Radio host Savage sues DHS over rightwing extremism report

The right's still angry over a Homeland Security analysis that warned the political and economic climate might help potentially violent groups with recruiting.

Published April 17, 2009 7:00PM (EDT)

Conservatives' furor over a recent Department of Homeland Security report warning law enforcement that the political and economic situation might help potentially violent rightwing extremist groups recruit new members shows no signs of abating. In the latest move against DHS, radio host Michael Savage joined with a conservative Christian legal group, the Thomas More Law Center, to file suit against DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano and Attorney General Eric Holder.

To be clear, the report isn't really what the right believes it is. To begin with, the idea for it didn't come from the Obama administration -- it was prepared by an office still headed by a man appointed to his post by former President Bush. And it doesn't demonize mainstream conservatives, or veterans, in the way that some pundits on the right say it does, though it is true that some of the language used could have been much more precise. In the case of veterans, the analysis simply points out, "Returning veterans possess combat skills and experience that are attractive to rightwing extremists. DHS/I&A is concerned that rightwing extremists will attempt to recruit and radicalize returning veterans in order to boost their violent capabilities."

Unsurprisingly, then, the suit filed by TMLC on behalf of Savage and other plaintiffs, relies upon a fundamental dishonesty in making its claims. In what appears to be an attempt to boost their case that rights have been violated, the complaint (which can be downloaded in PDF form here) refers to the report as the government's "Rightwing Extremism Policy," as if the government is using this document as an outline for how to treat conservatives. But, really, it's an intelligence analysis -- no more, no less. It's not a policy, it's a warning. And, of course, DHS has produced plenty of these on all sorts of groups with all sorts of political and religious ideologies, and some have focused on the left.

Separately, Media Matters notes that Bill Kristol called the report "juvenile," saying of the Obama administration, it "reveal[s] something, I think, about the way they think about veterans, you know, that based on all these movies from the Vietnam era, these guys are pathological killers who are one step away from unleashing."

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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