Remember back in April of 2009 when the Department of Homeland Security put out an assessment with the concerning title “Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment”? On the top page, the report warned:
— Threats from white supremacist and violent antigovernment groups during 2009 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 rightwing extremists and even result in confrontations between such groups and government authorities similar to those in the past.
— Rightwing 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.
For a week or so, the report was grist for both sides of the political blogosphere and for the media at large, with each camp assuming its expected roles: Liberals rose to defend its “complete” accuracy, and conservatives criticized it as a politically-tinged smear on the Right, and especially on our veterans, who were singled out as susceptible to anti-government radicalization. I didn’t then, and don’t now, take the threat of homegrown extremism lightly, and I do think the president’s race is a live factor for the .00000000001 percent of the U.S. population who are violent anarchist racists. But conservative critics were basically right to point to the report’s lazy generalization of “right-wing” politics and its frustrating lack of specifics. Even the bullets excerpted above admit, explicitly, that there was at the time no evidence that any acts of coordinated anti-government terrorism had moved beyond the rhetorical phase. That didn’t stop many in the media and on the Left from hastily, and mistakenly, assuming that every new lone-wolf nutjob with a gun was fueled by right-wing hate speech and conservative blind-spots — most prominently in the case of the psycho Jared Lee Loughner.
In reality, however, the only terror case brought against a group that could (un)charitably be called “right-wing extremists” was the 2010 case against the Hutaree. A whopping nine members strong, the Hutaree were/are a Michigan militia that was considered fringe and “cult-like” by other Michigan militias (perhaps because they “believ[e] that former NATO leader Javier Solana could be the antichrist,” among other things). The federal government charged them with sedition and conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction, allegedly as part of a plot to kill police officers and thus(?) foment an anti-government revolution. After an FBI raid scooped up the members, AG Holder sung the praises of the investigation built around an undercover FBI agent and an informant, calling the Hutaree a “dangerous organization.”
Fast-forward to today, when nearly all of the charges against the Hutaree, save illegal weapons possession, were dismissed in federal court. #more#Said District Judge Victoria Roberts: “The court is aware that protected speech and mere words can be sufficient to show a conspiracy. In this case, however, they do not rise to that level.” Secretly recorded statements by the Hutaree leader, David Stone Sr., “do not evince a concrete agreement to forcibly resist the authority of the United States government,” she added. “His diatribes evince nothing more than his own hatred for — perhaps even desire to fight or kill — law enforcement; this is not the same as seditious conspiracy.” The jury, which was dismissed without deliberating, appears to have felt the same way:
Jurors dismissed Thursday in the high-profile terror trial against members of the Hutaree, a Lenawee County militia group, said they were relieved they didn’t have to deliberate inthe case they called an “overstep” by U.S. attorneys.
“They overstepped a little bit. It wasn’t there,” said federal juror, Rickey Randall, 58, of St. Clair Shores. “It was just a lot of talk, talk, talk and no action.
“We were all on the same page,” said Randall, a retired construction worker. “They saw what I saw. I felt it was an overreach. I was shocked by what the government presented.”
Randall and a handful of other jurors shared their thoughts Thursday after arriving at the federal courthouse in Detroit and learning that the sevendefendants were acquitted on all the major countsand two others had pleaded guilty on weapons offenses.
Trevor Lyon, 31, of Berkley, said he and others believed prosecutors had a “firm grasp on the weapons charges, but lacked foundation on conspiracy charges.”
“It was the outcome that was going to happen either way,” said Lyon, who works in retail. “That’s my gut feeling as to how the jury would have gone about it.”
Of course, the line between the vague DHS report and the Hutaree case isn’t even a particularly straight one, considering the group does not seem to be motivated either by the president’s race, our current financial straits, or disgruntled military service. But nevertheless there you have it, the government’s only case brought to court in the three years since Janet Napolitano’s grave warning, and it ends not in a bang but a whimper. We appear to be safe for another day from the coordinated violence of right-wing extremists. Here’s to hoping we keep up the streak.