Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano apologized Friday to a prominent veterans’ group for a report her office put out earlier this month, warning about the threat of "right wing extremists."
Specifically the report warns that the faltering economy and the election of the country’s first African-American president could be used to radicalize extremist groups and bolster their recruiting within the United States.
The report also links veterans into its threat assessment saying, "veterans possess combat skills and experience that are attractive to right wing extremists." And as a result, they could be targeted by these groups to "exploit their skills and knowledge derived from military training and combat."
And it throws in a reference to America’s most notorious home-grown terrorist: "After Operation Desert Shield/Storm in 1990-1991, some returning military veterans — including Timothy McVeigh — joined or associated with right wing extremist groups," the report states.
The American Legion took issue with those comments and the Legion’s National Commander David Rehbein wrote a letter to Secretary Napolitano condemning the report.
"The American Legion is well aware and horrified at the pain inflicted during the Oklahoma City bombing, but Timothy McVeigh was only one of more than 42 million veterans who have worn this nation’s uniform during wartime. 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," the letter said.
On Friday, Napolitano tried to set things right.
A DHS official tells ABC News that the secretary met personally with Rehbein and issued a mea culpa. The official said Napolitano told Rehbein that "the report was poorly written. It didn’t pass the standards of an internal review and therefore it shouldn’t have gone out the door."
When pressed about how such an oversight could have occurred, the senior DHS official said that because of the massive size of the department — more than 220,000 employees — "sometimes things slip through the cracks," and that new internal processes have now been put in place to make sure such a mistake doesn’t happen again.
The apology seemed to satisfy the American Legion. The Associated Press reports that after the meeting Rehbein said, "I think the session in Secretary Napolitano’s office will go a long way to help our returning veterans in the future."
But no doubt, it’s been a tough start for the new Secretary of Homeland Security. Besides the kerfuffle over the "Right Wing Extremist" report, she’s drawn heavy criticism for mistakenly saying that some of the 9/11 terrorists came into the country through Canada.
And the hits keep coming. Some lawmakers, including Rep. John Carter, R-Texas, say Napolitano’s not fit for the job and if she doesn’t quit, she should be forced out.
– ABC News’ Rachel Martin