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On Monday, we had a fiesty discussion about “angry America” – the mood of the country in the context of an economic downturn and an activist Obama administration. It’s a hot topic that generated strong on-air and online debate here. We played sound bites that surfaced the anger, from Glenn Beck to Rush Limbaugh. Now, the government itself is joining the debate at a more serious level.
One of the guests on our show, the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Mark Potok, is worried that extremist groups are being energized across the country. Some of this was discussed during our Monday hour.
Whether you buy it or not, it turns out Potok is not alone. The Department of Homeland Security recently circulated a controversial report to law enforcement on the topic. The assessment was unclassified, but was meant to be kept within officialdom. (Steve Aftergood of Secrecy News, a blog through the Federation of American Scientists that functions as a relentless check on government, posted it on Tuesday. That’s the earliest we saw it.)
"[T]he historical election of an African American president and the prospect of policy changes are proving to be a driving force for rightwing extremist recruitment and radicalization,” the report states.
But one aspect of the government's threat assessment has drawn strong pushback from some quarters.
Most controversially, the report features a section called “Disgruntled Military Veterans.” It states, “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.”
House Minority Leader John A. Boehner fired back, calling the veterans section "offensive and unacceptable." Veterans groups say it feeds a crude stereotype about the millions who have served.
This prompted Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to express regret that it seemed to single out former troops. She went on Fox News yesterday to apologize.
Suffice it to say, we probably haven’t heard the last on this one.
This program aired on April 16, 2009. The audio for this program is not available.
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