More apologies came from Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano on Friday during and after a meeting with the commander of the American Legion about the disparaging language in a security assessment that suggested returning troops from Iraq or Afghanistan could be recruited for “right-wing” domestic terrorist attacks.
“We connected meaningfully about the important issues that have emerged over recent days, and I offered him my sincere apologies for any offense to our veterans caused by this report,” Ms. Napolitano said. “I pledge that the department has fixed the internal process that allowed this document to be released before it was ready.”
David K. Rehbein, commander of the veterans group, told Fox News he has forgiven the department for the report, but he will not forget it happened.
“[Ms. Napolitano] said the report was not worthy of the department or the veterans of this country,” Mr. Rehbein said. “She gave us some explanation of how the report went out before it should have been released, before it was properly vetted by the senior leadership of the department.
“She was very sincere. She used the words ‘I’m sorry’ and that’s a sincere apology - a real apology coming from her heart.”
The Washington Times reported Feb. 14 that the assessment, “Right-wing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment,” was sent to law enforcement nationwide saying extremist groups are using opposition to President Obama as a recruiting tool.
Congressional debates about immigration and gun control also contribute to growing suspicions and give extremists a rallying cry, according to the report.
It specifically said that “right-wing extremists will attempt to recruit and radicalize returning veterans in order to exploit their skills and knowledge derived from military training and combat.”
The Times, however, reported on April 17 that internal civil liberties watchdogs had objected to the report before it was released
Ms. Napolitano said that during Friday’s meeting she and Mr. Rehbein discussed various ways in which the Homeland Security Department could engage “those who have bravely served this country as we work toward our mission to protect the United States homeland.”
“Commander Rehbein and I agreed that the Department of Homeland Security and the veterans of this great country are both dedicated to the same goal: ensuring the safety and prosperity of the American people,” Ms. Napolitano said.
She announced on the eve of the meeting with the veterans leader that the White House intends to nominate Philip Mudd as undersecretary for intelligence and analysis, the office that issued the threat assessment. He replaces Roger Mackin, who was appointed to the post in September by then-Secretary Michael Chertoff.
Rep. Bennie Thompson, Mississippi Democrat and chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, was a chief critic of the report, and on Friday praised the personnel change.
“DHS’ Intelligence and Analysis shop has been in sore need of change for some time. The nomination of Philip Mudd for undersecretary and appointment of Bart Johnson for principal deputy undersecretary are a good start,” Mr. Thompson said.
“Mr. Mudd is a seasoned intelligence professional with an impressive counterterrorism resume. I look forward to working with Secretary Napolitano and her new intelligence team,” Mr. Thompson said.