Mr. Thompson said the report “blurred the line,” and that he is “disappointed and surprised that the department would allow this report to be disseminated” to law enforcement officials nationwide.
Homeland Security officials have declined to say who wrote report, except that it was a career official and not a political appointee.
Only three employees are listed in the Federal Yellow Book as working for the I&A office - acting Undersecretary Roger Mackin and two executive assistants.
Mr. Thompson’s letter said, “I am particularly struck by the report’s conclusion which states that I&A ‘will be working with its state and local partners over the next several months to ascertain with greater regional specificity the rise in rightwing extremist activity in the United States with a particular emphasis on the political, economic, and social factors that drive rightwing extremist radicalization.’ ” He demanded to know what types of activities the Homeland Security Department had planned for “the next several months.”
“Rightwing extremism,” the report said 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 gun owners and veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars as potential risks.
The assessment is not the first Homeland Security product to examine threats based on political extremism. In January, the department sent law enforcement officials an assessment of cyberterrorism threats from such left-leaning sources as environmental, animal rights and anarchist groups.
Mike German, policy counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union and a former FBI agent, said his organization was concerned about law enforcement agencies’ focus on radicalization, regardless of the specific ideology.
“Certainly, the right-wing report is focused far too much on rhetoric and things people say and things people think rather than on criminal activity and the people involved in criminal activity,” he said. “There is plenty of crime out there for federal, state and local law enforcement to worry about. They don’t need to invent threats that they have no factual basis for supporting.”
The American Legion on Tuesday said the latest report unfairly stereotypes veterans.
“I am aware of the letter from American Legion National Commander [David K.] 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.
Asked about the report at Wednesday’s White House briefing, press secretary Robert Gibbs said he has not spoken with President Obama specifically about it.
“Without getting into the report, I think the president works hard every day to make sure that all Americans are safe and secure,” Mr. Gibbs said.
“And I would say that, as it relates to some aspect of the report, that the president believes those who serve our country represent the very best of it,” Mr. Gibbs said.