U.S. Rep. Charlie Dent (PA-15), a member of the House Committee on Homeland Security, joined a call with fellow Committee Ranking Members to request that a full committee hearing look into a recent Department of Homeland Security (DHS) threat assessment report that, among other things, labels returning war veterans as potential “right-wing extremists.”
The letter was sent to Committee Chairman Bennie G. Thompson, and requested an appearance by Secretary Napolitano to discuss some of the troubling aspects of the report.
“The men and women who are fighting true violent extremists in Iraq, Afghanistan and other remote places in the world deserve better than their own government calling them a potential threat,” Congressman Dent said. “While I certainly agree that DHS should be thorough in its assessments of all forms of threats, this particular passage is offensive because it merely feeds into fears and stereotypes of returning veterans.
“It is especially troubling to read this from an administration that is reluctant to use the terms ‘enemy combatant’ and ‘global war on terror’ in describing threats to our country. Therefore, I look forward to Secretary Napolitano’s sharing with the committee any specific threats posed by Americans who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
Text of the letter to Chairman Thompson follows:
April 17, 2009
The Honorable Bennie G. Thompson
Committee on Homeland Security
Washington, DC 20515
Dear Chairman Thompson:
We are in receipt of the copy of your letter to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano about the DHS Assessment entitled, “Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment.” We appreciate your initiative in seeking critical information about this report.
We agree with you that terrorism can come from the left or the right and DHS should focus on specific, actionable intelligence to counter the terrorist threats to our Nation. We also note that your letter reinforces the fact that the privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties issues surrounding this assessment are much more than just “Washington spin.”
While your letter raised questions about the process regarding the dissemination of products from the Department’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis, our ongoing internal review has shown that the Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties did, in fact, weigh in on the report and voiced several concerns about its contents. We are advised that while the Office of Intelligence and Analysis made changes to the report based on this input, not all of the recommended changes were included prior to dissemination of the report. This intra-departmental disconnect is disturbing, and is an issue that must be addressed immediately by the Secretary.
While we understand DHS officials are scheduled to brief the Committee on Homeland Security a week from now, due to the serious implications raised by the report, we request that a full committee hearing should be held on this issue at the earliest opportunity. Because an Under Secretary of Intelligence and Analysis has yet to be named, we request that you invite Secretary Napolitano to testify, along with the DHS Chief Privacy Officer and a representative from the DHS Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties. A second panel could include representatives from the privacy and civil liberties community, along with those for national veterans’ organizations.
We look forward to working with you in a bipartisan manner to conduct thorough oversight into this important matter. Thank you for your time and consideration of our request.