Out of the shadows

Conservative talk-show hosts, politicians, veterans groups and others say a Department of Homeland Security report this month warning law enforcement about right-wing extremist groups unfairly targets Americans who hold political views different from the current administration. The same critics ominously warn that the Obama administration is attempting to silence those who disagree with it.

Not only is this paranoid nonsense, but recent news stories about extremist groups here and elsewhere in the Northwest show the government is right to recommend extra vigilance.

First, the report:

"Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment," an intelligence assessment issued April 7, focuses on known right-wing extremist groups and the likelihood that they are attempting to attract and recruit new members. The report does not suggest, as critics have charged, that ordinary Americans who oppose abortion or gun control are extremists, only that a very few of them might be targeted for recruitment by these groups.

The report also discusses the leadership role military veterans play in these groups because of their specialized training. The document cites an FBI report from last year identifying a handful of military veterans known to be associated with established extremist groups.

The DHS report was initiated and the FBI report was issued during the Bush administration.

In January, DHS issued a similar report — also initiated before Obama took office — on left-wing extremist groups.

As the DHS and FBI documents point out, economic downturns often lead to a resurgence of violent extremist groups. Many of these groups espouse racist beliefs, so the election of this country's first African-American president only adds fuel to the fire.

Is the government crying wolf? Hardly.

Recent reports in this newspaper show these federal agencies are right to be concerned.

The first was an Associated Press report from Sandpoint, Idaho, that the Aryan Nations has surfaced again after several years of dormancy.

The Church of Jesus Christ Christian/Aryan Nations is a racist paramilitary group that has elevated hate to the level of a religion. The group adheres to the twisted "Christian Identity" belief system that says caucasians are the true chosen people of the Bible, that Jesus himself was caucasian, and that he will return after a purifying race war against nonwhites. One of its leaders told the Spokane newspaper that President Obama is the "greatest recruiting tool ever."

The second news item described the establishment of an Oregon Unit of the National Socialist Movement, headquartered in Phoenix. The local leaders of this country's largest neo-Nazi group claim the organization is nonviolent, but they and others associated with them have criminal records for assault, sex offenses and other crimes.

The common denominator between these two groups? Both are actively recruiting new members.

Hate groups thrive in the shadows, when no one is paying attention. Government scrutiny and publicity serve to alert the vast majority of Americans that these groups exist.

You can't oppose what you don't know is there.

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