The US Homeland Security Department, under fire for saying US forces returning from the Iraq and Afghan wars were potential right-wing extremist recruits, said Wednesday it honors US veterans.
"We are on the lookout for criminal and terrorist activity but we do not -- nor will we ever -- monitor ideology or political beliefs," Napolitano said in a statement amid charges that the department had done just that.
American Legion chief David Rehbein on Tuesday blasted the report as "incomplete, and, I fear, politically-biased" and took special aim at its warning that returning veterans having difficulties reintegrating society could be recruited by right-wing groups for possible terrorist attacks.
In a letter to Napolitano, Rehbein underlined the document's mention of Oklahoma City bombing author Timothy McVeigh's US Army background and called it "as unfair as using Osama bin Laden as the sole example of Islam."
"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," said Rehbein, who group comprises some 2.6 million members.
Napolitano said she accepted Rehbein's request for a meeting and stressed: "I will tell him face-to-face that we honor veterans at DHS and employ thousands across the department, up to and including the deputy secretary."
The report said that fears of possible new restrictions on firearms, as well as troubled veterans returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, "could lead to the potential emergence of terrorist groups or lone wolf extremists capable of carrying out violent attacks."
Rehbein said the accusation, levelled in an April 7 document designed for local law enforcement officials, was "without any statistical evidence."
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