Wednesday

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) report entitled "Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment", dated April 7, 2009, which I have read, is apparently an unclassified summary of a larger classified report. The summary contains few proper names, has no footnotes of any significance, lists very few sources, and is drafted with a prejudice against anyone who criticizes the role of the federal government in our lives today. It lumps together in its definition of "rightwing extremism" hate groups, anti-government groups, and single issue groups "such as opposition to abortion or immigration."

The document itself cautions the reader that the document is "not to be released to the public, the media, or other personnel who do not have a valid need-to-know without prior approval" of the DHS. The document refers to itself as one of a series of intelligence assessments intended to "deter, prevent, preempt, or respond to terrorist attacks against the United States."

The thrust of this report is that the present environment of economic instability, returning military veterans, fear of the loss of Second Amendment-protected rights, an African-American President, and fear of "Jewish 'financial elites'" makes for fertile breeding grounds for groups whose power and ideas the government hates and fears. The document is essentially a warning for DHS and FBI officials to be on the look-out for rootless persons looking for the comfort of groups as they may be a danger to American security.

The summary (unclassified) document is terrifying. One can only imagine what is contained in the classified version. This document runs directly counter to numerous U.S. Supreme decisions prohibiting the government from engaging in any activities that could serve to chill the exercise of expressive liberties. Liberties are chilled, in constitutional parlance, when people are afraid to express themselves for fear of government omnipresence, monitoring, or reprisals. The document also informs the reader that Big Brother is watching both public and private behavior.

The whole purpose of the First Amendment is to guarantee open, broad, robust debate on the policies and personnel of the government. The First Amendment presumes that individuals--NOT THE GOVERNMENT--are free to choose what they believe and espouse, what they read and say, and with whom they associate in public and in private. The writers of this abominable report are particularly concerned with the expression of opinions that might be used to fuel ideas that challenge federal authority or favor state and local government over the federal government. Unfortunately, legislation passed during the past eight years gives the DHS and the FBI the tools to monitor everything from a telephone conversation to the keystrokes used on a personal computer without a warrant issued by a federal judge.

My guess is that the sentiments revealed in the report I read are the tip of an iceberg that the DHS would prefer to keep submerged until it needs to reveal it. This iceberg is the heavy hand of government; a government with large and awful eyes, in whose heart there is no love for freedom, and on whose face there is no smile.

To comment on this blog entry go to the original blog post.