The U.S. Department of Homeland Security says right-wing extremists in
the United States could use the economic recession and the election of
the country's first black president to recruit new members.
In an intelligence report issued to law enforcement agencies last week, DHS said it has no specific information that right-wing terrorists are planning an attack.
But the report warned that home foreclosures, unemployment and an inability to obtain credit "could create a fertile recruiting environment."
It said extremists might seek out the skills of returning military veterans, especially those having trouble fitting back into society. It also pointed to proposed gun restrictions as a draw for new recruits to right-wing groups.
Some conservative commentators have spoken out against the warning, saying it is an effort to criminalize political dissent and block free speech. The American Legion veterans group, with 2.6 million members, expressed concern and said the report was "incomplete."
The American Legion says using a single military veteran, Timothy McVeigh, who carried out the Oklahoma City bombing that killed 168 people in 1995, as an example of a "disgruntled military veteran" is as unfair as using al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden as the sole example of Islam.
In a statement, Homeland Security chief Janet Napolitano said her agency monitors the risks of violent extremism taking root in the United States and that the document is "one in an ongoing series of assessments." She said the government takes seriously its responsibility to protect the civil rights and liberties of the American people.
Napolitano said she will meet with the commander of the American Legion next week to tell him that her agency honors veterans and employs thousands of them.
Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.