Legitimate political views need protection

Freedom Newspapers

The Obama administration can’t understand why so many people are angry at a new Department of Homeland Security report assessing the threat the nation supposedly faces from “right-wing” extremists.

Of course, a nation this large is home to extremists and potentially violent people who subscribe to every sort of ideology, but the Homeland Security report paints with an extremely broad brush and epitomizes the tendency of governments to blur the lines between legitimate dissent and dangerous activity.

Although the department admits it “has no specific information that domestic right-wing terrorists are currently planning acts of violence,” it goes on to spread fear that such groups might be ready to engage in violence because of “the consequences of a prolonged economic downturn.”

The report explains that “Many right-wing extremists are antagonistic toward the new presidential administration and its perceived stance on a range of issues, including immigration and citizenship, the expansion of social programs to minorities, and restrictions on firearms ownership and use.”

It raises the specter of hostility toward the new president because of his race.

We see little evidence of serious hostility to President Barack Obama because of his race. Americans have every right to oppose this and any other president’s policies on issues such as immigration, government spending, social programs and firearm ownership. The administration appears to be using such a report to delegitimize growing opposition to its particular policies.

The report describes right-wing extremist groups as “those that are mainly anti-government, rejecting federal authority in favor of state or local authority, or rejecting government authority entirely. It may include groups and individuals that are dedicated to a single issue, such as opposition to abortion or immigration.”

But there’s nothing “extremist” about preferring state or local authority to federal authority; indeed that very issue was addressed in the 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The report singles out veterans and gun-rights supporters as people who are likely candidates for recruiting by terrorist groups — a baseless insult that earned a rebuke from a leader of the American Legion.

The nation’s founders, it might be noted, would fit the definition of right-wing extremists as crafted by the president and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.

We’ve written recently about the FBI’s policy of infiltrating mosques and, allegedly, prodding attendees to make anti-government statements. Ironically, many conservatives — who may now be targeted by the federal authorities for their potentially anti-government activities — have supported the past administration’s efforts to monitor those groups it believed to harbor terrorist sympathies. Perhaps they might now understand why this policy is so troubling.

Napolitano, in her statement defending this disturbing “right-wing extremist” report produced by her department, pledged her commitment to protecting the civil rights and liberties of Americans. But such liberties cannot be protected if federal authorities come to view legitimate political activities as the foundation of terrorist behavior.

It’s time for Americans of the right and left to come out against such government paranoia, whether it is fomented by a Republican administration or a Democratic one.