Trying to respond to the insane eruption of self-revealing wingnuttery over that Department of Homeland Security bulletin outlining the coming wave of right-wing domestic terrorism, Janet Napolitano went on CNN this morning to talk it over with John King on "State of the Union":
NAPOLITANO: Here is the important point. The report is not saying that veterans are extremists. Far from it. What it is saying is returning veterans are targets of right-wing extremist groups that are trying to recruit those to commit violent acts within the country. We want to do all we can to prevent that.
And again, I regret that in the politicization of everything that happens in Washington, D.C., some people took offense, but when you read the report, what it was saying -- what it was saying is, look, we have a threat of terrorism within our own shores, and one of the groups being targeted to see if they will be aligned with that are some of our veterans. Let's make sure we prevent that.
KING: Do you regret the politicization, or do you regret the choice of words by your department? Could it have been written better, to maybe reduce the politicization?
NAPOLITANO: In retrospect, anything could have been written differently to prevent politicization, but I think any fair reading of the report says this is very consistent with other reports that have been issued before, they were issued before Obama was president, they're being issued now. They're meant to give people what is called situational awareness, and they're certainly not intended to give offense, far from it.
Finally, and most on the tip of wingnut tongues, is the claim that the report "singles out" all returning veterans as potential recruits for right-wing extremists. In reality, the report only singles out returning veterans who become active in violent hate groups.
Here's the actual language of the report:
U//FOUO) Returning veterans possess combat skills and experience that are attractive to rightwing extremists. DHS/I&A is concerned that rightwing extremists will attempt to recruit and radicalize returning veterans in order to boost their violent capabilities.
This is, in fact, precisely accurate -- and as we pointed out from the get-go, this is the view not merely of DHS, but of the FBI. A July 2008 assessment of the situation by the FBI (titled White Supremacist Recruitment of Military Personnel Since 9/11) found that the numbers of identifiable neo-Nazis within the ranks was quite small (only a little over 200), but warned:
Military experience—ranging from failure at basic training to success in special operations forces—is found throughout the white supremacist extremist movement. FBI reporting indicates extremist leaders have historically favored recruiting active and former military personnel for their knowledge of firearms, explosives, and tactical skills and their access to weapons and intelligence in preparation for an anticipated war against the federal government, Jews, and people of color.
... The prestige which the extremist movement bestows upon members with military experience grants them the potential for influence beyond their numbers. Most extremist groups have some members with military experience, and those with military experience often hold positions of authority within the groups to which they belong.
... It's important to understand how FBI investigations into these kinds of activities take place: The FBI is constrained by DOJ guidelines that do not allow them to investigate organizations merely because of incendiary rhetoric or politically worrisome beliefs. They only open investigations into the activities of members of such groups when there is evidence of actual criminal activity.
And it's at that time that the presence of an extremist with a military background becomes not merely relevant, but potentially important.