Apology owed to Veterans!

Watching – Listening – Reading about he error of Secretary Napolitano I am outraged by her statements. Ultimately Madam Secretary needs to simply apologize for the statements she has made (not to double talk).

WASHINGTON — The Federal Bureau of Investigation earlier this year launched a nationwide operation targeting white supremacists and “militia/sovereign-citizen extremist groups,” including a focus on veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan, according to memos sent from bureau headquarters to field offices.

The initiative, dubbed Operation Vigilant Eagle, was outlined in February, two months before a memo giving a similar warning was issued on April 7 by the Department of Homeland Security.

Disclosure of the DHS memo this week has sparked controversy among some conservatives and veterans groups. Appearing on television talk shows Thursday, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano defended the assessment, but apologized to veterans who saw it as an accusation.

“This is an assessment of things just to be wary of, not to infringe on constitutional rights, certainly not to malign our veterans,” she said on NBC’s Today Show.

The documents outlining Operation Vigilant Eagle cite a surge in activity by such groups. The memos say the FBI’s focus on veterans began as far back as December, during the final weeks of the Bush administration, when the bureau’s domestic counterterrorism division formed a special joint working group with the Defense Department.

Associated Press
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, pictured this month in Mexico, defended the assessment Thursday but apologized to veterans.
A Feb. 23 draft memo from FBI domestic counterterrorism leaders, obtained by The Wall Street Journal, cited an “increase in recruitment, threatening communications and weapons procurement by white supremacy extremist and militia/sovereign-citizen extremist groups.”

The FBI said in the memo that its conclusion about a surge in such activities was based on confidential sources, undercover operations, reporting from other law-enforcement agencies and publicly available information. The memo said the main goal of the multipronged operation was to get a better handle on “the scope of this emerging threat.” The operation also seeks to identify gaps in intelligence efforts surrounding these groups and their leaders.

The aim of the FBI’s effort with the Defense Department, which was rolled into the Vigilant Eagle program, is to “share information regarding Iraqi and Afghanistan war veterans whose involvement in white supremacy and/or militia sovereign citizen extremist groups poses a domestic terrorism threat,” according to the Feb. 23 FBI memo.

Michael Ward, FBI deputy assistant director for counterterrorism, said in an interview Thursday that the portion of the operation focusing on the military related only to veterans who draw the attention of Defense Department officials for joining white-supremacist or other extremist groups.

“We’re not doing an investigation into the military, we’re not looking at former military members,” he said. “It would have to be something they were concerned about, or someone they’re concerned is involved” with extremist groups.

Mr. Ward said that the FBI’s general counsel reviewed the operation before it began, “to make sure any tripwires we set do not violate any civil liberties.”

Some Republican lawmakers, talk-show hosts and veterans groups complained this week after the internal DHS assessment cited the potential for the same extremists groups to target returning combat veterans for recruitment. The Democratic chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, also echoed the concerns.

The separate DHS assessment, leaked this week after being sent to law-enforcement agencies, said the “willingness of a small percentage of military personnel to join extremist groups during the 1990s because they were disgruntled, disillusioned or suffering from the psychological effects of war is being replicated today.” Veterans could draw special attention, the report said, because of their advanced training.

Rep. John Boehner of Ohio, the House Republican leader, said Wednesday he was offended that veterans were characterized as potential domestic terrorists.

Amy Kudwa, a DHS spokeswoman, said Thursday the report was issued before an objection about one part of the document raised by the agency’s civil-rights division was resolved. She called it a “breakdown of an internal process” that would be fixed.

The FBI documents show the bureau was working with investigators inside the nation’s uniformed services “in an effort to identify those current or former soldiers who pose a domestic terrorism threat.” The other agencies working with the FBI are the U.S. Army Criminal Investigative Division, the U.S. Air Force Office of Special Investigations and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service.

Documents detailing the operation are unclassified, but were meant for internal distribution only.

—Evan Perez contributed to this article.

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Ed Albetski

Why? Why do our security agencies have to apologize for doing their job? After the Timothy McVeigh episode I think even the most jingoistic among us must realize that disgruntled veterans with tactical training are exactly the type of recruit these groups are looking for. Is saying that out loud an insult to all veterans? By this reasoning should all computer geeks be offended on the crackdown on hackers? I think we have to be reasonable here. Just because speaking this out loud ruffles some feathers doesn’t mean it is not a real threat. And with the memory of the Oklahoma bombing, the vets I know are laughing off the idea of bruised feelings. I don’t mean to offend, but we face a lot of complicated realities today and all this “outrage” has the smell of political hay to me.


Ms. Napolitano has appologized – more than once. I suppose the alternative was NOT to share the report, so that what was said doesn’t get misconstrued!?


Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano blamed “politicization” for a week of furor over a report that warned “right-wing extremists” were recruiting veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

She also said the Obama administration’s veterans programs were necessary to combat such extremism.

“I regret that in the politicization of everything that happens in Washington, D.C., some took offense,” Ms. Napolitano said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

The secretary defended the report, as she has since a report in The Washington Times detailed how it defined “rightwing extremism” as including pro-life and anti-immigration groups and cited Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh as an example of a disgruntled veteran.

“But I think any fair reading of the report says this is very consistent with other reports that have been issued before. . . . They are meant to give people what is called situational awareness, and they are certainly not intended to give offense – far from it.”

The report set off a firestorm of protest from veterans groups, including the American Legion, and conservatives. Ms. Napolitano stressed, however, that the report did not identify veterans as extremists.

“What it is saying is returning veterans are targets of right-wing extremists groups that are trying to recruit [them] to commit violent acts within the country,” she said.

She later added, “That’s why the Obama administration wants to work with returning vets and make sure they’ve got health care, education opportunities, job opportunities, all the like so that they do not become a target of these extremist groups.”

Asked about the groups in question, Ms. Napolitano said they are “almost far too numerous to name.” She named no such groups, mentioning only in general terms that pro-life activists have committed bombings.

Criticism of the nine-page “Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment” was not solely from the right.

Rep. Bennie Thompson, Mississippi Democrat and chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, earlier this week sent a letter to Ms. Napolitano, saying he was “dumbfounded” by the assessment.

Veterans groups objected to the report’s citing of McVeigh, the Gulf War veteran who was executed in 2001 for killing 168 people in the 1995 bombing of a federal building.

“To continue to use McVeigh as an example of the stereotypical ‘disgruntled military veteran’ is as unfair as using Osama bin Laden as the sole example of Islam,” American Legion National Commander David K. Rehbein wrote in a letter to Ms. Napolitano that requested a meeting with her.

Ms. Napolitano has said she will meet with Mr. Rehbein this week.

On Sunday, Ms. Napolitano suggested that the Homeland Security Department could have used a better choice of words in its assessment.

“In retrospect, anything can be written differently to prevent politicization,” she said.