In 2009, conservative media perpetually mischaracterized a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) report on potential increases in right-wing terrorism to suggest DHS was targeting conservatives for political reasons. On Sunday, PJ Media correspondent Patrick Poole extended this long-running attack by criticizing a new DHS document that defines categories of "domestic terrorism and homegrown violent extremism." The document doesn't mention conservatives, but does include a definition of "militia extremists." According to the document DHS defines "militia extremists" as:
(U//FOUO) Groups or individuals who facilitate or engage in acts of violence directed at federal, state, or local government officials or infrastructure in response to their belief that the government deliberately is stripping Americans of their freedoms and is attempting to establish a totalitarian regime. These individuals consequently oppose many federal and state authorities' laws and regulations, (particularly those related to firearms ownership), and often belong to armed paramilitary groups. They often conduct paramilitary training designed to violently resist perceived government oppression or to violently overthrow the US Government. [emphasis added]
Poole's flawed analysis of the DHS document concludes that DHS classifies essentially everyone that dislikes or distrusts the government for conservative reasons as "militia extremists." In a post titled "Homeland Security: You're All 'Militia Extremists' Now," Poole quotes the DHS definition of "militia extremists" and then complains:
So what drives militia extremism according to DHS now is "belief that the government deliberately is stripping Americans of their freedoms." It is demonstrated by opposing "many federal and state authorities' laws and regulations, (particularly those related to firearms ownership)." Would writing about those topics (as I am now) fall under "facilitation"? On its face, it's hard to see how it could be excluded under DHS's broad definition.
So despite the fact that "militia extremists" are classified as "Groups or individuals who facilitate or engage in acts of violence," Poole suggests DHS would unfairly target conservatives not engaged in or facilitating violence. In reality DHS isn't saying militia extremism is "demonstrated by opposing" federal laws and regulations, but by opposing them through violence.
Poole's argument further falls apart given that DHS isn't even focusing on conservative ideologies. While listing "militia extremists" as one category of extremist activity, DHS also defines non-conservative categories such as, "anarchist," "animal rights," and "environmental rights." Under Poole's logic, DHS would also be saying that opposing environmental degradation makes you a terrorist.
Violent militia extremism isn't a hypothetical concern for our nation's law enforcement. A 2009 report by the Southern Poverty Law Center concluded that militia and other right-wing extremists groups were experiencing a "second wave" of growth following the election of Barack Obama. Last summer militia members in Alaska were arrested on charges of conspiracy to murder judges and State Troopers. In November four members of a Georgia militia were arrested in connection with an alleged plot to kill federal employees.