While the Homeland Security Department’s report on “right-wing extremist groups” sparked outrage and questions, it was not clear what was behind some of the details in the threat assessment, especially the infamous footnote focusing on “groups and individuals that are dedicated to a single issue, such as opposition to abortion or immigration.”
Shortly after the report’s release in April, the group Americans for Limited Government filed a Freedom of Information Act request with Homeland Security asking to see the supporting evidence for the assessment.
The report found no specific information that domestic right-wing terrorists were planning acts of violence but warned that they may be gaining new recruits by playing on fears about the recession and the election of the first black president.
The report also warned that disgruntled military personnel could be targeted to join with extremist groups looking to exploit their training and combat skills.
“We expected to receive back some hard-core analysis, some data analysis, looking at crime statistics and current trends that would back up conclusions in the report,” said Nathan Mehrens, a news contributor to Americans for Limited Government and a former Labor Department official.
“Instead what we got was a list of URLs to various Web sites, all kinds of news stories across the board,” Mehrens told FOX News.
The group dismisses the Web links to numerous media reports as nothing more than an afternoon of surfing the Web.
“What a good intelligent reporter would do is they would take that open-source intelligence information and they’d marry it to other things,” said James Carafano, a national security expert at the Heritage Foundation. “They might look at a wide variety of statistical data from alcohol tobacco and firearms, FBI. So you look at crime data, arrest data, look at classified material and investigations.
But based on the Homeland Security response to the information request, so far, it doesn’t look like that deeper analysis ever happened.
The assessment was launched under the Bush administration and completed by a career service employee within the department, not a political appointee of either former President Bush or President Obama.
Shortly after the report’s release, Secretary Janet Napolitano apologized repeatedly for any unintended offense.
“I was briefed on it. I’m not running away from it,” she said. “But I will say it was an assessment. It was not an accusation.”