A.B. Stoddard falsely claimed that a DHS report on "rightwing extremists" "didn't back up the claims with evidence." In fact, the report specifically pointed to previous reports that "some returning military veterans" have "associated with rightwing extremist groups."
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During the June 11 edition of MSNBC's The Ed Show, A.B. Stoddard, associate editor of The Hill, falsely claimed that a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) report alerting law enforcement that "rightwing extremists will attempt to recruit and radicalize returning veterans," "offended veterans and other people mentioned in the report because it didn't back up the claims with evidence." Stoddard added, "Now, if you want to rile up extremists, write reports from the government without evidence." In fact, the DHS report specifically pointed to previous reports that "some returning military veterans" have "joined or associated with rightwing extremist groups," including a July 2008 report -- issued by the Bush administration -- that drew a similar conclusion.
As Media Matters for America has noted, in the July 2008 report, titled "White Supremacist Recruitment of Military Personnel since 9/11," the FBI's Counterterrorism Division found 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 andself-recruitment by veterans sympathetic to white supremacist causes." The FBI report further stated: "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." It also stated: "According 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."
DHS also cited a 2006 report by "a prominent civil rights organization" that "large numbers of potentially violent neo-Nazis, skinheads, and other white supremacists are now learning the art of warfare in the [U.S.] armed forces" and the case of Gulf War veteran and convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh.
From the DHS report:
(U) Disgruntled Military Veterans
(U//FOUO) DHS/I&A assesses that rightwing extremists will attempt to recruit and radicalize returning veterans in order to exploit their skills and knowledge derived from military training and combat. These skills and knowledge have the potential to boost the capabilities of extremists -- including lone wolves or small terrorist cells -- to carry out violence. The willingness of a small percentage of military personnel to join extremist groups during the 1990s because they were disgruntled, disillusioned, or suffering from the psychological effects of war is being replicated today.
- (U) After Operation Desert Shield/Storm in 1990-1991, some returning military veterans -- including Timothy McVeigh -- joined or associated with rightwing extremist groups.
- (U) A prominent civil rights organization reported in 2006 that "large numbers of potentially violent neo-Nazis, skinheads, and other white supremacists are now learning the art of warfare in the [U.S.] armed forces."
- (U//LES) The FBI noted in a 2008 report on the white supremacist movement that some returning military veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have joined extremist groups.
From the FBI report (footnote omitted):
(U) Key Judgments
Except where noted, the confidence levels for the following judgments are considered moderate.
- (U//FOUO) High confidence: Military 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. Extremist leaders seek to recruit members with military experience in order to exploit their discipline, knowledge of firearms, explosives, and tactical skills and access to weapons and intelligence.
- (U//FOUO) Although individuals with military backgrounds constitute a small percentage of white supremacist extremists, they frequently occupy leadership roles within extremist groups and their involvement has the potential to reinvigorate an extremist movement suffering from loss of leadership and in-fighting during the post-9/11 period.
- (U//FOUO) White supremacist extremists hope to revitalize the white supremacist movement by exploiting antigovernment sentiment among opponents of the overseas conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Although some veterans of these conflicts have joined the extremist movement, they have not done so in numbers sufficient to stem declines among major national extremist organizations, nor has their participation resulted in a more violent extremist movement.
- (U//FOUO) Looking ahead, current and former military personnel belonging to white supremacist extremist organizations who experience frustration at the inability of these organizations to achieve their goals may choose to found new, more operationally minded and operationally capable groups. The military training veterans bring to the movement and their potential to pass this training on to others can increase the ability of lone offenders to carry out violence from the movement's fringes.
From the June 11 edition of MSNBC's The Ed Show:
STODDARD: Now, as for the Homeland Security Department report, which we discussed on this show months back, the problem with that one was that it offended veterans and other people mentioned in the report because it didn't back up the claims with evidence. Now, if you want to rile up extremists, write reports from the government without evidence.
I think that if the Obama administration wants to come out and be vigorous about a public relations campaign about the rise in extremism that has resulted from Barack Obama's election, I think they need to put some meat behind it and be very specific about the rise of these threats.
MICHAEL CROWLEY (senior editor for The New Republic): Well, I think that's a fine point, although I'm not sure -- A.B., correct me if I'm wrong -- that that report was meant to be public. I think it might have been a leak -- so, just in defense of the Homeland Security Department. But I think you make a good point.