A Department of Homeland Security (DHS) intelligence assessment was published to the Internet this week, warning that opposition to federal government policies could foment a resurgence of "rightwing extremism." The DHS report is the latest indication that many law enforcement agencies regard advocacy groups as intelligence targets and lawful political dissent as a potential sign of terrorism.
In addition to the recession and the election of Barack Obama, the DHS report identified opposition to illegal immigration, expanded social programs, abortion and gun control as factors galvanizing radicalization. No specific groups are listed; instead, the DHS report broadly characterizes these potential terrorists as either "primarily hate-oriented" or "mainly anti-government." Some conservatives and libertarians take the report as an indictment of their values. However, this is not a left-versus-right issue, and those blogs framing it that way are missing the point. Rather, the real problem is figuring out how lawful dissent squares with efforts to fight terrorism and the persistent inability of domestic intelligence agencies to adequately draw the distinction.
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