecting government authority entirely. It may include groups and individuals that are dedicated to a single issue, such as opposition to abortion or immigration.
Labeling pro-life supporters as rightwing extremists is "outrageous and raises serious questions about the leadership and direction of an agency" whose goal is to protect Americans against real terror threats, said Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the ACLJ.
"This characterization is not only offensive to millions of Americans who hold constitutionally-protected views opposing abortion – but also raises serious concerns about the political agenda of an agency with a mandate to protect America.”
Sekulow says the ACLJ is preparing a legal analysis and will be launching a nationwide campaign in the days ahead to demand that the DHS remove the reference from its warning.
Likewise, American Legion National Commander David K. Rehbein singled out the following sentence as particularly objectionable because it suggests that veterans are more likely than non-veterans to commit terrorist acts:
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 letter to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Rehbein wrote that the American Legion shares the department’s concern about white supremacist and anti-government groups.
He also complained that the report is incomplete and lacks statistical evidence:
“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,” Rehbein wrote.
The DHS report also states, “Rightwing extremists were concerned during the 1990s with the perception that illegal immigrants were taking away American jobs through their willingness to work at significantly lower wages.”
Rehbein asked Napolitano, “Would you categorize union members as ‘Right Wing Extremists’?”
The report is incomplete and politically biased, Rehbein wrote: “I think it is important for all of us to remember that Americans are not the enemy. The terrorists are,” he concluded.
The report cites the April 4 killings of three Pittsburgh police officers as an example of the type of violence spurred by right-wing rhetoric.
In that Pittsburgh case, a 23-year-old man opened fire on police who came to his house in response to a 911 call from his mother. The woman told police her son was collecting guns and ammunition “because he believed that as a result of economic collapse, the police were no longer able to protect society," an affidavit said.
People who knew the suspect said he was worried about his weapons being seized during the anti-gun Obama administration.
Homeland Security spokesman Sean Smith told the Associated Press the report is one in a series of assessments issued by the agency's intelligence and analysis unit. The agency describes these assessments as part of an effort "to facilitate a greater understanding of the phenomenon of violent radicalization in the United States."
(The Associated Press contributed some of the information used in this report.)