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Napolitano stands by 'extremism' report
By Audrey Hudson, Thursday, April 16, 2009
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said she was briefed before the release of a controversial intelligence assessment and that she stands by the report sent to law enforcement that lists veterans as a terrorist risk to the U.S. and defines "rightwing extremism" as including groups opposed to abortion and immigration.
The outcry resulted in a demand from the head of the American Legion to meet with Ms. Napolitano, a request the DHS chief said she would honor next week when she returns to Washington from her current tour of the U.S.-Mexican 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 a statement.
• Click here to download a PDF of the report.
"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.
"Let me be very clear: we monitor the risks of violent extremism taking root here in the United States. 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," Ms. Napolitano said.
• Related article: Legion objects to vets as terror risk
"We are on the lookout for criminal and terrorist activity but we do not — nor will we ever — monitor ideology or political beliefs. We take seriously our responsibility to protect the civil rights and liberties of the American people, including subjecting our activities to rigorous oversight from numerous internal and external sources," Ms. Napolitano said.
The nine-page document titled "Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment," has caused an outcry from veterans groups, Republican lawmakers and conservative activists.
"Rightwing extremism," the report defines in a footnote on Page 2, goes beyond religious and racial hate groups and extends to "those that are mainly antigovernment, rejecting federal authority in favor of state or local authority, or rejecting government authority entirely."
"It may include groups and individuals that are dedicated to a single issue, such as opposition to abortion or immigration," said the report, which also listed as suspect gun owners and veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
The American Legion on Tuesday criticized the report as unfairly stereotyping veterans.
"I am aware of the letter from American Legion National Commander (David) Rehbein, and my staff has already contacted him to set up a meeting next week once I return from travel. I will tell him face-to-face that we honor veterans at DHS and employ thousands across the department, up to and including the Deputy Secretary," Ms. Napolitano said.
"As the department responsible for protecting the homeland, DHS will continue to work with its state and local partners to prevent and protect against the potential threat to the United States associated with any rise in violent extremist activity," Ms. Napolitano said.