Tag Archives: Jeh Johnson

DHS Chief Reassigns TSA Administrator Over Security Test Failures

Yesterday, Truth in Media brought news of a Department of Homeland Security report, first published by ABC News, which identified the fact that the Transportation Security Administration utterly failed a DHS security test in which undercover “red team” agents posed as passengers and attempted to slip through checkpoints at US airports carrying potential weapons or explosives. Over the course of the test, TSA agents allowed 67 out of 70 armed undercover agents to slip through checkpoints at dozens of American airports, raising questions about the bureau’s ability to protect airline passengers.

Late Monday afternoon, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson ordered a series of changes aimed at fixing the security vulnerabilities. Fox News notes that Secretary Johnson has reassigned TSA Acting Administrator Melvin Carraway to work in the DHS Office of State and Local Law Enforcement and has promoted Acting Deputy Director Mark Hatfield to Carraway’s former position as TSA Acting Administrator.

We take these findings very seriously. The numbers in these reports never look good out of context, but they are a critical element in the continual evolution of our aviation security,” read a statement by Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson.

Additionally, Secretary Johnson ordered a review of the agency’s screening equipment and that TSA officers undergo extra training. He also plans to continue the undercover testing program.

Former White House counter-terrorism official Frank Cilluffo told CBS This Morning in the above-embedded video that, when it comes to security, “We’ve got to be right 100% of the time. The adversary only has to be right once.

According to The New York Times, President Obama nominated Coast Guard Vice Admiral Peter Neffenger to serve as TSA Administrator back in April, but Neffenger has yet to be confirmed by the Senate. Secretary Johnson called on senators to confirm Neffenger in the wake of the failed tests.

An aide to Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Ron Johnson (R-WI) told Fox News that the test’s findings that have been published so far in news reports “raise valid concerns in light of earlier inspector general findings and ‘red team’ tests of TSA’s vulnerabilities.” Said Senator Johnson’s aide, “Taxpayers have spent billions of dollars to secure our air travel system. It’s important for that goal to be met.

Homeland Security Admits: No Credible Terrorist Plot Against Mall of America

Following threats from Islamist militants in Somalia against the Mall of America, and the chief of the Department of Homeland Security’s warning that visitors to the mall should be “particularly vigilant,” the department later admitted that it was not aware of any credible plot from the militants.

On Sunday, DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson appeared on Meet the Press with Chuck Todd. Johnson said that the American public needed to be “particularly vigilant” in response to the militant’s threats.

We’re in a new phase in global terrorist threat right now which involves core al-Qaeda, but now other groups, the ISIL group being the most prominent example of that,” Johnson said.

This terror threat comes at a time when Homeland Security is waiting for Congress to pass legislation to continue funding the department. The upcoming deadline is Feb. 27.

Regarding a possible shutdown, Johnson said, “It’s bizarre and absurd that we’re even having this discussion in these challenging times, given the global terrorist threat we’ve just been talking about, given the harsh winter we’re in the midst of, and all the other things that we do.”

The Mall of America, located in Bloomington, Minnesota, released a statement regarding the threat:

Mall of America is aware of the threatening video that was released, which included mention and images of the mall. We take any potential threat seriously and respond appropriately. We have implemented extra security precautions, some may be noticeable to guests and others won’t.”

Reuters reported that while security officials are “worried about the risk of an attack on U.S. soil by a solitary militant,” the group al Shabaab “has not appeared to gain much traction with most Somalis in the West, including in Minneapolis.”

Following Johnson’s comments, DHS spokeswoman Marsha Catron released a statement on Sunday saying that the department has worked with both the FBI and “private sector partners,” and has found no evidence of a credible threat to the mall.

“We are not aware of any specific, credible plot against the Mall of America or any other domestic commercial shopping center,” Catron said.

DHS Delays Funding on Obama’s Immigration Plan after TX Judge Grants Injunction

Following a temporary restraining order from a federal judge in Texas on Monday, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced on Tuesday that it will not go forward with its original plan to implement President Obama’s executive immigration order on Wednesday.

The New York Times reported that the injunction, which was filed by judge Andrew Hanen of the Federal District Court for the Southern District of Texas, “prohibited the Obama administration from carrying out programs the president announced on Nov. 20 that would offer protection from deportation and work permits to as many as five million undocumented immigrants.”

Texas is not alone in its efforts to halt Obama’s executive order, and is part of a coalition of 26 states that have filed a lawsuit against the federal government to block the order on immigration.

According to the Huffington Post, while the injunction is “not a final ruling on the constitutionality of Obama’s action,” it will “prevent the policies from moving forward as the lawsuit proceeds.

DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson said that although he “strongly disagrees” with the injunction, the DHS recognizes that it “must comply” and will suspend the expansion of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, along with the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) program.

“Accordingly, the Department of Homeland Security will not begin accepting requests for the expansion of DACA tomorrow, February 18, as originally planned,” said Johnson. “Until further notice, we will also suspend the plan to accept requests for DAPA.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican from Kentucky, said that Senate Democrats, “especially those who’ve voiced opposition to the president’s executive overreach,” should end their “partisan filibuster” of DHS funding.

Senator Chuck Schumer, a Democrat from New York, said that he felt this ruling was “very unlikely to be upheld.

It’s perfectly appropriate to take this issue to court,” said Schumer. “But it is completely unacceptable for Republicans to hold up funding for the Department of Homeland Security while the case wends its way through the legal system.”

House Speaker John Boehner, a Republican from Ohio, said he will continue to “follow the case as it moves through the legal process.”

The president said 22 times he did not have the authority to take the very action on immigration he eventually did, so it is no surprise that at least one court has agreed,” said Boehner. “Hopefully, Senate Democrats who claim to oppose this executive overreach will now let the Senate begin debate on a bill to fund the Homeland Security department.”

In a video from Reuters, Obama addressed the injunction, saying that he disagrees with Hanen’s ruling and the Justice Department will appeal:

Review finds Secret Service needs an ‘overhaul’

The Secret Service has faced a lot of scrutiny recently after allowing multiple people to breach the perimeter of the White House and approach the president unhindered.  Now, a review panel released a report of the agency responsible for protecting the president, and is calling for a major overhaul of the agency.

The panel heard one common critique from those inside and outside the Service: The Service is too insular,” reads the summary of the report.  The report also says the Secret Service is “starved for leadership that rewards innovation and excellence.”

The report outlined a few recommendations for ways to help the Secret Service, the first of which, according to Reuters, is to simply build a higher fence around the White House.  The new fence would be “4 to 5 feet higher” than the current fence and the top of which would curve outwards.

Another recommendation was also hiring more agents.  “The Secret Service is stretched to and, in many cases, beyond its limits,” said the report.  The addition of close to 300 new agents, the report found, would shorten the long hours the agents currently work and allow more needed rest for agents.  

Finally, the report suggests the need for a non-Secret Service person to be selected for the position of leader within the agency.  This goes against the long-standing practice of choosing a Secret Service member as the leader, but it would also bring a fresh view of the agency from the outside.  This, the report claims, would bring more accountability to the agency.

Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson weighed in on the review, saying, according to CBS News, the panel findings were “astute, thorough and fair.”

“It is now up to the leadership of the Secret Service and the Department of Homeland Security to ensure that all the recommendations are carefully considered,” said Johnson.  “In fact, some of the panel’s recommendations are similar to others made in past agency reviews… The Secret Service itself must commit to change.”

Dept. of Homeland Security Tells Companies to Spy on Their Customers

Thirteen years to the day after the tragic 9/11 attacks, authorities continue to project suspicions on law-abiding citizens who have not been accused of crimes, rather than known terrorists. According to The Washington Times, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said that DHS will be issuing new instructions to retailers this week that encourage them to spy on their customers’ transactions in an effort to catch individuals who might be planning a terrorist attack. Johnson characterized the effort as a continuation of the controversial “if you see something, say something” campaign that pushes citizens to snoop on one another.

Secretary Johnson specified that retailers should be trained on how to identify a “long list” of products that could be used to make a bomb. However, he has yet to clarify how retail employees, who are rarely trained in advanced chemistry, would be able to spot bomb-making materials in a check-out line. If the plan were to count on companies to analyze their sales records to find individuals who bought combinations of explosive precursors, costly point-of-sale software upgrades would have to be made, and that strategy would only catch potential terrorists that identify themselves during the transaction by, for example, paying for items using a credit card in their own name, rather than cash.

During a question-and-answer session that followed a speech by Secretary Johnson at Wednesday’s Council on Foreign Relations meeting, reporter Lucy Komisar asked, “Taking up what you said about concern about homegrown terrorism… How do you deal with the fact that some budding terrorists can very easily go to some state where there are very few restrictions, none really enforced, get assault weapons, get handguns, walk around in the street with them, walk around even in an airport with them? Isn’t this a huge hole in your protection of people in this country when terrorists in this country can get lethal weapons right here and turn them on us?”

Secretary Johnson replied, “Without directly commenting on various gun control ideas out there… I am concerned, and, put handguns aside for a moment, put assault weapons aside for a moment, I am concerned about how easy it is for somebody to buy, in an open fashion, materials, explosives, precursors to explosives, pressure cookers that can be used to cause mass destruction, mass violence. We saw an example of that in Boston last year… We can’t and we shouldn’t prohibit the sale of a pressure cooker. We can sensitize retail businesses to be on guard for suspicious behavior by those who buy this kind of stuff, and, so one of the reasons I am concerned about domestic-based acts of mass violence is the ease with which somebody can assemble things that in and of themselves are not dangerous but you put them all together… and then you combine that with some of the learning on the internet that various groups put out… it combines for a serious concern and a serious homeland security concern, and so I… have decided that we need to make, as a large part of the homeland security mission, countering violent extremism at home.” Aside from the example of the pressure cooker, Johnson did not yet specify which products are considered explosive precursors. DHS will issue the new guidelines this week, which are expected to include tips on how to identify potential terrorists among retail customers.

Civil liberties advocates often worry that comments like these by authorities could drive citizens to a state of paranoia, leading fear-stricken people to report benign activities to law enforcement. As an example, an African-American man was recently fatally shot by police in a Walmart while holding a toy BB gun that he intended to purchase from the store after a panicked couple reported him to police in a way that led officers to believe that he was an active shooter about to begin a rampage.

Video of DHS Secretary Johnson’s entire speech at Wednesday’s Council on Foreign Relations meeting can be seen in the above-embedded video. The question-and-answer portion from which the above quote was taken begins at around the 38:05 mark.