The now-declassified summary of the National Intelligence Estimate (PDF) on "Trends in Global Terrorism" focuses almost exclusively on Islamic extremists. But inserted at the very end is this one overlooked, though seemingly quite important, passage that identifies other terrorist threats:
"Anti-U.S. and anti-globalization sentiment is on the rise and fueling other radical ideologies. This could prompt some leftist, nationalist, or separatist groups to adopt terrorist methods to attack US interests. The radicalization process is occurring more quickly, more widely, and more anonymously in the Internet age, raising the likelihood of surprise attacks by unknown groups whose members and supporters may be difficult to pinpoint." It continues: "We judge that groups of all stripes will increasingly use the Internet to communicate, propagandize, recruit, train and obtain logistical and financial support."
Prior to 9/11, the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil was in Oklahoma City, where Timothy McVeigh blew up a federal building in pursuit of his right-wing, anti-federal-government agenda. But there is nothing in the NIE findings about right-wing or anti-government groups. Instead, there is a rather stark warning about the danger of "leftist" groups using the Internet to engage in terrorist attacks against the United States. Is there any basis at all for that warning?
There have been scattered reports over the last several years that the Bush administration's anti-terrorism programs have targeted domestic political groups solely because such groups espouse views contrary to the administration's. That this claim about "leftist" terrorist groups made it into the NIE summary is particularly significant in light of the torture and detention bill that is likely soon to be enacted into law. That bill defines "enemy combatant" very broadly (and the definition may be even broader by the time it is enacted) and could easily encompass domestic groups perceived by the administration to be supporting a "terrorist agenda."
Similarly, the administration has claimed previously that it eavesdrops on the conversations of Americans only where there is reasonable grounds (as judged by the administration) to believe that one of the parties is affiliated with a terrorist group. Does that include "leftist" groups that use the Internet to organize? This NIE finding gives rise to this critical question: Are "leftist" groups one of the principal targets on the anti-terrorism agenda of the Bush administration, and if so, aren't the implications rather disturbing?