Homeland Security issued report on extremists despite concerns

Some veterans' groups offended by the wording

By Eileen Sullivan
Associated Press / April 17, 2009
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WASHINGTON - Civil liberties officials at the Homeland Security Department did not agree with some of the language in a controversial report on right-wing extremists, but the agency issued the report anyway.

The intelligence assessment issued to law enforcement last week said some military veterans could be susceptible to extremist recruiters or commit lone acts of violence. That prompted angry reactions from some lawmakers and veterans' groups.

Amy Kudwa, a spokeswoman for the Department of Homeland Security, said the report was issued before officials resolved problems raised by the agency's civil rights division. Kudwa would not specify what language raised the concerns.

Janet Napolitano, secretary of Homeland Security, defended the report yesterday, but she said the definition of right-wing extremism that was included in a footnote should be changed.

In the report, right-wing extremism was defined as hate-motivated groups and movements, such as hatred of certain religions, racial, or ethnic groups. "It may include groups and individuals that are dedicated to a single issue, such as opposition to abortion or immigration," the report said.

"If there's one part of that report I would rewrite, in the wordsmithing Washington-ese that goes on after the fact, it would be that footnote," Napolitano said yesterday on Fox News.

The same definition was included in the agency's March 26 report on domestic extremism. Both reports were marked "For Official Use Only."

The report on right-wing extremists cites the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing by military veteran Timothy McVeigh as one instance of a veteran becoming a domestic terrorist.

Several lawmakers, the American Legion, and Vets for Freedom took offense to the intelligence review. The Veterans of Foreign Wars defended it as an assessment, not an accusation.

Napolitano said, "We do not mean to suggest that veterans as a whole are at risk of becoming violent extremists."

She also said: "I apologize for that offense. It was certainly not intended."