Wire: US Military Veterans a Focus of FBI Extremist Probe
Off the Wire:
WASHINGTON, April 17, 2009 -- Newswires reported this morning that the Federal Bureau of Investigation earlier this year launched a nationwide operation targeting white supremacists and "militia/sovereign-citizen extremist groups," including a focus on veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan, according to memos sent from bureau headquarters to field offices.
The Wall Street Journal reported that the initiative, dubbed Operation Vigilant Eagle, was outlined in February, two months before a memo giving a similar warning was issued on April 7 by the Department of Homeland Security.
The Journal also reported the following news:
Disclosure of the DHS memo this week has sparked controversy among some conservatives and veterans groups. Appearing on television talk shows Thursday, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano defended the assessment, but apologized to veterans who saw it as an accusation.The FBI documents show the bureau was working with investigators inside the nation's uniformed services "in an effort to identify those current or former soldiers who pose a domestic terrorism threat." The other agencies working with the FBI are the U.S. Army Criminal Investigative Division, the U.S. Air Force Office of Special Investigations and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, the Journal also noted.
[. . .]
The documents outlining Operation Vigilant Eagle cite a surge in activity by such groups. The memos say the FBI's focus on veterans began as far back as December, during the final weeks of the Bush administration, when the bureau's domestic counterterrorism division formed a special joint working group with the Defense Department.
A Feb. 23 draft memo from FBI domestic counterterrorism leaders, obtained by The Wall Street Journal, cited an "increase in recruitment, threatening communications and weapons procurement by white supremacy extremist and militia/sovereign-citizen extremist groups."
The FBI said in the memo that its conclusion about a surge in such activities was based on confidential sources, undercover operations, reporting from other law-enforcement agencies and publicly available information. The memo said the main goal of the multipronged operation was to get a better handle on "the scope of this emerging threat." The operation also seeks to identify gaps in intelligence efforts surrounding these groups and their leaders.
The aim of the FBI's effort with the Defense Department, which was rolled into the Vigilant Eagle program, is to "share information regarding Iraqi and Afghanistan war veterans whose involvement in white supremacy and/or militia sovereign citizen extremist groups poses a domestic terrorism threat," according to the Feb. 23 FBI memo.
Michael Ward, FBI deputy assistant director for counterterrorism, said in an interview Thursday that the portion of the operation focusing on the military related only to veterans who draw the attention of Defense Department officials for joining white-supremacist or other extremist groups.
Documents detailing the operation are unclassified, but were meant for internal distribution only.
(Report from a commercial news source.)
Source: Veterans a Focus of FBI Extremist Probe
Download related primary document:
Right-wing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment (pdf)
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