The Corner

Not That Big a Deal?

This reader makes a point made by others as well:

Jonah,

I’ve read the report. It’s just one report. It’s kind of silly, and the language used is kind of stupid, but it’s not a direct assault on the American Right. DHS I&A has also produced an intelligence assessment on anarchist groups, and their connections to the wider antiwar movement, and on animal and environmental extremists, and their connections to the wider animal rights and environmentalist movements. The DHS analysts are just doing their jobs, and responding to the intelligence requirements of the intelligence customers who requested the report to begin with.

Oh, and they are also producing reports on the activities of militant Islamist, on their connections, and the threat they pose, but those reports are classified and therefore are not being leaked.

My message to everyone who has written on this subject with less than complete information: it’s okay to be annoyed by some of the silly language DHS uses in describing right-wing extremists, and the way it seems to paint with too broad a brush when dealing with the subject, but cool your jets. This is just one intelligence assessment among many, and most people working in homeland security intelligence (including me) are concerned with militant jihadist terrorists and groups first and foremost. It’s just that that information, and those terrorism assessments, are much less likely to be leaked due to the consequences (i.e. jail time for divulging classified information) of such a leak.

Assuming the reader — an analyst of this sort of stuff — is right in his take, it’s still worth pointing out that the “kind of stupid” language is no trivial matter. Yes, DHS has done reports on anti-war, environmental, and other groups. But my understanding is that they didn’t — and wouldn’t — use the all-purpose term “left-wing” to describe those threats. As Michelle Malkin notes:

“those past reports have always been very specific in identifying the exact groups, causes, and targets of domestic terrorism….By contrast, the piece of crap report issued on April 7 is a sweeping indictment of conservatives. And the intent is clear. As the two spokespeople I talked with on the phone today made clear: They both pinpointed the recent “economic downturn” and the “general state of the economy” for stoking “rightwing extremism.”

This matters. The term “right-wing” is routinely used to describe perfectly law-abiding, non-hate-filled politicians, even quite moderate ones. Heck, depending on who you talk to, Joe Lieberman is “right-wing.” In the 1990s and early in the Bush administration, Democrats were desperate to link mainstream conservatism with extremist violence. Bill Clinton essentially blamed the Oklahoma City bombing on Rush Limbaugh. In 2002, Tom Daschle replayed the same schtick. “What happens when Rush Limbaugh attacks those of us in public life is that people aren’t just content to listen.” Daschle explained to reporters, “People want to act because they get emotional . . . and the threats to those of us in public life go up dramatically, against us and against our families, and it’s very disconcerting.” Daschle said Limbaugh’s “shrill” tone is reminiscent of Islamic fundamentalists abroad.

Funny how so few liberals had a problem with this, but thought Ari Fleischer’s “careful what you say” line was starter’s pistol in the race to 1984.

Why not stick to the practice of describing these groups with more specificity and without the catchall, ideologically loaded descriptors?

If the Bush administration had issued a sweeping indictment of “left-wing” groups in America, arguing that they needed to be monitored, something tells me we’d be hearing a lot about it.

Readers insist the report is focused solely on violent groups, and they’re probably right that this is the authors’ intent. But that isn’t how it reads necessarily. Indeed, it goes out of its way to note that many of these groups haven’t done anything violent. The concern is that because they are right-wing they might be violent as if there is causation between being right-wing and being violent.

Again, I have no doubt that there are plenty of groups that are right-wing that deserve scrutiny from law enforcement. But this document reads like it is written to lend credence to a political argument more than it should.

And, please, don’t say they’re “just words.”

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