David Asman stated of the DHS report on right-wing extremist groups' recruiting of veterans, "I'm wondering if all this isn't just a desire on part of the administration to shut up its critics." But Asman didn't note that the DHS cited an FBI report authored under President Bush that previously identified this pattern.
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During the April 14 edition of Fox News' Your World, guest host David Asman repeatedly criticized the Obama administration over the conclusion by the Department of Homeland Security's Office of Intelligence and Analysis that "rightwing extremists will attempt to recruit and radicalize returning veterans in order to exploit their skills and knowledge derived from military training and combat." Asman stated that he thought the report "was insulting, what it was implying about veterans because it focuses attention on a very small minority of people within the veteran community" and that he was "wondering if all this isn't just a desire on part of the administration to shut up its critics, wherever they are." But at no point during the segment did Asman note that as evidence for its conclusion, the DHS cited a 2008 FBI report -- authored during the Bush administration -- that stated, in the words of the DHS, that "some returning military veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have joined extremist groups."
In the July 2008 report, titled "White Supremacist Recruitment of Military Personnel since 9/11," the FBI's Counterterrorism Division found with "[h]igh confidence" that "[m]ilitary experience is found throughout the white supremacist extremist movement as the result of recruitment campaigns by extremist groups and self-recruitment by veterans sympathetic to white supremacist causes." The FBI further found with "moderate confidence":
- (U//FOUO) Although individuals with military backgrounds constitute a small percentage of white supremacist extremists, they frequently occupy leadership roles within extremist groups and their involvement has the potential to reinvigorate an extremist movement suffering from loss of leadership and in-fighting during the post-9/11 period.
- (U//FOUO) White supremacist extremists hope to revitalize the white supremacist movement by exploiting antigovernment sentiment among opponents of the overseas conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Although some veterans of these conflicts have joined the extremist movement, they have not done so in numbers sufficient to stem declines among major national extremist organizations, nor has their participation resulted in a more violent extremist movement.
- (U//FOUO) Looking ahead, current and former military personnel belonging to white supremacist extremist organizations who experience frustration at the inability of these organizations to achieve their goals may choose to found new, more operationally minded and operationally capable groups. The military training veterans bring to the movement and their potential to pass this training on to others can increase the ability of lone offenders to carry out violence from the movement's fringes.
The report further stated: "A review of FBI white supremacist extremist cases from October 2001 to May 2008 identified 203 individuals with confirmed or claimed military service active in the extremist movement at some time during the reporting period." It also stated: "According to FBI information, an estimated 19 veterans (approximately 9 percent of the 203) have verified or unverified service in the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan."
In a July 16, 2008, post to MSNBC.com's Deep Background investigative blog, NBC News senior investigative producer Jim Popkin reported on the FBI report, writing:
White-supremacist groups have recruited 203 people who served in the U.S. military or who claim to have U.S. military backgrounds, according to a new report by the FBI. The unclassified FBI Intelligence Assessment, issued last week and obtained by NBC News, cautions that white-power extremists are trying hard to recruit active-duty soldiers and recent veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
During the Your World segment, Asman said that the report's statement that "[a]fter Operation Desert Shield/Storm in 1990-1991, some returning military veterans -- including [Oklahoma City bomber] Timothy McVeigh -- joined or associated with rightwing extremist groups" was "like saying, 'Watch out for all doctors because Jack the Ripper might have been a doctor.' " He later added: "I'm wondering how somebody could have read this through -- these reports are written, and then they're read through by somebody to check their -- you know, whether they'll create a political stir. Who could have passed this on? I mean, who could have read this and not thought it would stir people up?"
From the DHS report, titled "Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment":
(U) Disgruntled Military Veterans
(U//FOUO) DHS/I&A assesses that rightwing extremists will attempt to recruit and radicalize returning veterans in order to exploit their skills and knowledge derived from military training and combat. These skills and knowledge have the potential to boost the capabilities of extremists -- including lone wolves or small terrorist cells -- to carry out violence. The willingness of a small percentage of military personnel to join extremist groups during the 1990s because they were disgruntled, disillusioned, or suffering from the psychological effects of war is being replicated today.
-- (U) After Operation Desert Shield/Storm in 1990-1991, some returning military veterans -- including Timothy McVeigh -- joined or associated with rightwing extremist groups.
-- (U) A prominent civil rights organization reported in 2006 that "large numbers of potentially violent neo-Nazis, skinheads, and other white supremacists are now learning the art of warfare in the [U.S.] armed forces."
-- (U//LES) The FBI noted in a 2008 report on the white supremacist movement that some returning military veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have joined extremist groups.
From the April 14 edition of Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto:
ASMAN: Well, a new government report singling out military veterans as a potential threat to homeland security. The report claiming returning veterans could be radicalized by right-wing groups to carry out violence and points to Timothy McVeigh as an example. My next guest calls the report an insult to all veterans. Pete Hegseth joins us now. He served in Iraq.
Pete, I looked at this report -- I thought it was insulting, what it was implying about veterans because it focuses attention on a very small minority of people within the veteran community.
HEGSETH: David, that's exactly right. There are a lot of problems with the report, but the fact that it singles out military veterans who, as it quotes, have -- are going to have problems reintegrating into their communities and they have combat skills, therefore they're apt to be recruited by right-wing extremist groups that commit violence against the community. It's amazing to me.
And the example of Timothy McVeigh -- that's like saying that Timothy McVeigh representing disgruntled veterans is like Osama bin Laden representing Islam. It's taking the extreme example and saying, "Look out for these veterans," and it's re--
ASMAN: Or like saying, "Watch out for all doctors because Jack the Ripper might have been a doctor." I mean, you know, they --
HEGSETH: That's exactly right.
ASMAN: It's nuts.
HEGSETH: But more --
ASMAN: Why do you think they did this, Pete, because there's something going on here. What is it?
HEGSETH: Well, I think it's more -- it's the overall narrative. It's part of what academia and the media and others are doing to say, "These veterans that come home are damaged goods. Beware. Be on the lookout. They've faced traumatic events, and they're not going to be able to come home and handle it." Rather, we should be saying, "Look at what these men and women have accomplished. Look at what pillars of the community they will be. Look at the great leadership skills that they have and what they've done for this country." We should celebrate them. The president should be celebrating them, not sending out warnings that they're dangerous to the community.
There's an underlying narrative that is creating this idea that veterans are victims. Veterans are not victims. They have served proudly. They want to come back and be part of their communities here. That's what our government should be saying. That's what President Obama should be saying at every turn. Rather than saying, "Let's just take care of them when they get home," let's give them what they need to win, and then welcome them back, celebrate them, and give them everything that they deserve.
ASMAN: Well, Pete, without being too conspiratorial, I'm wondering if all this isn't just a desire on part of the administration to shut up its critics, wherever they are.
HEGSETH: Well, I mean, it's interesting the timing with which this report comes out. Apparently, also if you have an immigra-- anti-immigration sticker, if you're pro-life, and if you believe in the --
ASMAN: Or if you like guns.
HEGSETH: If you like guns, they should pull you over because you're apt to right-wing extremism. Well, you know, I hope my parents don't get pulled over tonight. I mean, the reality is it draws way too broad of a spectrum, and it should never focus out veterans. If you look at the men and women coming back -- incredible, the best of our generation.
ASMAN: Oh, the best. Absolutely. But I'm wondering how somebody could have read this through -- these reports are written, and then they're read through by somebody to check their -- you know, whether they'll create a political stir. Who could have passed this on? I mean, who could have read this and not thought it would stir people up?
HEGSETH: Well, this comes from the same secretary of homeland security that now calls suicide bombers man-made disasters. I think there's a little bit of a detachment from reality somewhere in Department of Homeland Security from the threats that we really face. Thankfully, a lot of local communities are refusing to disseminate this to their law enforcement because it's so ridiculous, but there needs to be more vetting clearly at the top of DHS.
ASMAN: Pete Hegseth, thank you for your service.