Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Panel votes to investigate 'Extremism' report

Democrats on a key House panel joined Republicans in a unanimous vote calling for a formal inquiry into the Homeland Security Department to determine how a contentious report that described military veterans as possible recruits for radical extremists was developed and distributed.

In a rare bipartisan manner, the House Homeland Security Committee agreed to a resolution of inquiry that calls for Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to turn over all documents used to draft the report "Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment."

"When this DHS-produced assessment first surfaced in April, like many Americans, I had issues with its content," said Rep. Bennie G. Thompson, Mississippi Democrat and chairman of the committee.

"Certainly its definition of 'rightwing extremism,' which did not clarify that extremist violence was the department's true focus, raised considerable concern," Mr. Thompson said. "So did the suggestion that returning war veterans posed a potential threat to the homeland."

The subpoena measure was originally introduced May 6 by Rep. Peter T. King of New York, the panel's ranking Republican, along with other GOP leaders. But the move was criticized then by Mr. Thompson as "another GOP stunt aimed at embarrassing the new administration."

The full House must approve the subpoena for documents before it becomes binding. The documents must be turned over within 14 legislative days of such a vote.

Ms. Napolitano appeared before the committee last week and said the report has been pulled from the agency's internal Web site.

Mr. Thompson did not say during Tuesday's hearing why he changed his mind, and a spokesman did not return a call for comment.

"I am interested in getting all of the facts that went into this report," Mr. Thompson said.

However, Mr. King called it an "unprecedented display of cooperation on a resolution of inquiry."

"I assume Bennie wanted to do the right thing, and he realized that we have members across the board who are dissatisfied with the department and it really created a firestorm in many districts."