Published April 24, 2009
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano apologized to the country's largest veterans organization Friday for a report warning that right-wing extremist groups were trying to recruit disgruntled troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.
Napolitano met with the American Legion at its request for about 45 minutes in a private meeting. The group had called for an apology from her in a letter earlier this month.
It was at least the third apology Napolitano has offered ever since the report was leaked to the media nearly two weeks ago, prompting a growing chorus of criticism -- including a small group of vocal conservative lawmakers calling for Napolitano's resignation.
"We connected meaningfully about the important issues that have emerged over recent days, and I offered him my sincere apologies for any offense to our veterans caused by this report," she said in a statement. Napolitano pledged that her department has "fixed the internal process that allowed this document to be released before it was ready."
David Rehbein, national commander of the group, told FOX News that he accepted Napolitano's apology.
"She was very sincere," he said. "She distinctly used the words 'I'm sorry.' And to me, that says that's sincere apology. Her body language, everything about those first few minutes of the meeting told me this was a real apology coming from her heart."
The intelligence assessment released to law enforcement on April 7 claims news of recession, the election of a black president, rumors of new gun restrictions and the inability of veterans to reintegrate create fertile ground for radicalizing and recruiting right-wing extremists.
Napolitano first apologized for some of the wording in the report after civil liberties officials at the Homeland Security Department said the report was issued without a change in some of the language that had been subject for dispute.