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, cited in the report, 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 â€” 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.”
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano apologized to veterans after a report issued by her department said troops returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were at risk for being recruited by right-wing extremists.
“To the extent veterans read it as an accusation … an apology is owed,” she said during an on-air interview on FOX News Thursday, a day after veterans’ groups and members of Congress blasted her for the report, which they said libeled members of the armed forces.
“This was an assessment, not an accusation,” Napolitano continued. “It was limited to extremists those who seek to commit violence within the United States. And all this was meant to do was to give law enforcement what we call ‘situational awareness.'”
“The last thing I want to do is offend or castigate all veterans. To the contrary, let’s meet and clear the air,” she said.
A footnote in the report, “Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment,” said that while there is no specific information that domestic right-wing terrorists are planning acts of violence, such acts could come from unnamed “rightwing extremists” concerned about illegal immigration, abortion, increasing federal power and restrictions on firearms — and singled out returning war veterans as susceptible to recruitment.
“If there’s one part of this report that I would rewrite … it would be that footnote,” Napolitano said.
Obviously, someone in the Obama administration has gotten to the Secretary and instructed her to apologize and let the flap blow over. I don’t think it will and her ill-timed remarks has alerted the public to the heavy handed tactics of this Secretary and Obama.
Comparing American veterans to a domestic terrorist Timothy McVeigh is over the top. And, the broad generalizations about veterans, pro-life groups, federalists and supporters of gun rights is BIAS and an unfair political characterization.
Will such pro-life organizations like the Knights of Columbus be visitied by your friendly DHS agents for possible subversive activities? How about the Catholic Church? The National Rifle Association?
Now, Secretary Napolitano should RENOUNCE this report and then RESIGN.