Report citing veteran extremism is pulled
By Audrey Hudson
The Washington Times, May 14, 2009
A contentious 'Rightwing Extremism' report that warned of military veterans as possible recruits for terrorist attacks against the U.S. was not authorized, has been withdrawn and is being rewritten, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told Capitol Hill lawmakers.
'The wheels came off the wagon because the vetting process was not followed,' Ms. Napolitano told the House Homeland Security Committee on Wednesday.
'The report is no longer out there,' she said. 'An employee sent it out without authorization.'
The report was shared with state and local law enforcement officials nationwide via the department's internal Web site on April 7, angering Republican lawmakers and military veterans who said it unfairly stereotyped veterans.
Ms. Napolitano did not say when the report was taken off the 'intel Web site' and all Homeland Security Department Web sites, but she said it is in the process of being 'replaced or redone in a much more useful and much more precise fashion.'
Rep. Christopher Carney, Pennsylvania Democrat, said that as a veteran he 'took offense personally,' and his constituents were offended by the report as well.
'It really hit home hard to me and in our district,' Mr. Carney said. 'It's not a good start when I go to town hall meetings and I hear people calling for your resignation.'
Ms. Napolitano said the report titled 'Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment,' is not the only report she has seen that says veterans are targets for recruitment by racist and other hate groups.
'It was an assessment, not an accusation,' Ms. Napolitano said.
'It didn't say that,' Mr. Carney interrupted.
'That's right,' Ms. Napolitano responded. 'That is why it should not have gone out.'
Asked whether the person who wrote the report is still employed, Ms. Napolitano said, 'Appropriate personnel action is being taken.'
Rep. Peter T. King, the ranking Republican on the committee, said the report 'made an impression' in his New York district as well.
'I don't think it reflects well on the department, and I know you want to address it,' Mr. King said.
David K. Rehbein, commander of the American Legion, said the withdrawal of the report 'validates our objections.'
'It did not contain any evidence,' Mr. Rehbein said. 'It was an unfair and unsubstantiated stereotype based on Timothy McVeigh.'
The report also said 'rightwing extremism' may include groups opposed to abortion and immigration, among several other threat assessments.
In March, the department issued and recalled within hours, a lexicon of key terms and phrases used by Homeland Security analysts 'that addresses the nature and scope of the threat that domestic, non-Islamic extremism poses to the United States.'
Whites and blacks, Christians and Jews, Cubans and Mexicans, along with tax objectors, were among several political leanings listed in the 'Domestic Extremism Lexicon.' Both reports were prepared by the department's Office of Intelligence and Analysis.
'Some things in my initial days have gone very well at the department, some things have not. And that was probably the worst thing,' Ms. Napolitano told the House Appropriations subcommittee on homeland security on Tuesday.
'It was not authorized to be distributed. It had not even completed its vetting process within the department. It has been taken off of the intel Web sites and the lexicon that went along with it was similarly withdrawn,' she said.
'Neither were authorized products, and we have now put in place processes. And it turned out there were really no procedures to govern what went out and what didn't before, and now there are. I do not want to see a replication of that,' Ms. Napolitano said.