As a public service, we present today's self-help quiz, aimed at assessing you as a possible security risk. Please answer "yes" or "no" to the following questions:
-- Do you oppose abortion?
-- Are you against illegal immigration?
-- Did you vote for Ron Paul last year?
-- Do you believe in conspiracy theories?
-- Still have a "Harry Browne for President" sticker on your car?
-- Are you a veteran of the armed forces?
-- Were you upset by Barack Obama's election to the presidency?
Congratulations; if you responded affirmatively to any--or all--of these questions, then you might be considered a domestic terrorist by the Department of Homeland Security and local law enforcement agencies. As reported by Audrey Hudson and Eli Lake of the Washington Times, DHS recently published a nine-page assessment on "Rightwing Extremism" that appears to lump many traditional conservatives in the ranks of potential terrorist.
According to the report--which was recently disseminated to police organizations around the county--such factors as the economic recession, the election of Mr. Obama and the return of "disgruntled" veterans could increase the ranks of white power militias around the country.
Never mind that the "threat" posed by militias and white supremacist organizations has been routinely inflated, and there hasn't been a serious attack from those elements since Timothy McVeigh blew up the federal courthouse in Oklahoma City 15 years ago. Under the leadership of Janet Napolitano, DHS is hot on the trail of conservative reactionaries.
Obviously, Secretary Napolitano's department has to be concerned with the full array of potential threats, regardless of political stripe. But as our "questionnaire" suggested, Homeland Security has a rather odd way of defining possible terrorists, looking for them among the ranks of libertarians, conspiracy theorists and ex-military members, among others.
And, as Ms. Hudson and Mr. Lake discovered, the department has a hard time quantifying the menace. Despite such recruiting lures as a struggling economy and a liberal administration, there seems to be little evidence of expanding membership among white supremacist groups and the militias. The FBI tells the Times that out of a group of 23,000 veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, only 200--less than one percent--joined such groups as the Ku Klux Klan and the Ayran Nation.
On the other hand, there is much reason for concern about the threat from left-wing radicals. The FBI is still trying to determine the number of young Somali men who have traveled from Minnesota to join terrorist factions in their homeland. More disturbingly, some federal officials worry that some of the Somalis may return to the United States, and launch attacks on our soil.
But the threat doesn't end there. When you factor in groups ranging from the Earth Liberation Front and Palestinian terror factions, to animal rights radicals and Al Qaida sleeper cells, it becomes clear that left-wing extremists pose a far greater security risk.
So, where's the comparable reporting on elements from the far left? A DHS spokeswoman claims the agency circulated a report on those threats in January, but it has never been leaked to the press--or released to the public. It is also unclear if the assessment on left-wing terrorists was circulated among law enforcement groups.
It's also worth noting that Homeland Security isn't the only organization focused on possible right-wing threats. Late last month, the Missouri State Police halted distribution of a report which linked a host of conservative groups to the militia movement, including anti-abortion activists, fundamentalist Christians and even supporters of libertarian politicians.
The document was produced by something called the Missouri Information Analysis Center (MIAC), an intelligence "fusion" operation that provides assessment to the state police. As you might have guessed, information for the MIAC report came (in part) from the Department of Homeland Security. While the report touched off a firestorm in the conservative blogosphere, ti received virtually no attention in the national press.
Perhaps the Washington Times story will get a little more play--and force attention on the misplaced priorities of those who are supposed to be protecting us. Only in the alternate universe of Janet Napolitano would someone who voted for Bob Barr be labeled a potential terrorist.
Making matters worse, the Missouri report (and the DHS data that inspired it) suggest that millions are being wasted on the state and local "fusion centers" that have sprung up around the country. We can only imagine how much time was lavished on the MIAC assessment, so that Missouri state troopers could learn to spot domestic terrorists by the crosses and bumper stickers on their cars.
Welcome back to the pre-9-11 security mindset, where everyone worried about the "next McVeigh" that was supposedly lurking at every militia meeting. Meanwhile, we never paid attention to the really important stuff, like young Muslim men enrolled in U.S. flight schools--the same ones who had no interest in learning to land the aircraft.