House Republicans demanded Wednesday that Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano detail how the controversial “right-wing extremism” report was compiled, using a rare legislative maneuver that ensures that the Democrats must take a public stand - one way or another.
The request asks Ms. Napolitano to release information on how the report was compiled. The report sparked a furor from conservatives included in the definition of “right-wing extremism” and prompted Ms. Napolitano to apologize to the nation’s veterans.
“The report that came out of DHS was offensive, and unfortunately, Secretary Napolitano still has a lot of explaining to do,” said House Minority Leader John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican. “She has not explained how this report came about, why she signed off on it, or why she defended it.”
Rep. Bennie Thompson, Mississippi Democrat and House Homeland Security Committee chairman, has expressed concerns about the report, but has not agreed to Republican demands for a committee hearing.
“As you know, I sent a letter to Secretary Napolitano on April 17, 2009, expressing my concern about the report and requesting an explanation of the department’s process in producing and disseminating it,” Mr. Thompson said to Rep. Peter T. King of New York, the panel’s ranking Republican, in an April 21 letter.
“I have spoken with the secretary, and I am awaiting a written response to my questions. Once I have a response, I will assess how best to proceed,” Mr. Thompson said.
His spokesman declined Wednesday to comment on the Republican maneuver.
Homeland Security spokesman Sean Smith refused to comment on the record.
House Republicans filed their request under the chamber’s Rule XIII, Clause 7 - called “a resolution of inquiry” - which will force the Homeland Security Committee to vote within 14 legislative days on the Republican request. The request covers all documents relating to the intelligence assessment titled “Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment.”
The panel is required to vote on the resolution in an up-or-down vote and send it to the floor within the time period, stating that the request for information has been reported favorably or unfavorably.
The resolution is sponsored by Mr. King and every ranking subcommittee member, as well as Minority Whip Eric Cantor of Virginia and Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana, Republican Conference chairman.
“We have made repeated requests that the committee hold a bipartisan oversight hearing, but unfortunately those requests have been ignored. We are left with no other alternative but to demand answers from the secretary of homeland security herself,” Mr. King said.
On Tuesday, The Washington Times reported that a “lexicon” of terms and definitions of radical activities was released in late March but was immediately recalled. Whites and blacks, Christians and Jews, Cubans and Mexicans, along with tax-hating Americans were among several political leanings listed in the “Domestic Extremism Lexicon.”
Meanwhile Wednesday, Ms. Napolitano appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee, but she was not asked about either report.
Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin, Maryland Democrat, asked about information-sharing among intelligence agencies and local law enforcement, citing a scandal last year in which the Maryland State Police investigated antiwar protesters.
Ms. Napolitano said her agency is still reviewing the matter, but said information-sharing is inadequate. “It doesn’t really inform somebody what, specifically, they’re looking for and why,” she said.