Fox News "Fox & Friends" Interview With Department Of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano
Subject: Drug Violence In Mexico And A Report On Rightwing Extremists
Interviewers: Gretchen Carlson, Steve Doocy And Eric Bolling
Copyright ©2009 by Federal News Service, Inc., Ste. 500, 1000 Vermont Ave, Washington, DC 20005 USA. Federal News Service is a private firm not affiliated with the federal government. No portion of this transcript may be copied, sold or retransmitted without the written authority of Federal News Service, Inc. Copyright is not claimed as to any part of the original work prepared by a United States government officer or employee as a part of that person's official duties. For information on subscribing to the FNS Internet Service at www.fednews.com, please email Carina Nyberg at email@example.com or call 1-202-216-2706.
MS. CARLSON: And joining us now live from Mexico City is Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.
Good morning to you, Madame Secretary.
SEC. NAPOLITANO: Good morning.
MS. CARLSON: Thank you so much for sharing your time with us today.
I know a very important meeting taking place later on today between President Obama and President Felipe Calderon and yourself. You are all going to be there discussing the situation of the Mexican violence.
Now, I know earlier in the show we played a sound byte -- a snippet from President Calderon where he basically blamed the U.S. for 90 percent of the problems in Mexico.
Will you and President Obama agree with that?
SEC. NAPOLITANO: Well, I don't think it's very profitable to lay blame either way. What we've got is a problem. And here's the problem: We've got these big drug cartels. They're fighting each other for turf within Mexico. That's resulted in a huge increase in violence -- 6,000-plus homicides in northern Mexico last year; 550 of those were assassinations of law enforcement personnel.
So on the U.S. side, we want to make sure that spillover violence doesn't occur. But we also want to assist Mexico in its own efforts to make sure -- to clamp down on these cartels; to do what they can to break them up.
MR. BOLLING: Madame Secretary, thanks for coming on.
Listen, for me the big issue would be: How do you and President Obama handle this delicately enough so that you don't kind of just shake up NAFTA too much? We're concerned about keeping that border -- that free trade border -- wide open. As you know, Mexico supplies us with quite a bit of crude oil.
How do you it without kind of -- (inaudible) -- the Mexicans too much?
SEC. NAPOLITANO: Well, you've got to deal with several things simultaneously.
One is, again, working with Mexico to increase their own law enforcement capacity. Two is increasing our own resources at the border itself. We've already moved hundreds of agents down to the border to check for cash and drugs that are going south from the United States into Mexico that are fueling this drug war.
And of course, we always maintain and are improving our fight against illegal drugs, illegal immigrants coming north across the border.
MR. DOOCY: All right, so we'll be watching for that meeting between the two presidents later today.
Madame Secretary, let me ask you about something that's been getting a lot of news attention over the last 48 hours. And that is that about a week ago, the Department of Homeland Security sent out a little note to law enforcement across the country talking about be on the lookout for rightwing extremists.
And one of the parts of it that's angered a lot of our military veterans is where the report refers to the possibility that returning vets could be a risk to our nation.
We had a guest on earlier who said that that was just crazy talk and called on you -- a number of people, including the commander of the American Legion -- have asked you to apologize to vets.
Are you standing by those comments?
SEC. NAPOLITANO: Well, to the extent veterans read it as an accusation, an apology is -- we greatly respect our veterans and we have a number of veterans in our department, as well as the entire Coast Guard within our department. So there's no -- there's probably no department in the United States government that has so many military -- as opposed to the Department of Defense --as the Department of Homeland Security.
However, this was an assessment not an accusation. It was limited to extremists -- those who seek to commit violence within the United States. And all this was meant to do was to give law enforcement what we call situational awareness. Some of the things that go on, some of the things that happened in the past that could recur, that people just need to be aware of.
I'm meeting with the leaders of some of the veterans groups and the one that raised a problem with this particular assessment. I reached out to him yesterday and said the last thing we want to do is offend or castigate all veterans. To the contrary, let's meet and clear the air.
MS. CARLSON: Secretary, help me understand how these reports happen, because it did come out of your department -- the Department of Homeland Security.
So do you read these reports and sign off on them before they're released to the public?
SEC. NAPOLITANO: Well, I get briefed on what's in them.
And you know, I have to tell you, I was the United States Attorney for Arizona in the '90s when Tim McVeigh bombed the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City. And unfortunately, he was a vet. That's where he got his training. And so what I was told about the report -- it rang true with me. This has happened in the past.
That is a far cry, however, from saying veterans somehow are at risk. There are a number of things that are part of the environment that law enforcement deals with on just a situational nature. A down economy is a risk. That was something we were alerting people to.
MS. CARLSON: So you agreed with this, Madame Secretary?
SEC. NAPOLITANO: You know, there are a lot of things that go together.
MS. CARLSON: So you agreed with then?
SEC. NAPOLITANO: Pardon me?
MS. CARLSON: You agreed with this and signed off on it before it was made public?
SEC. NAPOLITANO: Well, you used the word "signed off". I use the word -- look, I was briefed on it. I'm not running away from it, but I will say it was an assessment. It was not an accusation.
And quite frankly, these are products that are produced and shared with law enforcement on a routine basis.
MR. BOLLING: Madame Secretary, Timothy McVeigh 14 years ago -- we understand that. However, is there any indication that the number of military personnel coming back are any more likely than anyone else to be involved in any sort of these extremist activities?
SEC. NAPOLITANO: Look, again -- I'm sorry I'm talking with media as opposed to within the intelligence community itself, because we would be having a different conversation.
But what you're doing is looking at things out in the environment that in the past have had some connection with increases in violent extremism. That's what we're talking about -- violence against the homeland. And the United States Department of Homeland Security -- one of our jobs is to protect against terrorism. That's why our department exists.
And so to that end, information is shared. But again, it's in a -- and if you actually read the report -- I know that some certain language is being taken out of context -- if you read it, it's a pretty straightforward analysis of economic and other conditions in the country right now.
MR. DOOCY: Well, I have read it. And Madame Secretary, there's a footnote on page two where you do talk about what is rightwing extremism. And it says, "It may include groups and individuals that are dedicated to a single issue such as opposition to abortion or immigration."
Madame Secretary, I'm a member of the Catholic Church, which is opposed to abortion and has been forever. You know, by this definition, that makes Catholics rightwing extremists!
SEC. NAPOLITANO: Let me be very clear: If there's one part of that report that I would rewrite in the wordsmithing "Washingtonese" that goes on after the fact it would be that footnote.
But obviously -- and people out there know there have been some that have taken advocacy -- the exercise of constitutional rights -- far beyond that into different groups.
You know, on the other side of the political spectrum, for example, we have the same in the animal rights category. We have a very, very active community in the United States for the protection of animal rights, but occasionally -- very rarely, but it does happen; you know it happens -- it spills into violence. It's the violence that we are trying to protect.
MR. DOOCY: All right. Janet Napolitano, the secretary of Homeland Security, we thank you very much for trying to answer some of our questions and doing just that this morning live from Mexico City.
SEC. NAPOLITANO: Thank you very much.