WASHINGTON (AP) _ Homeland Security officials are warning that right-wing extremists could use the bad state of the U.S. economy and the election of the country’s first black president to recruit members to their cause.
In an intelligence assessment issued to law enforcement last week, Homeland Security officials said there was no specific information about an attack in the works by right-wing extremists.
The agency warns that an extended economic downturn with real estate foreclosures, unemployment and an inability to obtain credit could foster an environment for extremists to recruit members who may not have been supportive of these causes in the past.
Homeland Security spokesman Sean Smith said the report is one in a series of assessments issued by the agency’s intelligence and analysis unit. The agency describes these assessments as part of a series published “to facilitate a greater understanding of the phenomenon of violent radicalization in the United States.”
In February, the department issued a report to law enforcement that said left-wing extremist groups were likely to use cyber attacks more often in the next 10 years to further their cause. And in September, the agency issued a report that highlighted how right-wing extremists over the past five years have used the immigration debate as a recruiting tool.
The latest assessment started making its way into the mainstream press after conservative blogs got wind of the analysis. In this report, the agency warns that imposing new restrictions on firearms and returning military veterans who have difficulties assimilating back into their communities could lead to terror groups or individuals attempting to carry out attacks. The returning war veterans have skills and experience that are appealing to right-wing groups looking to carry out an attack, according to the report.
The agency cites the April 4 killings of three Pittsburgh police officers as an example of the type of violence spurred by right-wing rhetoric.
“Despite similarities to the climate of the 1990s, the threat posed by lone wolves and small terrorist cells is more pronounced than in past years,” the report said.
In the 1990s, the report said, a resurgence in right-wing extremism was brought on by the poor economy and the outsourcing of jobs, with extremist groups targeting government facilities, law enforcement officers and banks.
The growth was slowed after intense government scrutiny of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombings, according to the report, but the Internet now gives extremists more access to information about making bombs and weapons training. The new technologies also make it easier for extremists to communicate, the report said, and make it more difficult for law enforcement to detect or prevent an attack.
In November, after Barack Obama’s election, law enforcement officials were seeing more threats and unusual interest against a president-elect than ever before.
One of the most popular white supremacist Web sites got more than 2,000 new members the day after the election, compared with 91 new members on Election Day, according to an Associated Press count. The site, stormfront.org, was temporarily off-line Nov. 5 because of the overwhelming amount of activity it received after Election Day.