During a Fox & Friends discussion of airport pat downs by the Transportation Security Agency, Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham falsely claimed that Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano issued an "edict" "brand[ing]" returning military veterans as "potential threats to the United States." The argument that Napolitano put forth an assessment demonizing veterans was debunked years ago ... by Fox News.
Furthermore, the TSA actually has a program developed in conjunction with the Department of Defense to "assist the military severely injured and their families traveling throughout our airport security checkpoints."
The genesis of Ingraham's claim is a since-withdrawn 2009 Department of Homeland Security intelligence assessment on the possibility of right-wing extremism. The assessment warned of a possible resurgence among extremist groups that "will attempt to recruit and radicalize returning veterans in order to exploit their skills and knowledge derived from military training and combat."
The assessment further stated: "The willingness of a small percentage of military personnel to join extremist groups during the 1990s because they were disgruntled, disillusioned, or suffering from the psychological effects of war is being replicated today." The DHS cited a 2008 FBI report -- authored during the Bush administration -- as evidence that "some returning military veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have joined extremist groups."
On April 15, 2009, Catherine Herridge -- Fox News' national correspondent for homeland security, Justice Department, and intelligence issues -- and Fox News host Shepard Smith debunked the attacks from the right-wing media that the assessment showed that Napolitano was targeting conservatives, veterans, and other groups.
And you remember from reporting on this show, Shep, that even at the end of last year, prior to the inauguration, the Homeland Security Department under the Bush administration was sounding the alarm about the potential for right-wing groups to act, specifically because of the economy, and also because America was going to have its first African-American president.
Herridge later added, referring to the assessments on left-wing and right-wing extremists, "I would point out that both of these assessments, Shep, were commissioned under the Bush administration. It takes some time to do them. They only came out after he had left office."
Immediately following Herridge's report, Smith hosted former CIA officer Mike Baker, who told Smith that in doing the assessment, DHS would have been "looking at all of the potential concerns, and all they're trying to say is in terms of the disgruntled vets returning home maybe as an individual who's having a hard time assimilating back ... it's something to watch. And it could be any disgruntled element of society."
Smith responded: "Everybody's so sensitive right now. The truth is military -- members of the military, some of them have been through a lot. And because they're human beings, some of them will not be able to handle what they've been through." Baker agreed, saying: "Right. And the intel assessment guys -- they do this all the time."
So, as Fox News itself has proved, Napolitano never issued an "edict" that returning military veterans were to be seen as "potential threats." But that won't stop Fox from continuing to repeat the falsehood.