- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The American Legion on Tuesday criticized a new Homeland Security report as unfairly stereotyping veterans by suggesting that some soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan could be recruited by right-wing extremists to participate in violent actions.

“I think it is important for all of us to remember that Americans are not the enemy. The terrorists are,” David K. Rehbein, national commander of the veterans organization, said in a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano about a security assessment titled “Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence and Recruitment.”

The report, which prompted a storm of outrage Tuesday from conservatives, cited the example of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh in warning that the return of disgruntled military veterans could lead to “terrorist groups or lone wolf extremists capable of carrying out violent attacks.”

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Mr. Rehbein also challenged the department on that score, speaking on behalf of the legion's 2.6 million members. “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,” he said.

Click here to download a PDF of the report.

Homeland Security spokeswoman Sara Kuban said the department also has warned about the dangers from “leftwing extremists” in occasional reports to federal, state, local and tribal counterterrorism and law enforcement officials. The Washington Times independently obtained and verified such a report from Jan. 26 titled, “Leftwing Extremists Likely to Increase Use of Cyber Attacks over the Coming Decade.”

Ms. Kuban said work on the “Rightwing Extremism” report, which was reported Tuesday by The Times, began more than a year ago, during the Bush administration.

However key findings in the report, which cited the economic downturn and the election of President Obama, indicate that much of the work was done in the past few months.

Ms. Kuban added that the report's authors were not political appointees. “The people who wrote the April 7 report are career officials, the acting head of Intelligence and Analysis is a career official,” she said.

Regardless, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich sent a Twitter message saying that “the person who drafted the outrageous homeland security memo smearing veterans and conservatives should be fired.”

John Raughter, the communications director for the American Legion, said the group's commander was responding to a quick surge in sentiment from veterans.

“We have heard from our membership in e-mails and so forth. As soon as the national commander saw the report from Homeland Security, he had that letter sent. The letter went out yesterday,” Mr. Raughter said.

In his letter to Ms. Napolitano, Mr. Rehbein asked to meet with her “at a time of mutual convenience to discuss issues such as border security and the war on terrorism.”

Ms. Kuban said her boss would be open to meeting with Mr. Rehbein.

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