The Department of Homeland Security has stepped back for the past two years from conducting analysis of home-grown extremism even though law enforcement and civil rights experts have warned of rising extremist threats, reports the Washington Post. The department has cut the number of personnel studying domestic terrorism unrelated to Islam, canceled numerous state and local law enforcement briefings, and held up dissemination of nearly a dozen reports on extremist groups.
The decision to reduce the department's role was provoked by conservative criticism of an intelligence report on “Rightwing Extremism” issued four months into the Obama administration. The report warned that the poor economy and Obama's election could stir “violent radicalization,” but it was pilloried as an attack on conservative ideologies, including opponents of abortion and immigration. In the two years since, the officials said, the analytical unit that produced that report has been effectively eviscerated. Much of its work — including a digest of domestic terror incidents and the distribution of definitions for terms such as “white supremacist” and “Christian Identity” — has been blocked. “Strategic bulletins have been minimal, since that incident,” said Mike Sena, an intelligence official in California who presides over the National Fusion Center Association, a group of 72 federally chartered units in which state, local and federal officials share sensitive information. “Having analytical staff, to educate line officers on the extremists, is critical. [ ] This is definitely one area” where more effort is warranted.”