- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 16, 2009

UPDATED:

Civil-liberties watchdogs within the Homeland Security Department (DHS) raised concerns about a security assessment of “rightwing extremism” but the report was released anyway, leading to the furor that Thursday had Secretary Janet Napolitano apologizing to veterans.

Objections were raised about language in the report by its Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) before the nine-page document was sent to law enforcement officials nationwide.

“CRCL did object to a part of the document, which was not resolved before the product went out. This was a breakdown of an internal process that we will fix in the future,” said spokeswoman Amy Kudwa.


Homeland Security officials declined to elaborate on or describe in detail the objections of its civil liberty officials, or say whether Ms. Napolitano was made aware of the objections when she was briefed on the general nature of the threat before the report’s release on April 7.

However, Rep. Bennie Thompson, Mississippi Democrat and chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, is demanding answers on how this report was cleared with privacy and civil liberty officials.

“I am dumbfounded that (DHS) released this report,” Mr. Thompson said in a letter to Ms. Napolitano.

Ms. Napolitano appeared on several morning news shows in an effort to damp down criticism on both sides of the political aisle over the report, titled “Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment,” which states that veterans are likely recruits for use in attacks against the government.

“I know that some veterans groups were offended by the fact that veterans were mentioned in this assessment, so I apologize for that offense. It was certainly not intended,” Miss Napolitano told CNN’s “American Morning.”

In an appearance on “Fox and Friends,” Ms. Napolitano spoke similarly, saying “The last thing we want to do is to offend or castigate all veterans.”

On Wednesday, Ms. Napolitano made her first public statement on the security analysis of emerging threats among white supremacists, and said she would meet with American Legion National Commander David K. Rehbein who criticized the report as negatively stereotyping veterans.

Ms. Napolitano stands behind the intent of the report but conceded to Fox News that some of that language was unfortunate.

In particular, a footnote at the beginning of the report that defines “rightwing extremism” as “broadly divided into those groups, movements and adherents that are primarily hate-oriented (based on hatred of particular religions, racial or ethnic groups), and 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,” the report continued.

“Let me be very clear: If there’s one part of that report that I would rewrite in the wordsmithing ‘Washingtonese’ that goes on after the fact, it would be that footnote,” Ms. Napolitano told Fox News.

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