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Wednesday, April 7, 2010 as of 11:14 AM ET

Homeland Security

Mike Levine

Washington, DC


Napolitano: The Issue Is “Turn To Violence”

April 20, 2010 - 4:55 PM | by: Mike Levine

Napolitano at memorial in Oklahoma City, Apr. 19


A day after she was in Oklahoma City to commemorate 15 years since the deadly bombing there, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano on Tuesday expressed concern that groups inside the United States, including anti-government groups, could be seeking to launch violent attacks.

“The question is not ideology,” she told Fox News in a wide-ranging and lengthy interview. “We’ve always had groups on all sides that have held beliefs that are very strong and express them very vociferously.”

Instead, the issue is “the turn to violence,” according to Napolitano, who, as U.S. Attorney for Arizona at the time, helped lead part of the federal investigation into the Oklahoma City bombing.

“Whenever you go to Oklahoma City, you need to go to the memorial, and you need to walk through that museum,” she said Tuesday in a somber tone. “That will teach you the difference between those who are merely expressing themselves – loudly and with anger – and the violence that we must seek to prevent.”

In March, federal authorities arrested nine militia members from Michigan, Ohio and Indiana, accusing them of planning to kill law enforcement officers and start an all-out war with the government.

Days later, the FBI acknowledged it was investigating a series of letters sent from an anti-government group to governors across the country, promising to remove the governors from office if they did not resign themselves.

Nearly a year earlier, the Department of Homeland Security issued a controversial bulletin to local law enforcement, warning that current economic and political factors could help “right-wing extremist groups” recruit new people.

Shortly after the assessment became public, Napolitano denounced it and said it should never have been issued.

But the recent militia-related arrests and FBI investigation have not changed Napolitano’s views on the assessment, as she continued to distance herself from it on Tuesday.

She bristled at even the term “right-wing,” saying it was something she didn’t want to use.

When read some less-controversial lines from the assessment, Napolitano said she agrees that “the threat posed by lone wolves and small terror cells is more pronounced than in past years,” and that “the current economic and political climate has some similarities to the [early] 1990s,” which led to the Oklahoma City bombing.

She also said she agrees “in part” with the line saying, “The economic downturn and the election of the first African-American president present unique drivers for right-wing radicalization and recruitment.”

After all, she said, “Those are things that we in law enforcement are dealing with all the time.”

But, she said, the assessment issued a year ago was “not written in a fashion that was usable by local law enforcement.”

“I think now, having been in the job 15 months, the goal that we need to have is to give local law enforcement tactical intelligence-based threat information that they can act upon — not generalizations and not comments about ideologies,” she said. “There is a balance there, and there is a nuance there that our department now needs to not only express but communicate with local law enforcement.”

On Monday, Napolitano toured the Oklahoma City National Memorial Museum with Oklahoma Governor Brad Henry, Oklahoma City Police Chief Bill Citty and Fire Chief Keith Bryant.

Citty and Bryant responded to the bombing 15 years ago, according to the Department of Homeland Security.

During a speech on Monday, Napolitano called the Oklahoma City bombing, which killed 168 people, an “unspeakable act of terrorism.”

“We honor the continued need for vigilance against the hateful ideologies that led to this attack, so that we can recognize their signs in our communities and stand together to defeat them,” she said. “I wish it were possible to stand here and say that threats from terrorism and violent extremism have gone away since then. We know that’s not the case.”

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