WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Efforts by authorities to spot and pre-empt violent right-wing extremists like the ex-soldier who shot up a Wisconsin Sikh temple face serious legal and political hurdles, including free speech guarantees and pushback from political lobbies. Officials and private experts who track extremists groups say U.S.laws, particularly the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, prevent official investigators from bringing cases against Americans for having extreme beliefs. And past attempts by the U.S. government to highlight the threat of right-wing extremism have provoked a political backlash, further complicating attempts to deal with the issue. After the leak of a 2009 Department of Homeland Security report that noted the potential radicalization of U.S. military veterans, conservative activists complained that it defamed the troops. DHS was forced to apologize for the document and disband the unit that produced it.
A federal appeals court on Tuesday ruled in favor of President George W. Bush’s controversial Terrorist Surveillance Program, which allowsthe government to spy on Americans without a warrant. The court reversed an earlier decision in which two American attorneys were awarded more than $20,000 in damages and their lawyers $2.5 million in legal fees after they proved the government had spied on them without warrants. The earlier lawsuit was the first and only case that successfully challenged the controversial program. The government appealed the victory, however, and the appeals court dismissed the earlier suit and the damages, Wired reported. “This case effectively brings to an end the plaintiffs’ ongoing attempts to hold the executive branch responsible for intercepting telephone conversations without judicial authorization,” a three-judge panel for the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco wrote.