Homeland Security chief responds to right-wing extremism reportby Rich Bowden - Apr 16 2009, 19:24
Img: Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh. Credit: Oklahoma police
The head of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has responded to a leaked intelligence report earlier this week that warned of a significant rise in right-wing extremist groups.
The rise is at a potential level not seen since the Timothy McVeigh Oklahoma City bombings in 1995, according to the secret report.
The study said the concerns over the failing economy and the presidency of Barack Obama, America's first black president, had rekindled fears of right-wing extremists targeting new recruits.
"The economic downturn and the election of the first African American president present unique drivers for right-wing radicalization and recruitment," it stated.
However, Janet Napolitano, Secretary for Homeland Security, said in a statement that her department monitored such groups very carefully and took, "...our responsibility to protect the civil rights and liberties of the American people," very seriously.
"Let me be very clear: we monitor the risks of violent extremism taking root here in the United States," said Napolitano. "We don’t have the luxury of focusing our efforts on one group; we must protect the country from terrorism whether foreign or homegrown, and regardless of the ideology that motivates its violence."
"We are on the lookout for criminal and terrorist activity but we do not – nor will we ever – monitor ideology or political beliefs," she added. "We take seriously our responsibility to protect the civil rights and liberties of the American people, including subjecting our activities to rigorous oversight from numerous internal and external sources."
One of the more controversial aspects of the report commissioned by the Secretary was its apparent targeting of the reintegration of returning veterans into American communities as a factor which, "could lead to the potential emergence of terrorist groups or lone wolf extremists capable of carrying out violent attacks."
Napolitano responded to criticisms of the report by American Legion National Commander David K. Rehbein by saying she would meet with the commander next week to discuss the issue. Rehbein described the report as incomplete and politically biased.
"I am aware of the letter from American Legion National Commander Rehbein, and my staff has already contacted him to set up a meeting next week once I return from travel," said Napolitano in the statement.
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