Can Jeh Johson Fix the Department of Homeland Security?

Jeh Johnson, President Obama’s nomination for the new Department of Homeland Security secretary, is a uniting figure, with both liberals and conservatives suspicious of him. Liberals object to Jonhson’s record as general counsel for the Department of Defense, a role he held from 2009 to 2012, during which he authored the legal defense for using weaponized drones abroad. (A fact that Code Pink brought to the attention of Johnson’s Georgetown neighbors by projecting a “No Killer Drones” sign onto the outside of his house.) Conservatives dislike the fact that Johnson has been quiet about his position on immigration issues. When asked during a confirmation hearing about his first priority as DHS secretary, Johnson replied that he would improve the agency’s leadership, “champion” its employees and improve overall morale. He sounded like a professor at a business school, more of paper-pusher than a chest-thumper. It was a strangely low-drama performance for a secretary of homeland security. Senator John McCain said he would refuse to approve Johnson’s nomination until he gave a more detailed plan for border security; late last month, six Republican congressman on the House Judiciary Committee wrote a letter to Johnson asking that he spell out his beliefs on immigration matters. Despite these suspicions, Johnson is all but guaranteed to have his nomination approved as a result of Congress’s recent vote to forbid filibustering executive appointments. Johnson’s previous support for drone use is more relevant to his new post than it might originally seem. A Customs and Border Patrol report obtained by the Electronic Frontier Foundation this summer showed that the agency was considering equipping its Predator drones with “non-lethal weapons designed to immobilize” targets—perhaps the first-ever proposal for flying weaponized drones domestically. But Johnson might have a more Continue Reading

The Department of Homeland Security’s ‘Baby Jails’

Childcare services are in short supply across the country, but there’s one place where the government is actually rushing to offer free daycare for a select group of families: inside immigration detention centers. Last summer, the White House ran into a sticky problem when trying to detain refugee families who had crossed the border to flee mass violence. A court ruling had deemed the federal immigrant-detention system unsuitable for children because they could not receive decent care when caged in the compounds. While court challenges have led the government to grudgingly free some families, the Department of Homeland Security has created a novel workaround for this conundrum for others, by turning detention centers into childcare centers. Rights advocates are not sold. For years they’ve decried family detention facilities as inhumane, unnecessarily restrictive, even unconstitutional—definitely no place for a child. Amy Fischer, policy director for the civil legal aid organization Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services says, “It’s a farce to think that essentially a baby jail could be licensed [to jail children] by the Department that’s [supposed] to ensure safe and healthy childcare services…. There’s no way to license a jail for children.” Judge Dolly Gee of the Los Angeles district court agrees. In a series of decisions she has ruled the Obama administration could not continue to detain families. The conditions at the three designated family facilities—two large centers in Texas, Dilley and Karnes, and a small facility in Pennsylvania (which now faces delicensing) —were inherently harmful to children, she stated, and exposed them to systematic maltreatment and inadequate social services. She ordered that children be placed with family members in communities, or in “licensed, non-secure child care facilities.” Continue Reading

Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson wants to eliminate the Department of Homeland Security

Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson, who is seemingly unaware of terrorism in America and abroad, wants to shut down the Department of Homeland Security to save money. The low-polling Libertarian sees the department devoted to national security as “just another layer of bureaucracy,” he told the Fox Business Network on Monday. “Homeland Security, what do they really do?” he pondered. “Why are there armed Homeland Security agents walking the streets now? Why are those black, unmarked vehicles Homeland Security? What do they do? I just think the morale is low within the Department of Homeland Security and nobody knows really what they do.” In Johnson’s fantasy world, the FBI would take over all DHS responsibilities — but he offered no plan for how, exactly, he would phase out the department. His comments came the same day as a manhunt culminated for Ahmad Khan Rahami, who is accused of detonating explosives in New York City and New Jersey. The DHS, formed 14 months after the 9/11 attacks, focuses on antiterrorism, disaster prevention, cybersecurity and border protection. Its budget in fiscal year 2016 was $41.2 billion. The would-be fighter of bureaucratic bloat hasn’t exactly emerged as an expert on national security. Earlier month, he infamously failed to recognize Aleppo, the largest city in Syria, in a live TV interview about terrorism. This weekend, Johnson said “nobody got hurt” in the New York City bombing and Minnesota mall stabbing that left dozens of civilians injured. After both flubs, the former Republican governor of New Mexico said he misspoke — and released statements insisting he knows what is going on. Johnson and his middling third-party counterpart, Green Party contender Jill Stein, both learned last week they have not polled high enough to qualify for spots in the upcoming presidential debates. Continue Reading

Hacker publishes contact info for 20,000 FBI employees, one day after massive Department of Homeland Security data dump

An unknown hacker published contact information for about 20,000 FBI employees Monday— just a day after leaking data from the Department of Homeland Security and threatening a Justice Department breach. The data dump appeared on a week-old Twitter account, @DotGovs, claiming to be an anti-Israel hacker. The user tweeted an encrypted list of names, phone numbers and email addresses for DHS employees. 63,000 S.S. NUMBERS HACKED AT UNIVERSITY OF CENTRAL FLORIDA The Daily News dialed more than 20 numbers published on the list. Several calls went to the wrong person or disconnected lines. But most connected to the respective person named in the data dump, either directly or through voicemail.Those reached on the phone declined comment. The FBI referred questions to the Justice Department, which said it is"looking into the unauthorized access" of its system but does not believe any "sensitive personally identifiable information" was stolen. The hack comes one day after an identical data dump released contact information for more than 9,000 DHS workers. The hacker reached out to Motherboard Sunday, saying he stole details about tens of thousands of federal employees by hacking into a Justice Department email. He then called someone in the web department, posing as a new employee who needed help navigating web portals, and found his way to snatching 200GB of files, he said. The Daily News called dozens of names on the DHS list, most of which went to the respective employee named in the leak. The hacker gave no motive for the purported hack and has not been identified. It's unclear if it is the same person behind the @DotGovs account. Justice Department and DHS reps declined comment to the Daily News about the leaked phone numbers that matched with workers there. The DotGovs account, which is under the username “Penis”, first tweeted Jan. 30, writing: “Change your thoughts, and Continue Reading

A new Department of Homeland Security program is aimed at reuniting Haitians living abroad with families here

Some Haitians abroad will benefit from the Department of Homeland Security’s Haitian Family Reunification Parole (HFRP) program. A few thousand immigrants each year could benefit. Let’s hope that the HFRP program is a test for the broader immigration relief President Obama says will come before year’s end. Under HFRP, Haitians with approved family petitions, whose place in line is two years or less than the quota cutoff for their visa category, can come here and wait for their immigrant visa. The Haitian parolees will qualify for employment authorization. When the parolee gets to the front of the line for a green card, he or she can apply to adjust status to permanent resident. The program benefits only individuals abroad. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has not yet issued HFRP guidelines and application information. When it does, I’ll write about it here. Q: After I came here, I applied for asylum and USCIS approved my application. Then, I brought my wife and three kids here as my dependents by filing USCIS form I-730, Refugee/Asylee Relative Petition. I applied for a green card for myself and my wife, but not for my children. They are still under 18. I am now a U.S. citizen. To get the kids green cards, should I file for them as children of an asylee, or children of a U.S. citizen? Mohamed, New York A: The simplest approach would be for you to petition for your children. Now that you are a U.S. citizen, your children would need to make a special request, called a “nunc pro tunc” request. That might delay the process. As an asylee, you had the right for your wife and unmarried children (under 21 when you applied for asylum) to follow you to the U.S. After one year here, they qualified to apply to adjust status to permanent resident as an asylee dependent. Once you naturalized, their right to apply as an asylee dependent ended. A nunc pro tunc application is where a person asks to be excused for filing late. That Continue Reading

John Boehner: ‘Go ask the Senate Democrats when they’re going to get off their a– and do something’ to fund Department of Homeland Security

House Speaker John Boehner implored Senate Democrats Wednesday to "get off their ass" and approve a bill funding the Department of Homeland Security but killing President Obama's immigration program. The agency is funded through Feb. 27. But Republicans in Congress have tied funding beyond that date to the fate of controversial executive actions taken by Obama to defer deportations for many undocumented immigrants. Senate Dems, who filibustered the bill so 60 votes are needed for passage, have killed it three times. “The House did its job. We won the fight to fund the Department of Homeland Security and to stop the President's unconstitutional actions,” the Ohio Republican said during his weekly press briefing. “Now it's time for the Senate to do their work. You know, in the gift shop out here they've got these little booklets on how a bill becomes a law. Right?” “Now why don't you go ask the Senate Democrats when they're going to get off their ass and do something — other than to vote ‘no.’” Without proper funding, department officials have said the agency will be forced to furlough at least 30,000 employees. ON A MOBILE DEVICE? WATCH THE VIDEO HERE. Continue Reading

President Obama eyes NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly to run the Department of Homeland Security

PRESIDENT OBAMA says he’d consider hiring NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly to run the Department of Homeland Security. In an interview Tuesday with the New York affiliate of Spanish-language network Univision, Obama called Kelly “one of the best there is” in law enforcement. “Mr. Kelly might be very happy where he is. But if he’s not, I’d want to know about it — ’cause you know, obviously, he’d be very well-qualified for the job.” Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced last week she is leaving the post, and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has lobbied for Kelly to replace her. Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

Rep. King calls for Department of Homeland Security to go after Islamist thugs

WASHINGTON - Rep. Pete King is pushing reforms at the Department of Homeland Security to include a formal focus on targeting "homegrown violent Islamist extremism." Companion bills drafted by the House Homeland Security Committee chairman and his Senate counterpart, Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), would require DHS to tap a czar to oversee the operation. "Sen. Lieberman and I think it's important to focus on the most serious threat, and Islamist radicalism is the most dangerous threat," the Long Island Republican said. "By not saying that, we would be creating the appearance of equivalency with any number of different threats." Under President Obama, Homeland Security has avoided the term "terrorism" and references to radical Islam. Administration officials say they exploit fear and feed terrorists' rallying cry that the U.S. is at war with the religion. On his second stint at the helm of the oversight committee, King flouted political correctness and held a series of polarizing hearings focused on radical Islam. Democrats panned them as discriminatory and un-American. The bills' focus on radical Islamists is drawn from the noncontroversial pages of the 9/11 Commission's recommendations. Lieberman's version, co-sponsored by Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), more delicately charges DHS with "countering violent extremism...particularly the ideology that gives rise to Islamist terrorism as identified in the 9/11 Commission Report." Michael German, a former FBI agent who is now senior policy counsel with the American Civil Liberties Union, said that focusing on religion is a waste of time. While millions are exposed to incendiary rhetoric from various ideologies, so few act out that law enforcement should focus solely on criminal actions, German said. House Democrats, including committee member Yvette Clarke (D-Brooklyn), would not comment on the new bills. A Democratic aide, however, promised fireworks when the committee considers them Wednesday. If Continue Reading

Pocket to ’em! Michelle Obama works exposed pockets at the Department of Homeland Security

Uh ... whatcha wearing there, Michelle?First lady Michelle Obama spoke to the Department of Homeland Security Tuesday afternoon wearing anything but the usual D.C. powersuit.The mother of two channeled, err, Barney with her long-sleeved striped purple T-shirt and belted green jacket featuring enormous exposed pockets roomy enough to fit First Dog Bo - and his favorite treats. Obama's unusual outfit is a rare misstep for the First Fashion Icon, who has repeatedly made headlines for her classic standout style - and love of J. Crew. The first lady's "inspiring" personal wardobe even landed her on the cover of Vogue in March. Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

Long-term funding bill for Department of Homeland Security appears no closer, pols say

Washington lawmakers appeared no closer Sunday to a long-term deal to fund the Department of Homeland Security, just days after Congress passed a one-week funding extension to stave off a shutdown of the critical agency. During an interview on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), reiterated Republican demand that any deal to keep the department funded must include provisions to strike down President Obama’s executive actions on immigration. "I made it clear we're going to do everything we could to block the President's executive overreach, and that's the basis of the problem we're trying to deal with,” he said. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) was more even direct in his assessment, rejecting any notion that there was or will be in place a deal to pass a “clean” bill — one without any immigration provisions — to fund the agency. “There is no such deal and there's no such bill,” the conservative Whip said on “Fox News Sunday.” “On Friday, there was a bill on the House floor to pass a clean funding bill. We rejected that because we said we’re fighting the President on what he’s doing illegally on immigration.” At least one Republican, however, bashed his own party for using the department as leverage in its fight against the President. “There's an element within our party — there's a wing within the Congress — which is absolutely irresponsible. They have no concept of reality," Long Island Republican Rep. Peter King said on ABC's "The Week.” "For these people to be threatening to defund the Department of Homeland Security at a time when our threat streams have never been greater at any time since 9/11, it's absolutely irresponsible," King added. Democrats, meanwhile, remained staunchly insistent that funding for the Homeland Security Department should be free of any immigration Continue Reading