Thursday, April 16, 2009

DHS Secretary Napolitano Needs to Make a Public Apology

U.S. Department of Homaland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano said Wednesday that she was briefed before the release of a controversial intelligence assessment and that she stands by the report, which lists returning veterans among terrorist risks to the U.S., yet the top House Democrat with oversight over DHS said in a letter to Ms. Napolitano that he was "dumbfounded" that 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," said Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, in his letter sent Tuesday.

The letter was representative of a public furor over the nine-page document since its existence was reported in The Washington Times on Tuesday. In her statement Wednesday, Ms. Napolitano defended the report, which says "right-wing extremism" may include groups opposed to abortion and illegal immigration, as merely one among several threat assessments, but she agreed to meet with the head of the American Legion, who had expressed anger over the report, when she returns to Washington next week from a tour of the U.S.-Mexico border.

COMMENT: Having read the DHS report in its entirety (http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2009/apr/16/napolitano-stands-rightwing-extremism/), and as one who spent most of his professional career in Federal law enforcement, I find this report to be politically discrimanatory in its tone and predjudicial toward Roman Catholics, American veterans and those who believe the Federal Government has ignored our national problem of illegal immigration.

The unclassified report, which states that the document should not be released to the media or the general public, but only to law enforcement agencies, presumes that members of law enforcement are not citizens. The report never defines what a "right-wing extremist" is, nor does it acknowledge that all citizens have the right to engage in political dissent where public policy, abortion and illegal immigration are concerned. Most harmful is the attribution that veterans of American wars may be inclined to join "right-wing extremist groups." Why not "left-wing extremist groups" as well?

Like Members of Congress who never read "pressing" bailout legislation, must we presume that Secretary Napolitano never read potentially controversial reports disseminated by her own agency? If not, she should be reprimanded for nonfeasance. If she did read it, how could she have been so politically insensitive to a significant percentage of the American public? Minimally, President Obama should apologize to the American people on behalf of DHS and censure the Secretary.

It would have made far more sense for DHS to have prepared an acknowledged three-part report on "Right-Wing Extremism," "Left-Wing Extremism" and "Single-Issue Extremism" (animal rights, environmental, anti-abortion, illegal immigration, etc.), so as to not convey that a report on "Right-Wing Extremism" was not being politically directed at Catholics and US veterans.

At a time when DHS has one of the worst reputations with the American public when compared to all Federal agencies (with the exception of the IRS), one would presume that a former governor would be more politically intuitive. Secretary Napolitano should not apologize to the commander of the American Legion because the Legion does not represent ALL US veterans. Rather, she should apologize to all veterans and others law-abiding citizens attributed to in her report in a prime-time news conference.

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