By Peter Roff, Thomas Jefferson Street blog
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano certainly seems to be working very hard toward becoming the first Obama cabinet official to get the ax. As both Robert Schlesinger and I have written about here on the Thomas Jefferson Street blog, Napolitano came under fire in mid-April after a report titled "Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment" was published on the department's website.
The report, really an exercise in political profiling, was prepared for state and local political officials, allegedly to help keep them informed about the activities of political extremist groups on the right. But what it amounted to, as I wrote at the time, was "Little more than a nine-page screed against phantoms" employing McCarthyist tactics to smear anti-tax groups, anti-abortion activists, Second Amendment supporters, returning veterans, and others using broad brushstrokes. Nevertheless, Napolitano said she stood by the report, saying at the time she had been briefed on the topic before it was released.
"Let me be very clear," she said in a statement after the controversy erupted, "we monitor the risks of violent extremism taking root here in the United States."
She did, eventually, apologize to veterans and to veterans' groups who said they had been offended and, one can assume, pretty much expected to let it go at that. "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," she said in an effort to justify it.
But now another shoe has dropped: The report has been withdrawn and is being rewritten. And Napolitano has more explaining to do.
Appearing before the House Homeland Security Committee Wednesday, Napolitano suggested the facts about the report's preparation and release had been obfuscated once it became controversial.
"The wheels came off the wagon because the vetting process was not followed," Napolitano told the House committee. And, she said of the now-withdrawn report, "An employee sent it out without authorization."
Napolitano's story seemed to have changed. She said she was standing by the report but now it has been withdrawn. She was briefed on the topic before the report was released but now an employee sent it out without authorization.
It's a shame that time and money has to be spent getting to the bottom of what is, in the context of everything else going on in America right now, not the most important issue before the country. But, as we have now all come to understand, political profiling by the U.S. government is serious business. Especially to the people being profiled. As for Napolitano, she seems to be in way over her head.
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