April 19th, 2010
04:31 PM ET
12 years ago

Expressions of political anger are protected, Napolitano says

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/04/19/art.janet0419.cnn.jpg caption="'There's obviously a great deal of political anger out there and angry rhetoric out there,' Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said in an interview that airs Monday on CNN."]
Washington (CNN) – President Obama's top homeland security official said Monday that the government has an obligation to tolerate expressions of political anger, while being ever vigilant for behavior that crosses the line into violence.

In an interview set to air Monday on CNN's The Situation Room, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano was asked whether Obama's status as the first African-American president is playing any role in motivating anti-government groups.

"It is mentioned by some, but lots of things are now being mentioned," she said. "So it's really hard to extrapolate from what a few are saying to what all are saying or what all believe.

"There's obviously a great deal of political anger out there and angry rhetoric out there. But, as I said earlier, that's something that we've had constantly in our country's history. We may not like it – don't appreciate it – but it is protected under our Constitution, under our sense of values. Where it's not protected is where you start moving into preparation for and carrying out violent acts."

Napolitano added that all levels of law enforcement have to be "leaning forward" and sharing threat information in order to minimize the chance of another event such as the Oklahoma City bombing or the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Napolitano was in Oklahoma Monday to attend a ceremony remembering victims of the bombing.

The Homeland Security secretary told CNN's Suzanne Malveaux that the Secret Service is "constantly monitoring" the safety of the president, the vice president, and their families. "That is something that there's no quarter left unspent to make that happen," she said.

In the interview, Napolitano also discusses what the government learned about improving security because of the Oklahoma City bombing, whether the climate in terms of anti-government activity in 2010 resembles that of 15 years ago when the bombing occurred, and if returning veterans are at particular risk for becoming disaffected and joining anti-government groups.

Napolitano was also asked about rumors that she is being considered for the Supreme Court.

The interview airs Monday, 5 p.m. ET on The Situation Room.

soundoff (32 Responses)
  1. Liz the First

    If this anger were against something real and not generated by hate speech from talking heads on tv and radio with their own agenda, i might respect it. but this country is full of stupid people who are angry because Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity tell them they should be angry and what they're angry about doesn't even exist. the country isn't drifting into socialism, no one is being 'taxed to death,' there is no government takeover of health care. the country is heading toward recovery from a near depression now that we're under intelligent, competent leadership. we have someone in the white house who cares about the American people over the big businesses and the banks. the 'anger' is over the fact that this caring, competent president is black and a Democrat. it's over government spending on the other guy and not on the angry ones, as very clearly demonstrated by the teabaggers in florida who were fine with more government spending on the space program, which directly benefits them! it's not really anger directed at anything real, it's greedy, bigoted, selfish people angry that we're not doing things their way. where was all this anger when Bush was destroying our country?

    April 19, 2010 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  2. Terry From West Texas

    I can certainly understand citizen anger about government actions.

    I am angry that Conservative Presidents Reagan-Bush-Bush went on a wild orgy of federal spending that added $8.5 trillion dollars to the national debt.

    I am angry that GW Bush invaded the wrong country, sent thousands of American soldiers to a pointless death, and spent a massive amount of money accomplishing nothing.

    I am angry that Conservative Presidents and Congressmen deregulated banks and finance corporations and then allowed them to plunge the nation into the worst recession since 1929.

    I am angry that Conservatives (and Bill Clinton) led us into this unstable global economy, where we are dependent on long fragile chains of supply that originate in nations that hate us. Now, America cannot feed herself or clothe herself.

    I am angry that Conservatives believe in outsourcing our jobs and cutting our benefits. They don't want middle-class America to be prosperous.

    I'm angry that Conservatives think of the middle class as the loser class and the lower class is the loafer class.

    I am angry that we now purchase the things we invented from Asia instead of producing our own cars, computers, electronic gizmos, etc. thanks to "free trade." I liked trade a lot better before it got "free."

    However, I have no plans to secede from the union, shoot anyone, start a revolution, or wander around the woods shooting deer and "No Trespassing" signs. You have to be really sick to want to do something like that.

    April 19, 2010 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  3. Debby

    Oh please Bush got alot of threats constantly. I remember Laura Bush on Larry King telling him her husband is always compared to Hitler just like Obama is. If you want this office you have to suck it up and not constantly whine and call the race card when people don't agree with you. I could only imagine the things that would have been said if Hillary was President. Napolitano is over hyping. Where was she when the almost Christmas bomber blew up a plane. We hardly heard from her about that.

    April 19, 2010 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  4. Stacey

    "Where it's not protected is where you start moving into preparation for and carrying out violent acts."

    So you're waiting for one of those idiot militia people or tea baggers to kill someone with one of their guns before you do anything about it?

    April 19, 2010 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  5. frank in valparaiso indiana

    The biggest tea party patriot here who spouts no taxes, government needs to be smaller has a job with the county. What a bunch of idiots.

    Sorry, but show up with a noose, that should be grounds for losing your cushy government check. Especially members of the military.

    April 19, 2010 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |

    Why is the media and dems always trying to bring racism into the discussion when talking about O'bama ?Most of the people that i know could care less about the fact that he"'s black. They just believe his policies are not what this country needs and disagree with him.I know this must be quite a shock to him but he'ws needs to realize that we love this country that our founders gave us and not the one he wants to move us towards.

    April 19, 2010 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  7. awaitingliberalizationbyCNN

    Liz the firs@ is a typical libertard trying to say that we cannot think for ourselves. How demeaning and degrading. That is the kind of condesceding, arrogant attitude that is making us so angry. Notice she calls us greedy, bigoted selfish people. Libertards sure know how to win arguments don't they. She is probably an SEIU member or a member of the DNC out there egging TEA party buses and then lying to law enforcement about doing it. That was actually on tape, unlike some of the hateful, bigoted, racist things that the libertards have accused us of.

    April 19, 2010 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |

    I am a Democrat, but after fifty years I am looking for greener pastures. All I can hear is critizism on the Republicans that they cause everything. Do any of you fellow Democrats ever look up the facts before you start rambling. A good example of that is that one such OBAMA supporter said Bill Clinton decreased the national debt by a half trillion dollars. I beg your pardon. He balanced his budget and left three trillions dollars in escrow. This Bush Jr. gave back to the people in the first six months of his office. Now Bill is trying to stir up bull that the Tea Party is a terrorist organization. THIS IS BULL. ATTEND ONE OF THEIR GATHERINGS. THESE PEOPLE WANT SMALLER GOVERNMENT ONE RAN ACCORDING TO THE CONSTITUTION AND CHRISTIANITY PUT BACK INTO OUR SCHOOLS, GOVERNMENT AND EVERYDAY AFFAIRS. THEY HAVE NO VIOLENT PROGRAM. BUT WHATS WORSE IS ALL THE BASHING OF THE REPUBS. STARTED THIS AND THEY STARTED THAT. LET ME TELL YOU IF YOU WILL LOOK IT UP. THE REPUBLICANS ONLY STARTED TWO WARS FOR THIS NATION, THE CIVIL AND THE IRAQ WAR-AFGHANISTAN. THIS IS GETTING RIDICULOUS. THE PROBLEM HERE IS THAT NEITHER OF THESE PARTIES ARE WILLING TO WORK TOGETHER FOR THE PEOPLE WHO HIRED THEM. JUST LIKE YOU'RE WHISTLING IN DIXIE IF YOU THINK THE BLACKS (OF COURSE THE AFRICAN-AMERICANS- I don't know when they want to be called plain old Americans we all came from somewhere) WILL EVERY GET ALONG WITH THE ANGLO-SAXON RACE. They now are still after 150 years are STILL blaming the modern DAY whites for their troubles. GROW-UP AMERICA or i am gone from the democratic party and tea party here i come.

    April 19, 2010 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  9. Oompa Loompa

    America is morally bankrupt and under control of the media. That's the real problem but our society as a whole is controlled by the media. At times the media are puppets of the government spewing the "truth" they want you to hear. At other times the media use sensationalism, half truths, and partial context to guide sentiment and create controversy in an effort to boost ratings that will cash in as advertsing dollars. I just heard on CNN that two "mistresses" of public notariety are being considered for their own TV reality show. One each of Tiger Woods and Jesse James "hookers" are being glorified as "victims" of a rich man's sexual escapades. There is no way on this earth they are innocent victims, it takes two to tango and if they chose to tango with highly famous married men why on earth are they continually in the press as victims and being considered for a show. I guess they must be that good with their wares....right sponsors and producers? I pray for our children and our leaders in media and government. So morally deficient and corrupt.

    April 19, 2010 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  10. T. Jefferson

    Terry from West Texas@4:52:

    I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past.

    April 19, 2010 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  11. phoenix86

    Wow, the liberal bloggers on this post are really out of touch with history and reality aren't they.

    April 19, 2010 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  12. Jin

    The teabaggers do NOT have any edge on political anger...as they will find out in November. Some of us not speaking out are sick and tired of Right Wing Radical Repugnicans trying to destabilize American Democracy. GET THE EFF OVER YOURSELVES. Democracy has spoken and the majority elected this President to clean up the mess the GOPPERS made over the last eight years. STFU until you get to see if what we are doing works.

    April 19, 2010 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  13. Diane Dagenais Turbide

    We are what we eat just as we are what you speak!

    The more we keep on feeding our own conversations with junk rhetoric the more we eat and fill our brain with junk rhetoric and the more we keep on digesting all this junk rhetoric and the more people do not understand why they are not feeling well...what do you expect from eating and digesting junk rhetoric! It is time to have healthier conversations!

    April 19, 2010 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  14. Rick in OP

    I don’t remember hearing the outrage of Liberals/Democrats when a documentary film in England was made based on a hypothetical assassination of George W. Bush.

    Now the Liberals/Democrats are trying to paint their opponents as “violent extremists”. That will make it easier for them to attempt to intimidate opponents of the Obama Administration. After the intimidation, what comes next? Liberals/Democrats need to understand that the American people are not going to be intimidated by a bunch of punks from Chicago.

    April 19, 2010 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  15. Cloos -What goes around comes around.

    Terry from West Texas-
    Agree 100%. Remember when thousands of people protested prior to our invading Iraq? Did people call them patriotic for questioning the administration? No. They were called America haters, loons, and cowards. Remember, "you are with us, or you are with the terrorists"?
    Debby, Obama receives approximately 30 death threats daily, which is a 400% increase over what the last administration had. What do you suppose would have happened if someone had shown up to a Bush speech with a gun? He did not even allow people with protest signs within eyesight. They were kept in "protest zones" blocks away. I doubt very much if it would have been looked at as some good old boy exercising his 2nd amendment freedom. Suck it up, it is not being "overhyped"

    April 19, 2010 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  16. Bruce

    MAD IN TEXAS...you might want us to believe you're a Democrat, but you're a DINO. Your retoric does not suggest that you're a Democrat. You might be better off labeling yourself an Independent...you'll be more credible.

    April 19, 2010 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  17. Cloos -What goes around comes around.

    phoenix86 April 19th, 2010 5:16 pm ET

    Wow, the liberal bloggers on this post are really out of touch with history and reality aren't they.


    April 19, 2010 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  18. BeverlyNC

    There is a fine line between "free speech" and "hate speech" and the Republicans. FOX, and their lunatic tea baggers keep crossing that line. They are hate-mongers and dangerous to our country.
    Yet again another tea bagger was arrested by the FBI today for death threats against a FL Democrat Congresswoman.

    This is not a political game. Republicans have turned into domestic terrorists that have no business holding any office in our government!

    April 19, 2010 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  19. reality

    really CNN...is this just another angle for you to interject and insinuate that the tea party is violent? Honestly, the tea party represents the true America, you and your annointed one do not. Wait until November...when America votes for America to return to a captalistic society and not a socialistic society.

    How are your ratings? Are they still falling? Perhaps you too should return to the founding principles of journalism and not be so biased and actually report the truth.

    April 19, 2010 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  20. reality

    CNN and the Democrats will do anyting and say anthing to prevent the truth about Obama coming out – he is INEPT and UNABLE to lead this country anywhere but to bankruptcy.

    April 19, 2010 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  21. davis

    Well said Liz the First! I agree with you!!! Meanwhile, awaitingliberalizationbyCNN you just sound uninformed and like a hypocrite with your "libertard" name calling.

    April 19, 2010 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  22. D.

    Napolitano, just saying the obvious is not enough.
    You guys Democrats just blame blame blame others, while you have been had the congress for over 3 years and the presidency for over a year, and all you do just fails on all fronts. Blame the people will not work, blame the rich will not work, blaming America will not work.... We know who is mis-running things!

    April 19, 2010 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  23. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    Let their anger be protected, but let them make an unlawful move the Government knows who they are and I have fear. That's why it's so important that we always support Israel and the Jews because they will protect us.

    April 19, 2010 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  24. hobart

    Actually, the anger isn't any more than usual. What's different is that we have personalities in the media and political realms deliberately inciting threats, slurs, spitting, acts of violence, secession, domestic terrorism and treason, and now it's all coming from the radical right. In the 60s, much of this anger came from the radical left.

    Anyway, back to the present moment, it's pretty clear that many influential folks on the right (Palin, Bachmann, Beck, Limbaugh, Hannity, etc.) think America is so imperfect that it's OK to pal around with terrorists, secessionists, and traitors, and to deliberately incite the lunatic fringe to violence, and the while who used to be more thoughtful Republicans sit idly by.

    Why do Republicans so hate America that they feel they must resort to violence and treason?

    April 19, 2010 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  25. Mike in Oahu

    The rise in seditious speech is a forboding indicator. One can voice disagreement without the violent rhetoric. Once one crosses the line and abdicates removal by force of violence then the seeds of insurrection are being purposefully planted. There is a lot of foolish rhetoric being bantered around at rallies which should be publicly admonished by responsible leaders, yet many of these leaders choose to bury their heads in the sands and pretend it is not happening.

    Voicing policy disagreements is good for democracy, inciting insurrection destroys democracy. There needs to be a concerted return to civility in our political discourse.

    April 19, 2010 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
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