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Following up on that Right-Wing Extremism report

May 19, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

Over in the House Homeland Security Committee today Republicans used the relatively rare “resolution of inquiry” procedure to try to get documents from the Homeland Security Department related to their report issued last month, “Right-wing Extremism Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment.”

Under House rules (Rule XIII, Clause 7), committee leaders had 14 legislative days from the introduction of the resolution to bring it to a vote. They’re running a little ahead of schedule.

Congress Daily (sub-only) reports:

The extremism report, issued by the department’s office of intelligence and analysis, stated that radical groups could be fueled by discontent over the recession, possible gun-control legislation, divisions over immigration matters and the election of the first black president.

But the report came under heated public and congressional fire specifically because it singled out veterans returning from war as susceptible to extremism.

“Returning veterans possess combat skills and experience that are attractive to rightwing extremists,” the report said. “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.”

Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano has said the report was mistakenly sent to law enforcement agencies. She also has apologized to veterans groups for “any offense … caused by the report.”

The Republican resolution would require the department to produce all records dealing with the report, including those involving discussions about privacy issues, procedures for approving and disseminating the report and internal communications, including when Napolitano learned about it.

At the hearing, Chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson [D, MS-2] was more sympathetic than not to the Republicans’ cause. “When the DHS-produced assessment first surfaced in April, like many Americans, I had issues with its content,” Thompson said at the hearing. But he didn’t support the Republican resolution as is; nor did he direct committee Democrats to vote down the resolution, as is the normal practice with these kinds of things.

Instead, he proposed a substitute amendment demanding less specific information from DHS. Whereas the Republicans bill calls for the disclosure of a wide range of specific documents, Thompson’s amendment asks for a written explanation of how the report was produced and disseminated. Thompson’s amendment was approved by the committee by voice vote.

“The mere fact that this resolution of inquiry may go forward is almost unprecedented, I’m told, by people who’ve worked for decades on the Hill,” a Republican aide told reporters at Congress Daily. “The fact that the Democratic majority went from calling this the nuclear option and calling this a stunt to embracing it … is phenomenal.”

The resolution, with Thompson’s amendment substituted for the original text, will now go to the full House for a vote.

Btw, DHS also released a report on the threat of left-wing extremism at around the same time.

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