April 16, 2009

DHS Targets Our Middle East Veterans

In an insult to American military personnel, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a report to local law enforcement agencies warning of "rightwing extremism." The report, entitled "Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment should be read by everyone - it is a clear indication of how this administration views its citizens in general and its veterans in particular. I was also not aware that "rightwing" is a word.

There are two sections in the report that address the threat from returning Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. For those without an intelligence background, the paragraph markings in the document indicate U for Unclassified, FOUO means For Official Use Only, and LES indicates Law Enforcement Sensitive.

Here is the first reference:

The possible passage of new restrictions on firearms and the return of military veterans facing significant challenges reintegrating into their communities could lead to the potential emergence of terrorist groups or lone wolf extremists capable of carrying out violent attacks.

This makes it sound like thousands of returning veterans are mentally troubled powder kegs waiting to explode or looking for extremist militias to join. Note the lack of any specific information or studies that back up this "assessment." Is this typical of the quality of work that costs us over $50 billion a year for DHS?

This is the second reference. DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano characterizes this as a "footnote." I've written quite a few intelligence assessments in my time - this is not a footnote, but a major section of the document.

(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.

So, "some" returning veterans have joined extremist groups. Given the numbers of people that serve in the armed forces, it only stands to reason that "some" might join these organizations. Further, DHS is relying on reports from "a prominent civil rights organization?" Is this how you collect and analyze threat information? If so, we really need to reassess that $50 billion dollar price tag.

These accusations are reminiscent of earlier insults by two elected officials. Congressman John Murtha (D-PA) called a group of Marines in Iraq "cold-blooded killers." All were subsequently tried and acquitted - I must have missed Murtha's apology. Then we had Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) comparing the alleged abuse of prisoners by American troops to techniques used by the Nazis, the Soviets and the Khmer Rouge.

Durbin's remarks are typical of those who have never worn the uniform of their country; Murtha has no such excuse. He served, but obviously has forgotten to honor his comrades in arms.

Secretary Napolitano's remarks are equally insulting:

“There is one thing I regret about that report and that it is being read by some to suggest that all veterans of our military services are somehow at risk of become extremists and committing violent acts in the homeland. My department is filled with veterans. There is no department that believes in our veterans more strongly than the United States Department of Homeland Security.

Really? Perhaps the Defense Department or Veterans Administration might take issue with that statement. I certainly do. If this report is your assessment of returning military veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan, you need to resign.