Vets furious about soldier "threat"

April 17, 2009 2:26:20 AM PDT
Veterans groups are taking aim at the Department of Homeland Security for a report that says returning U.S. soldiers could be a threat to national security. The intelligence assessment says some military veterans could be susceptible to extremist recruiters or commit lone acts of violence.

In a round of media interviews Thursday, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano apologized and said the report was "an assessment, not an accusation," and "We do not mean to suggest that veterans as a whole are at risk of becoming violent extremists."

She also said some sections of the documents were taken out of context and that there has been a lot of political spinning "out there in Washington, D.C. land."

Napolitano's clarification may not be enough for many veterans who were deeply offended by the suggestion that soldiers would do anything to hurt the United States.

With 37 years in the Army - two tours in Vietnam and the Korean War - Triangle area veteran Rich Heroux said Thursday he's never heard anything like it.

"She shouldn't have said that veterans are a threat to the stability of the United States. Veterans have never been a threat to the U.S. and never will be a threat to the U.S.," he told Eyewitness News.

Several lawmakers have also expressed anger about the report.

"To characterize men and women returning home after defending our country as potential terrorists is offensive and unacceptable," House Minority Leader John Boehner said Wednesday.

Asked about Boehner's remarks, Napolitano said, "He wants to make some political hay."

This is not the first time the department has warned of the threat of domestic terrorism. In February, the department issued a similar warning about possible cyber attacks from left wing extremists. In September, the agency reported that right-wing extremists over the past five years had used the immigration debate as a recruiting tool. Since September, the agency issued at least four reports on individual domestic extremist groups such as Hammerskin Nation, a skinhead organization.

In the September 26, 2008, Hammerskin assessment, the agency says that a number of the group's members have received "extensive military training" and served in Iraq and Afghanistan. The report said the veterans have the training needed to build large scale bombs, like the type used in the Oklahoma City bombing.

Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh was a military veteran, but veterans groups say that doesn't mean all veterans are potential terrorists.

"That's one in 10 million. Timothy McVeigh was not the normal veteran from United States military. He was an anomaly," Rich Heroux with the American Legion told Eyewitness News.


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