A memo prepared by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security warns that right-wing "extremists'' are stockpiling weapons and ammunition in anticipation of new restrictions and bans.
The 10-page document, which agency officials said was never intended to be made public, also warns that economic chaos, including foreclosures and unemployment, could provide "a fertile recruiting environment for right-wing extremists.'' And it says these groups have "capitalized on the election of the first African-American president,'' though they have not yet turned to actually planning an attack.
Spokeswoman Sara Kuban said the document was issued a week ago by the department's Office of Intelligence and Analysis. But Kuban said the agency, which has been run by former Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano since Jan. 20, is not specifically targeting right-wing groups.
"This is one in an ongoing series of assessments published by the department to facilitate a greater understanding of radicalization in the United States,'' she said. In fact, Kuban noted, a Jan. 26 memo was prepared "on the opposite end of the spectrum.''
That memo warns that left-wing extremists are expanding their ability to launch "cyber attacks'' on computers, particularly those operated by businesses whose beliefs they find offensive. It also says one of the threats is that these extremists consider such computer attacks to be acceptable because they are not violent.
Kuban said the documents, prepared for federal, state and local police to help them deter or prepare for such attacks, were leaked.
"These assessments help do that,'' she said. "They keep people safe.''
Not everyone saw the latest memo as so innocuous.
Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Gilbert, called it "one of the most vicious forms of propaganda, not unlike what you would find in 1930s Germany.''
"It cries out against free speech, it cries out against dissent, it cries out against religious faith and belief,'' he said in a floor speech Tuesday on the House floor. "And it calls anybody who has these type of faith or beliefs to be right-wing extremists.''
Biggs specifically zeroed in on a section of the memo that seeks to categorize what kinds of groups are involved in right-wing extremism. They include not only those involved in religious, racial or ethnic hatred but also "those that are mainly anti-governmental, rejecting federal authority in favor of state or local authority.''
"In other words, any federal judge who has taken the oath to uphold the U.S. Constitution, including recognition of rights of individual sovereign states,'' he said. "They must be, by this definition, a radical right-wing extremist group.''
And Biggs said that also would include governors and state legislators who reject federal supremacy.
"I find that alarming,'' he said. "It tells me that the executive branch of our government has forgotten and does not understand the relationship between the federal government and the sovereign 50 states.''
In its explanation of groups and individuals considered right-wing extremists, the memo also says it "may include groups and individuals that are dedicated to a single issue, such as opposition to abortion or immigration.''
Kuban defended the analysis and the preparation and release of the report.
"We do not want to have another Timothy McVeigh-like situation happen,'' she said, referring to the man who bombed a federal courthouse in Oklahoma City in 1995, killing 168 people and injuring more than 500.
The memo specifically says there are similarities between the current political and economic climate and the situation in the 1990s "when right-wing extremism experienced a resurgence fueled largely by an economic recession, criticism about the outsourcing of jobs, and the perceived threat to U.S. power and sovereignty by other foreign powers.''
Kuban said, though, her agency has "no specific information that the domestic right-wing terrorists are currently planning acts of violence.'' But she said the assessments remain necessary.