Recent incidents of extremist violence claiming the lives of abortion provider George Tiller and a security guard at the Holocaust Museum have prompted calls for the Department of Homeland Security to accelerate the release of an updated report on right-wing extremism.
Amid howls that it had politicized national security, DHS stepped back from a mid-April report it had issued on domestic threats from fringe right-wing groups. "The report is no longer out there," Secretary Janet Napolitano told lawmakers, promising to have the report "replaced or redone in a much more useful and much more precise fashion."
Several weeks later, the findings of the original study have been proven prescient, specifically in its warnings about violent acts from anti-abortion zealots and anti-Semites. Now, demands for that follow-up have grown more urgent.
On Thursday, the judicial advocacy organization, People for the American Way, faxed a letter to Napolitano calling on the Department of Homeland Security Chief to "expedite the approval of the 'Rightwing Extremism' report and release a final version as soon as possible."
"Although the [original] report was withdrawn with the intent of being rewritten, the events of the last two weeks show that its core findings are fundamentally correct: 'The economic downturn and the election of the first African-American president present unique drivers for rightwing radicalization and recruitment.' The Department of Homeland Security is charged with protecting the security of all Americans, and it is essential for the American public to have the unvarnished truth about the rise of dangerous extremism in this country," read the letter from PFAW President Michael Keegan.
"I urge you to expedite the approval of the "Rightwing Extremism" report and release a final version as soon as possible," Keegan added. "Moreover, the report should offer the best available assessment of possible threats from far-right groups and individuals, no matter how politically inconvenient the findings might be to some groups. If the report can not be released immediately, please announce publicly the current status of the report and when you expect it to be published."
A researcher on right-wing organizations noted that the security onus was on DHS to act fast. "The threat of right-wing violence is only increasing," said the source, "and Americans could be put at risk if DHS takes too long to issue a new report or waters the old one down."
Indeed, in the wake of the shooting of a Holocaust Museum security guard by white supremacist James Von Brunn, the original DHS report is getting a more favorable review. Even some critics of the study, who claimed that it compared conservatives and returning veterans to domestic terrorists, acknowledged that their initial reactions may have been hasty and overblown. That said -- and this is important -- the report was never formally pulled, according to a DHS official. Despite reports otherwise, the department, this official said "never retracted the original report." It was, as Napolitano noted in her testimony, "taken off of the intel Web sites." As the official said, DHS "very publicly acknowledged it had flaws."
But, that official added, "We stood by the underlying intel... it was never pulled back from the entities who received it in the first place."