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Thursday, April 29 2010 - 9/11 Consequences
DHS Warns Returning Vets Potential Terrorists
Napolitano stands by controversial report
April 16, 2010
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said Wednesday that she was briefed before the release of a controversial intelligence assessment and that she stands by the report, which lists returning veterans among terrorist risks to the U.S.
But the top House Democrat with oversight of the Department of Homeland Security said in a letter to Ms. Napolitano that he was "dumbfounded" that such a report would be issued.
"This report appears to raise significant issues involving the privacy and civil liberties of many Americans - including war veterans," said Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, in his letter sent Tuesday night.
The letter was representative of a public furor over the nine-page document since its existence was reported in The Washington Times on Tuesday.
In her statement Wednesday, Ms. Napolitano defended the report, which says "rightwing extremism" may include groups opposed to abortion and immigration, as merely one among several threat assessments. But she agreed to meet with the head of the American Legion, who had expressed anger over the report, when she returns to Washington next week from a tour of the U.S.-Mexico border.
"The document on right-wing extremism sent last week by this department's Office of Intelligence and Analysis is one in an ongoing series of assessments to provide situational awareness to state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies on the phenomenon and trends of violent radicalization in the United States," Ms. Napolitano said in her statement.
"I was briefed on the general topic, which is one that struck a nerve as someone personally involved in the Timothy McVeigh prosecution," Ms. Napolitano said.
Ms. Napolitano insisted that the department was not planning on engaging in any form of ideological profiling.
Republicans rabid over right-wing report
Republicans on Wednesday said a Homeland Security Department intelligence assessment unfairly characterizes military veterans as right-wing extremists. House Republican leader John Boehner described the report as offensive and called on the agency to apologize to veterans.
The agency's intelligence assessment, sent to law enforcement officials last week, warns that right-wing extremists could use the bad state of the U.S. economy and the election of the country's first black president to recruit members.
The assessment also said that returning military veterans who have difficulties assimilating back into their home communities could be susceptible to extremist recruiters or might engage in lone acts of violence.
"To characterize men and women returning home after defending our country as potential terrorists is offensive and unacceptable," said Boehner, R-Ohio.
The commander of the veterans group the American Legion, David Rehbein, wrote to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano expressing concern with the assessment, which made its way into the mainstream press after conservative bloggers got wind of the analysis.
Rehbein called the assessment incomplete and said it lacked statistical evidence. He said the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing by military veteran Timothy McVeigh was one instance of a veteran becoming a domestic terrorist.
"To continue to use McVeigh as an example of the stereotypical 'disgruntled military veteran' is as unfair as using Osama bin Laden as the sole example of Islam," Rehbein said in the April 13 letter.
Napolitano defended the assessment and others issued by the agency.
"Let me be very clear -- we monitor the risks of violent extremism taking root here in the United States," Napolitano said in a statement. "We don't have the luxury of focusing our efforts on one group; we must protect the country from terrorism whether foreign or homegrown, and regardless of the ideology that motivates its violence."
Napolitano said the department respects and honors veterans and that she intends to meet with Rehbein next week after she returns from a tour of the U.S.-Mexico border and meetings in Mexico City.
The agency describes these assessments as part of a series published "to facilitate a greater understanding of the phenomenon of violent radicalization in the United States."
In February, the department issued a report to law enforcement that said left-wing extremist groups were likely to use cyber attacks more often in the next 10 years to further their cause.
In September, the agency highlighted how right-wing extremists over the past five years have used the immigration debate as a recruiting tool.
Between September 2008 and Feb. 5, the agency issued at least four reports, obtained by The Associated Press, on individual extremist groups such as the Moors, Vinlanders Social Club, Volksfront and Hammerskin Nation.
But the references to military veterans in the recent report angered conservatives.
"The department is engaging in political and ideological profiling of people who fought to keep our country safe from terrorism, uphold our nation's immigration laws, and protect our constitutional right to keep and bear arms," said Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla.,
Texas Rep. Lamar Smith accused the department of painting "law-abiding Americans, including war veterans, as 'extremists.'"
Indiana Rep. Steve Buyer, the ranking Republican on the House Veterans' Affairs committee, said it was "inconceivable" that the administration would consider military veterans a potential terrorist threat.
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