Saturday, April 18, 2009

Leftwing extremism, rightwing extremism, and why all the rhetoric matters...

... because there are subtle re-framings of reality taking place all over the place.

At odds: two DHS reports on extremist threats (rightwing and leftwing) and all the attendant chatter.

Some of the most inaccurate and irresponsible of which is coming from our own beloved Delaware blogosphere.

First, let's get the chronology straight: there are two DHS reports that have been leaked to the wider world: one on rightwing extremism (dated 7 April 2009 and leaked the following week) and one on leftwing extremism (dated 26 January 2009 and not leaked until the other one had caused such a furor).

Here's what one local blogger picks out as significant about the two reports:

There was a left-wing extremist report released in January, that we haven’t heard anyone whine about yet. Any thoughts as to why?

Both of these reports were commissioned by BushCo, and were released after Bush left.

The current energy that conservatives are putting into this misses the point of these documents....

The point is certainly to continue to inoculate the right from any accountability of what they say by embracing the worst of their fringe elements.

Personally, I am perfectly happy that law enforcement is watching groups like Aryan Nations or the known violent anti-abortion groups. In the very same way I am perfectly OK with law enforcement monitoring the Bloods and the Crips.

OK, I'll play: first, the timing in this comment is off. While both of these reports were obvious initially commissioned by the Department of Homeland Security prior to President Obama's inauguration, only the Leftwing report passes muster as having been released without vetting by the new bosses. Why? Because the Rightwing report, as I have previous noted, makes explicit, dated reference to the police killings in Pittsburgh on 4 April 2009--three days before the report was published.

Moreover, the passages in the Rightwing Extremism report regarding the potential recruitment of disgruntled military personnel were obviously lifted from a February 2009 FBI draft report from Operation Vigilant Eagle, which provided DHS with virtually the same wording

Taken together, these two indicators mean the report was obviously vetted and revised in-house not only after Janet Napolitano was in charge, but well after the flap over the Missouri Miac Report on the militia movement generated such bad press for our homeland security apparatus. In other words: the Rightwing report had plenty of time to be either vetted or delayed by the new administration. So the idea that this is some kind of holdover from the Bush years that doesn't reflect current priorities is ... strike one.

But let's take a further look at that Leftwing Extremism report, which could be better characterized as a virtual whitewash of animal rights, eco-warriors, and left-leaning anarchists. The report concentrates exclusively on potential cyber-attacks from these groups, because

(U//FOUO) DHS/I&A assesses that cyber attacks are attractive options to leftwing extremists who view attacks on economic targets as aligning with their nonviolent, “no-harm” doctrine and tactic of “direct action.”

— (U//FOUO) Their no-harm doctrine includes claiming to ensure the safety of humans, animals, and the environment even as they attack businesses and associated operations.

Yet the same report also includes this passage in the appendix:

— (U//LES) Animal rights and environmental extremists seek to end the perceived abuse and suffering of animals and the degradation of the natural environment perpetrated by humans. They use non-violent and violent tactics that, at times, violate criminal law.

Well, uh, which is it--violent or non-violent?

Ah, gee, isn't it amazing that DHS--which could cite numerous cyber-related actions by animal rights and environmental groups from 2004-2008--couldn't seem to find these, which I referenced from open sources last August:

January 2004: Molotov cocktail used in attack on UCLA researchers...

February 2004: Six masked assailants break into the home of a UC Santa Cruz biologist and assault him and his wife...

August 2004: Firebombing of the homes of two University of California--Santa Cruz biologists conducting animal research....

March 2008: eco-terrorists leave a sign announcing their responsibility for fire-bombing three houses in a Seattle suburb...

And the commentary by a well-known animal rights' extremist on many of these acts:

A different view was expressed today by Jerry Vlasak, a Los Angeles spokesman for the North American Animal Liberation Press Office, which often posts on its Web site communiques from activists taking credit for attacks. He said the benefit of animal research does not justify its expense or the exploitation of animals.

Vlasak said the bombers likely were not trying to hurt Feldheim, but were instead "trying to send a message to this guy, who won't listen to reason, that if he doesn't stop hurting animals, more drastic measures will be taken ... it's certainly not an initial tactic, but a tactic of last resort."

There are many more examples, and they are not that difficult to find, especially if you actually have the power of law enforcement databases at your beck and call. Which raises the delicate question, What's going on with the characterization of leftwing extremists as non-violent and only interested in cyber-crimes?

I'll leave that one at the moment as an exercise for the student. [But go back to our local blogger and think ... strike two.]

But let's proceed to play a little game known post-9/11 as connect the dots. The key to this game, however, is to recognize the appropriate chronology to employ, as law enforcement officials around the country recognize that there's a new President in town, and his priorities for spreading around Homeland Security money are likely to be quite different.

January 2009: DHS Leftwing extremism report essentially proclaims that there is no violent threat from these groups, despite a documented history of such violence over the past four years.

February 2009: Missouri MIAC report on the militia movement focuses at least part of its attention on folks identified as supporting third-party candidates or sporting anti-government propaganda.

February 2009: A draft FBI report on Operation Vigilant Eagle indicates concern about rightwing extremist groups recruiting disgruntled veterans.

April 2009: An obvious lone-wolf rightwing extremist kills 4 Pittsburgh cops on 4 April

April 2009: DHS releases Rightwing extremism report on 7 April that contains mixed and often contradictory language (see analysis here) indicating multiple authors or significant editorial revision; this report also contains material from the FBI draft report and makes reference to the shooting three days before the publication date.

April 2009: Two days after the DHS report is disseminated through law enforcement and homeland security channels, the Maryland Army National Guard issues an alert through its anti-terrorism office warning AGR personnel to be wary of 15 April Tea Parties. You can read that document here, but consider just these snippets:

1. (U) This Maryland Army National Guard (MDARNG) Force Protection advisory is in response to a nationwide planned protest activities scheduled for April 15, 2009. Although there is no known direct threat to MDNG facilities and MDNG members, they may become a target of opportunity during plan protest activities throughout Maryland.


3. (U//FOUO) SITUATION: Numerous entities have formed recently to express displeasure/anger over recent federal/state government actions: more taxes, increased spending, higher deficits, a surge of borrowing to pay for it all, bailout of the financial institutions, and etc. This movement can be identified by different variations of “TEA Party” or “Tea Party.” Past “TEA Party” events have been peaceful. There was a “Tea party” event at Solomons, Maryland, on March 22, 2009. “TEA” stands for “Taxed Enough Already.”


a. (U) Full-time personnel (i.e. armories) and recruiters need to be aware their surroundings. Contact local law enforcement when feel threaten [xic] by protesters or protesters trespass into MDNG property.


b. (U//FOUO) Commanders at all levels should establish relationship with local police in order to understand the local threats. Keep family members informed. Talk to other service personnel to share information. Practice OPSEC. Don’t provide personal information to anyone you don’t know. Avoid high risk areas.


c. (U//FOUO) Commanders are encouraged to update alert rosters and review emergency evacuation plans/rally points. Ensure all facilities have emergency phone lists posted (i.e. FBI, FIRE, POLICE, HOSPITALS, EMS, ETC…). Be aware of and avoid local protests. Report all potential protest activities to your next higher headquarters.

Fascinating, Mr. Spock would have said, Exactly when did the National Guard and National Guard armories ever come in for targeting--even in the most oblique rhetorical fashion--by the organizers of the Tea Parties?

What's actually occurring here--and across the nation with literally hundreds of similar documents that we will never see--is a three-fold agenda on the part of three different actors:

1. State and local law enforcement officials absolutely need an increased domestic extremism threat in order to keep homeland security dollars flowing--and it has to be a rightwing threat, because the current administration is not really interested in going after Earth First....

2. Meanwhile, many liberal and progressive political pundits, operatives, and bloggers are taking advantage of (a) the current floundering of the GOP; and (b) the re-ordering of the nation's operating political narrative to attempt to push certain topics of political discourse completely off the radar of acceptable issues for discussion and debate, to label them as extremism and link them directly to calls for, support for, or at least tacit approval of extremist political violence.

3. While the current presidential administration stands apparently aloof from the fray, but (a) holds on to every constitution-shredding, police-state power that Dubya ever grabbed; (b) washes its hands in Pilate-like fashion of the issue of torture by disclosing documents without any intention to prosecute the implicated; and (c) fails to exercise any more restraint on the spiralling, out-of-control political rhetoric of either side than did its predecessor.

Why? Governments need enemies, and domestic enemies make the best of all possible opponents, for all sorts of reasons.

Don't get me wrong: there are violent, nasty people out there: skinheads, black separatists, eco-terrorists, Muslim honor-killers, fag-bashers, beltway snipers....

There are also blowhards like Glenn Beck, Chuck Norris, and any drunk Texian who will boast about secession with a couple of beers in him whether he's the governor or not....

But what's going on now--and our local blogging community gets it quite well--is primarily an exercise in selective outrage, faux paranoia, and partisan politics as a contact sport.

It has damn-all little to do with real law enforcement activities which will keep any of us any safer.

Let's just call that ... strike three.


UNRR said...

This post has been linked for the HOT5 Daily 4/19/2009, at The Unreligious Right

Nancy Willing said...

well, that's HOT!