Monday, April 20, 2009

The real story about that 2008 FBI report on extremist recruiting in the US military...

... is that there was no story.

Here are the most important paragraphs from MSNBC in July 2008:

White-supremacist groups have recruited 203 people who served in the U.S. military or who claim to have U.S. military backgrounds, according to a new report by the FBI. The unclassified FBI Intelligence Assessment, issued last week and obtained by NBC News, cautions that white-power extremists are trying hard to recruit active-duty soldiers and recent veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“White supremacist extremists hope to revitalize the white supremacist movement by exploiting antigovernment sentiment among opponents of the overseas conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan,” the FBI report states. It adds, however, that the effort is not going particularly well. “Although some veterans of these conflicts have joined the extremist movement, they have not done so in numbers sufficient to stem declines among major national extremist organizations, nor has their participation resulted in a more violent extremist movement,” the FBI writes.

The report, titled “White Supremacist Recruitment of Military Personnel since 9/11,” compiles statistics from hundreds of FBI cases from October 2001 to May 2008. It finds that U.S. military experience “is found throughout the white supremacist extremist movement.” It adds: “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.”

And it’s not just veterans who are drawn to the cause. “FBI cases also document instances of active duty military personnel having volunteered their professional resources to white supremacist causes,” the report states. The FBI finds that “an estimated 19 veterans (approximately 9 percent of the 203) have verified or unverified service in the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

OK, now for the parsing:

1) The supposed group of 203 people is meaningless, because it includes both people with US military service and people who have made unverified claims of such service. In other words: the FBI doesn't even know if 203 former service members actually joined such group--just that the total who did must have been lower than 203.

2) The FBI report itself notes that while white supremacist groups may want military expertise, their recruiting efforts have been largely unsuccessful in expanding their numbers and have not led to an increase in violence

3) In my favorite quotation, the FBI finds that only 19 of the 203 individuals who might or might not have served in the military even claimed to be combat veterans from Iraq and Afghanistant with verified or unverified service in the ongoing wars.

So let's rewrite that final sentence in real English.

Instead of

The FBI finds that “an estimated 19 veterans (approximately 9 percent of the 203) have verified or unverified service in the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Let's do it this way:

The FBI admits that only 19 individuals (approximately 9% of its sample of 203 people who may or may not have been in the US military in the first place) claimed to be combat veterans, some of whom may or may not have been telling the truth.

So the reason that the 2008 FBI report didn't have any legs is that of the hundreds of thousands of US troops, our G-men could only find 19 individuals who might have been in the military, who might have been combat veterans, but they obviously don't even know who they are [or they could have verified their damn service records].

Yeah, this was a legitimate reason to use this material as the foundation for a major DHS report charging that we need to keep an eye out for large numbers of crazed US veterans coming home to shave their heads and get Hitler tatoos.

1 comment:

Townie 76 said...

Interesting post; I think the point the FBI was trying to make to that members of the military and veterans are potential recruits. As with most government agencies they did it in ham fisted manner.

Hank Foresman