Monday, March 22, 2010

Has It Come To This?

New Vigilance Needed in Wake of Healthcare Vote

by David Silverberg
Monday, 22 March 2010

Violent domestic extremism poses a real threat.

In the wake of the divisive 219-212 House vote passing healthcare reform, authorities need to heighten vigilance against extremist violence against government facilities.

The year-long healthcare debate was emotional and divisive and while the vote may have resolved the issue legislatively the passions it aroused are unlikely to die down soon.

In such an atmosphere extremist violence is a real possibility, particularly directed against government installations or symbols of government authority. Coming on top of a census process that has also been infused with extremist charges, homeland security officials at all levels of government should be especially vigilant against potential attacks from domestic sources.

Domestic extremist terrorism has long been on the homeland security radar. In 2009 a report by the Office of Intelligence & Analysis in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), titled,
Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment noted that while there were no specific plots under way, "rightwing extremists may be gaining new recruits by playing on their fears about several emergent issues." These included the election of the first African-American president and the economic downturn. It also reported that extremists were recruiting returning Iraqi war veterans. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano later disavowed the report as having been released prematurely without proper vetting.

More recently, on March 2 the Southern Poverty Law Center released its own report, Rage on the Right , reporting that "The radical right caught fire last year, as broad-based populist anger at political, demographic and economic changes in America ignited an explosion of new extremist groups and activism across the nation." According to this report, 363 new "Patriot" groups formed in 2009, with 127 of them being militias and the formation of 136 new anti-immigrant groups.

As though to underscore the volatility of the current situation, yesterday, as the House of Representatives voted on healthcare reform legislation, tens of thousands of demonstrators descended on Washington to demand comprehensive immigration reform, an issue that may prove even more passionate and divisive than healthcare.

Read the rest here, at Homeland Security Today

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