There's a lot going on with this story that the Drudge Report has been hyping all day:
The Department of Homeland Security is warning law enforcement officials about a rise in "rightwing extremist activity," saying the economic recession, the election of America's first black president and the return of a few disgruntled war veterans could swell the ranks of white-power militias.
A footnote attached to the report by the Homeland Security Office of Intelligence and Analysis defines "rightwing extremism in the United States" as including not just racist or hate groups, but also groups that reject federal authority in favor of state or local authority.
"It may include groups and individuals that are dedicated to a single-issue, such as opposition to abortion or immigration," the warning says.
Normally I hate the phrase "on one hand, on the other hand," but here goes....
On one hand, I've been highly critical here when Homeland Security under the Bush administration appeared to be spying on certain peace groups, especially when the evidence seemed pretty clear that these groups were non-violent. And the same holds true when the situation is reversed -- the government shouldn't be spying or infiltrating groups that want to peacefully protest issues such as immigration and abortion. Monitor public websites, sure, and follow up on tips and other traditional evidence of possible violence -- but use common sense.
On the other hand, you have to have your head in the sand not to be worried about a potential rising tide of right-wing violence, as evidenced already by the Pittsburgh cop-killing spree. But this is something we ALL need to monitor -- a more assertive media (that needs to question the toxic role of other media), for sure -- and also the vast majority of decent citizens with conservative views. In other words, there are plenty of ways to fight violence that don't involve violating people's civil liberties. So Homeland Security should tread very lightly here.