Jeff Schoep, head of the National Socialist Movement, the largest neo-Nazi group in the U.S., told USA Today, “Historically, when times get tough in our nation, that's how movements like ours gain a foothold. When the economy suffers, people are looking for answers… We are the answer for white people.” (Image: Latuff)
When the Department of Homeland Security released the report “Right-wing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment” last month, right-wing bloggers, media and politicians went completely bonkers.
The report suggested that racist extremists might use the election of the nation’s first black president to recruit members and that the recession “could create a fertile recruiting environment for right-wing extremists and even result in confrontations between such groups and government authorities similar to those in the past.”
Predictably, conservatives were flabbergasted by the notion that there could really be the threat of another crazy whitey out there like Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber, and denounced the report as politically motivated propaganda. There was literally no consideration that anything in the report could be valid. Instead, Republicans lashed out at Obama (despite the fact that the report was initially commissioned under Bush) and DHS Chief Janet Napolitano.
A statement made by Rep. John Carter (R-Texas) on April 22 accurately captures the tone of his party’s outrage: “Singling out political opponents for working against the ruling party is precisely the tactic of every tyrannical government from Red China to Venezuela.”
Strangely, instead of standing behind the report Napolitano apologized. Things settled down for a bit, then on Wednesday House Republicans “filed a resolution of inquiry that would give Napolitano 14 days to provide Congress with materials detailing how the Department of Homeland Security arrived at the conclusions contained in the report.” (via RollCall)
Why Napolitano didn’t fight back to defend the DHS report in the first place is baffling, because there is much credible evidence to back up concerns about right-wing extremists. The part of the report that infuriated its critics most was the warning that vets returning from the Middle East could play a role in these militias, and this is the claim that Napolitano seemed to back down from fastest. Yet, way back in 2006 Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Report revealed that “alarming numbers of neo-Nazi skinheads and other white supremacist extremists were taking advantage of lowered armed services recruiting standards and lax enforcement of anti-extremist military regulations by infiltrating the U.S. armed forces in order to receive combat training and gain access to weapons and explosives.”
Another SPLC report released in 2008 quoted a freshly unclassified FBI Intelligence Assessment titled “White Supremacist Recruitment of Military Personnel Since 9/11” to provide evidence of this trend: “Sensitive and reliable source reporting indicates supremacist leaders are encouraging followers who lack documented histories of neo-Nazi activity and overt racist insignia such as tattoos to infiltrate the military as ‘ghost skins,’ in order to recruit and receive training for the benefit of the extremist movement.’” [I emphasize: That sentence is from an FBI REPORT.]
The SPLC article, “Evidence of Extremist Infiltration of Military Grows” by David Holthouse, cites several examples of white nationalists discussing plans in online forums to use stolen weapons and explosives training gained in the military to instigate a race war. Far from anonymous cyber-swagger, the FBI Assessment explains that coordinated plots to steal military supplies for this very purpose have already been identified.
The FBI Assessment describes how there was “probable cause” to believe that a soldier stationed at Fort Hood inTexas “had participated in a white extremist meeting and also provided a military technical manual 31-210, Improvised Munitions Handbook, to the leader of a white extremist group in order to assist in the planning and execution of future attacks on various targets.” Shockingly, the investigation of the soldier involved in this incident was called off by “higher ups” in the military after a single November 2006 interview.
Evidence obtained from the Army’s Criminal Investigative Division through a Freedom of Information Act request by Columbia University’s Matthew Kennard found that “Army commanders repeatedly terminated investigations of suspected extremist activity in the military despite strong evidence it was occurring.” In other words, there are plenty of similar cover-ups happening out there.
Without even taking into account the historical precedent that many extremist militia members have come from military backgrounds, the findings suggesting that military officers are turning a blind eye to white nationalists using their time in the service to train for domestic terrorism operations and even use government materials to carry out these attacks should would seem to have provided Janet Napolitano some ammo to fire back with… so why didn’t she?
I have no idea, but I hope her response to the Republicans’ inquiry draws a bit more critical attention to this issue than last time around.