The top House Democrat overseeing the Department of Homeland Security is demanding that officials there explain how and why they wrote and released a controversial report identfying veterans as potential terrorist threats.
Rep. Bennie G. Thompson of Mississippi, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said in a letter to DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano that he was “dumbfounded” such a report would be issued.
“This report appears to raise significant issues involving the privacy and civil liberties of many Americans including war veterans,” Mr. Thompson said in the letter sent Tuesday.
“As I am certain you agree, freedom of association and freedom of speech are guaranteed to all Americans whether a person’s beliefs, whatever their political orientation, are ‘extremist’ or not,” Mr. Thompson said.
The report “blurred the line,” and Mr. Thompson said he is “disappointed and surprised that the department would allow this report to be disseminated” to law enforcement officials nationwide.
Also Wednesday, Ms. Napolitano issued a statement standing by the report, which she had personally reviewed before it was issued. She insisted that DHS would never investigate based on political ideology and agreed to meet the head of the American Legion, who already had expressed anger over the report.
The Washington Times reported Tuesday that the department’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis (I&A) released a report titled “Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment” on April 7. It identified as potential terrorist threats people who collect guns, veterans, supporters of border control, and pro-life advocates.
“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 facors that drive rightwing extremist radicalization,’ ” Mr. Thompson said, demanding to know what types of activities DHS had planned for “the next several months.”