Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Tuscon Massacre: The Missed Signs

Amplify’d from

The Missed Warning Signs

A 2009 study warned that the rise of right-wing extremism could spur violent attacks. But the report was attacked by Republicans, including now-Speaker John Boehner.

Shaun Tandon / AFP-Getty Images; Pima County Sheriff's Dept.-Getty Images (inset)

The modest home in Tucson, Arizona, where Jared Loughner (left) lived with his parents.

Two years before the Tucson massacre, the Department of Homeland Security warned in a report that right-wing extremism was on the rise and could prompt "lone wolves" to launch attacks. But the agency backed away from the report amid intense criticism from Republicans, including future House Speaker John Boehner.

The report, which warned that the crippled economy and the election of the first black president were “unique drivers for right-wing radicalization and recruitment,” described the rise of “lone wolves and small terrorist cells embracing violent right-wing extremist ideology [as] the most dangerous domestic terrorism threat in the United States,” according to a copy reviewed by The Center for Public Integrity.

“Not only was [the report] buried, the actual unit which created it was disemboweled,” said Brian Levin, a professor of criminal justice and the director of the Center for the Study of Hate & Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino. He noted that DHS is congressionally mandated to study long-term trends among extremist groups.

Levin worried that political fallout rendered the report’s findings “impotent,” as well as future reports from the department profiling extremist groups. “Rather than the report being a hit piece, the hit piece was what was done in the wake of the report.

“Was there some awkward language in one section? Sure. But it was a very well-done report.”
The awkward language he refers to was a section in the report warning that returning veterans could be prime targets for recruitment into extremist organizations. Then-Minority Leader Boehner of Ohio was one of many Republicans who called on DHS to apologize.

“Furthermore, the Secretary of Homeland Security owes the American people an explanation for why … her own department is using [“terrorist”] to describe American citizens who disagree with the direction Washington Democrats are taking our nation,” said Boehner, now House speaker.

Leading conservatives claimed the report was a White House-directed hit piece—commentator Michelle Malkin derided it as “propaganda.”

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