The government spends billions of dollars to find terrorists and plug leaks in the borders. It turns out much of that money could be saved simply by asking members of the House Homeland Security Committee where to look. Members were bubbling over with good ideas for Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson when he came to talk about his “vision for the future.”
Members of Congress like security. They can back-seat drive to their heart’s content. There’s no penalty for false alarms, and if they happen to get one right, well, they look more clear-eyed than the rest of us.
Committee Chairman Michael McCaul, a Texas Republican, for example, wasn’t the least embarrassed about previously predicting a terror attack – how else should “high probability” and “never seen a greater threat” be understood? – at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. McCaul moved on at Feb. 26's hearing to worry about terrorists grouping in Syria and training for a strike on the United States. Oh, and that Joaquín Guzmán Loera, the Mexican drug lord who was just caught, might escape.
New York Democrat Brian Higgins told Johnson that the Peace Bridge that connects Buffalo, N.Y., and Canada is a high-impact target for terrorists and he noted ominously that Hezbollah has a presence in North America. Most members improve their odds for clear-sightedness on terror by worrying generally about bridges or some other broad category.
Like South Carolina Republican Jeff Duncan. Too many immigrants overstay their visas, he averred. “We gave them a permission slip and they violated our trust,” he said, wanting Johnson to go find them. All Duncan needs to look far-sighted is an overstayed visa having a role in a future attack.
Higgins, by contrast, boldly hung his insight on one bridge.
The Lebanon-based Hezbollah that Higgins is worried about, incidentally, has the State Department’s official bad guy designation and ignorance of its presence would be quite an oversight for Homeland Security. Of course, so would ignorance of the risks of much-used bridges.
Arizona Democrat Ron Barber told Johnson that his district included the most porous section of the border with Mexico, Hawaii Democrat Tulsi Gabbard said her state is more dependent than most on its airports, and New York Republican Peter T. King wondered whether Homeland Security had given sufficient attention to the lone wolf, or terrorists unconnected to any network, like those involved in the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013.
Johnson – alert now to the dangers of expired visas, border crossings, Syrian training camps, airports and marathons – thanked the members for so many helpful suggestions.
His own vision for the department he just took over is to protect the nation from terrorist attack and secure the borders. Lesser minds wondered whether that was more job description than vision, but members appreciated it. Many of them seemed to think that not being Janet Napolitano, his predecessor, was all the vision Johnson needed.