Wash. Post ignores report on left-wing groups in citing claim that DHS report is "politically biased"

››› ››› DIANNA PARKER

In an article about "widespread criticism" of a DHS report detailing potential increases in right-wing extremism, The Washington Post reported the claim that the report is "incomplete and politically biased," but did not note that DHS previously issued a similar assessment of left-wing extremism.

An April 16 Washington Post article about" widespread criticism of a leaked domestic intelligence report warning local law enforcement agencies to be on guard for right-wing extremist groups seeking new recruits amid the nation's economic troubles" reported that American Legion national commander David K. Rehbein said the report was "incomplete and politically biased." However, the article did not mention that the Department of Homeland Security also issued an assessment on January 26 of left-wing extremism, concluding that "a number of emerging trends point to leftwing extremists maturing and expanding their cyber attack capabilities over the next decade with the aim of attacking targets in the United States."

Additionally, the Post did not note that the DHS assessment cited a 2008 FBI report -- authored during the Bush administration -- as evidence that "some returning military veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have joined extremist groups." In the July 2008 FBI report, titled "White Supremacist Recruitment of Military Personnel since 9/11," the FBI's Counterterrorism Division determined with "[h]igh confidence" that "[m]ilitary experience is found throughout the white supremacist extremist movement as the result of recruitment campaigns by extremist groups and self-recruitment by veterans sympathetic to white supremacist causes." The 2008 report further stated that a "review of FBI white supremacist extremist cases from October 2001 to May 2008 identified 203 individuals with confirmed or claimed military service active in the extremist movement at some time during the reporting period," and that "[a]ccording to FBI information, an estimated 19 veterans (approximately 9 percent of the 203) have verified or unverified service in the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan."

By contrast, the Los Angeles Times reported in an April 16 article that "Homeland Security officials dismissed accusations that the report was politically motivated, noting that a similar assessment issued in January focused on concerns that left-wing extremists were poised to increase their use of cyber attacks over the next decade." The Times also noted that the "Homeland Security document cites a 2008 FBI report that said some troops returning from Afghanistan and Iraq had joined extremist groups." From the Times:

The Homeland Security document cites a 2008 FBI report that said some troops returning from Afghanistan and Iraq had joined extremist groups.

The prospect that someone trained in military methods might carry out independent attacks or help form terrorist cells is described as "the most dangerous domestic terrorism threat in the United States."

Veterans groups have expressed dismay at the report's language, and accused the Department of Homeland Security of political bias.

[...]

[Homeland Security Secretary Janet] Napolitano, who as a U.S. attorney was involved in the case against McVeigh, said her department honored veterans and employed thousands of them.

But she defended the report as part of an ongoing effort to warn of emerging domestic threats.

"We don't have the luxury of focusing our efforts on one group," Napolitano said. "We must protect the country from terrorism, whether foreign or homegrown."

Homeland Security officials dismissed accusations that the report was politically motivated, noting that a similar assessment issued in January focused on concerns that left-wing extremists were poised to increase their use of cyber attacks over the next decade.

The department routinely issues intelligence warnings to state and local authorities, a role it was assigned in response to criticism that the federal government had failed to do so in the months preceding the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

From the April 16 Washington Post article by staff writer Ed O'Keefe, headlined "Napolitano Defends Report on Extremism":

The report drew sharp criticism from Republican lawmakers, conservatives and veterans groups, who said it unfairly targeted returning military veterans and gun rights advocates without citing specific threats. The report said the return of military veterans facing challenges with reintegrating into their communities "could lead to the potential emergence of terrorist groups or lone wolf extremists capable of carrying out violent attacks."

To characterize men and women returning home after defending our country as potential terrorists is offensive and unacceptable," House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) said in a statement. "The Department of Homeland Security owes our veterans an apology."

American Legion National Commander David K. Rehbein sent a letter to Napolitano calling the report incomplete and politically biased. The secretary plans to meet with Rehbein next week when she returns from a series of trips, according to her statement.

Aides said privately that the secretary regrets that critics have construed the report's language to suggest that the department perceives a threat from veterans, noting that the department's various agencies employ thousands of military veterans and that some of Napolitano's deputies once served in uniform.

"We are on the lookout for criminal and terrorist activity but we do not -- nor will we ever -- monitor ideology or political beliefs," Napolitano said in the statement. "We take seriously our responsibility to protect the civil rights and liberties of the American people, including subjecting our activities to rigorous oversight from numerous internal and external sources."

Posted In
National Security & Foreign Policy, Terrorism
Network/Outlet
The Washington Post
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