Report sees surge in U.S. extremism

Tribune Washington BureauApril 16, 2009 

— The economic downturn and the election of the nation's first black president are contributing to a resurgence among right-wing extremist groups that had been on the wane since the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, according to a U.S. intelligence assessment distributed to state and local authorities last week.

The report, produced by the Department of Homeland Security, has triggered a backlash among conservatives because it also raised the specter that disgruntled veterans returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan might "boost the capabilities of extremists ... to carry out violence."

The assessment notes that Homeland Security officials have seen no evidence that such groups are planning fresh attacks inside the United States. But it is the first high-level, U.S. intelligence report to call attention to an array of recent domestic developments as potential harbingers of terrorist violence.

Among the other factors cited in the report are prospects for new gun control and immigration legislation, as well as resentment over the rising economic influence of countries such as China, India and Russia.

But the assessment focuses most of its attention on animosity toward President Barack Obama and anxiety fueled by the recession. "The economic downturn and the election of the first African-American president present unique drivers for right-wing radicalization and recruitment," the report warns in the first of a series of key findings.

The unclassified report was not released publicly but was distributed widely among law enforcement agencies across the country before it surfaced online this week. It was produced by the intelligence and analysis branch of the Department of Homeland Security.

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