Napolitano Atones for DHS Report
By Jackie Kucinich
After weeks of calls for her resignation and intense backlash from conservatives over a report identifying right-wing extremists as potential terrorist threats, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano assured the top Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee such a report would never happen again.
But her contrite letter to Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), which she sent April 25, may not placate her critics.
Rep. Peter King (N.Y.), the top Republican on the Homeland Security Committee, said Thompson did not share the letter with him, and it doesn't change anything.
"To me this makes it more essential to provide [Congress] with all of the records" related to the report, King said after Roll Call showed him a copy of the letter.
King and several members of the House Republican leadership filed a resolution of inquiry on Wednesday that would give Napolitano 14 days to provide Congress with materials detailing how the Department of Homeland Security arrived at the conclusions contained in the report.
In her letter, Napolitano admitted to Thompson that the report was released despite concerns by the department's Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, a fact King emphasized.
"It seems like a department not under control," King said. "Why was a report that was so off target released over the objections of the Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties?"
Unlike several of his Republican colleagues, King said he would not call for her resignation.
"I'm not into that. She's a very smart person," he said, adding that after he expressed concern about the report, Napolitano called and said it was a mistake that would never happen again.
In the April 25 letter to Thompson, Napolitano explained that the message in the report "Right-wing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment" could have "been made more directly and succinctly" and admitted that "there was a breakdown in the clearance process before its distribution."
Thompson is among a growing group of Members voicing concern about the report. In an April 14 letter to Napolitano, the chairman said he feared the memo showed a lack of concern for First Amendment rights.
"I want you to know that we have initiated new controls to ensure that there is more internal review of these products," Napolitano told Thompson in her letter. "The level of consultation between the Office of Intelligence and Analysis and the Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties was inadequate in this process."
In the April 7 report, the DHS warned that extremists from the right could "attempt to recruit and radicalize returning veterans in order to exploit their skills and knowledge derived from military training and combat."
Irate conservatives condemned what they viewed as an attempt to vilify the right and called for Napolitano's resignation.
"Singling out political opponents for working against the ruling party is precisely the tactic of every tyrannical government from Red China to Venezuela," Rep. John Carter (R-Texas) said in a statement April 22.
Napolitano said she would fulfill Thompson's request to provide the committee with a detailed outline of how the report was created.
"In response to your request, I have directed my staff to provide information to the Committee about [the Office of Intelligence and Analysis'] production and dissemination process, the lack of internal review, and the steps I will be taking to fix the problem," she wrote.
"With this reinvigorated privacy and civil liberties process in place, the Department will continue to assess the risks posed by individuals and groups who engage in criminal or violent criminal activity that endangers the homeland, regardless of their ideology," she wrote.