Napolitano Apologizes Directly to Vets Group for Report
Updated 6:17 p.m. ET
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano apologized directly today to Commander Dave Rehbein, head of the American Legion, after a recently leaked DHS intelligence report suggested that right-wing extremist groups might recruit military veterans returning from overseas deployments. The 45-minute meeting occurred at DHS headquarters in Washington this afternoon.
A detailed account of the meeting from the American Legion states that "Hunched forward with head bowed, the Secretary of Homeland Security looked the National Commander of The American Legion straight in the eye and said, very quietly, 'I’m sorry, Dave.'"
“The report was not worthy of this department, or of veterans,” Napolitano said to Rehbein, according Legion spokesman Craig Roberts, who attended the meeting. "It was very badly written and should never have been released," she said.
The secretary "was very contrite" and that both her words and body language reflected her sincerity, Roberts said in an interview.
In her own written statement after the meeting Napolitano said, "We connected meaningfully about the important issues that have emerged over recent days, and I offered him my sincere apologies for any offense to our veterans caused by this report."
Rehbein was an early and vocal critic of the leaked DHS report and insisted on meeting with the secretary to get an explanation of it.
During the meeting the Legion also presented Napolitano with a Blue Star Banner in recognition of DHS employees who are military active duty guard and reservists currently deployed overseas.
The department's Office of Intelligence and Analysis distributed the report to state and local law enforcement on April 7. It regularly publishes intelligence analyses on domestic and international threats to the nation’s borders and infrastructure.
While it does not cite any specific threats, the report states among other things that: “The possible passage of new restrictions on firearms and the return of military veterans facing significant challenges reintegrating into their communities could lead to the potential emergence of terrorist groups or lone wolf extremists capable of carrying out violent attacks.”
Since the report's unauthorized release, Napolitano made a series of television appearances to apologize to veterans for the report and explain it. She has also faced lawsuits and calls for her resignation.
In a statement of support issued this afternoon, Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.), chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, called Napolitano "a superb choice to lead the Department of Homeland Security." He noted that the report on extremists was started during the Bush administration by career DHS employees and that he did not consider it politically motivated.
“Has there been a rough patch? Yes," Lieberman said. "But nothing that comes close to a firing offense."
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