After DHS Secretary Hyped Mall Threat, White House Repeatedly Downplays It

By Susan Jones | February 24, 2015 | 5:49am EST

The Mall of America in Minneapolis, Minn. (AP File Photo)

(CNSNews.com) - Seven times on Monday, the Obama White House assured Americans that there is no "specific, credible plot against the Mall of America or any other domestic commercial shopping center here in the United States."

In response to multiple questions, Obama spokesman Josh Earnest said Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson was just reminding Americans to "remain vigilant," when Johnson told the Sunday news shows that an al Qaeda-linked terror group, Al-Shabaab, is publicly calling for attacks on shopping malls in the United States, specifically the Mall of America in Minneapolis.

"I would say that, if anyone is planning to go to the Mall of America today, they have got to be particularly careful," Johnson told CNN on Sunday. He said there would be "enhanced security there that will be apparent to people who are there."

Later, Johnson told ABC's "This Week" that the video released by al Shabaab reflects "the new phase" of global terrorism, where "groups like ISIL, al Shabaab, AQAP are now publicly calling for attacks either through the Internet, through videos, through publications...We're in a new phase now. And I'm afraid that this most recent video release reflects that."

Johnson used the mall threat to demand that Congress approve full-year funding for his department.

A reporter asked Earnest about that at Monday's briefing: "So if there's not a specific threat, then why was the secretary suggesting that people be extra careful if you go to that mall? Did it have anything to do with this DHS funding fight, to sort of scare Congress more to get that money -- to say, hey, there's -- there's threats out there?"



"No, it did not," Earnest replied.

Not only did Earnest downplay the threat raised by DHS, he also said it's nothing new:  "[T]he administration has been mindful of this risk for years now," Earnest said.

Here, in chronological order, are the seven ways that Earnest, at Monday's White House briefing, downplayed Johnson's warning about al Shabaab threatening the Mall of America:

1. "I think the -- the secretary was noting how important it is for the American people to continue to be vigilant. That said, the -- intelligence community has said that they are not aware of any specific, credible plot against the Mall of America or any other domestic commercial shopping center here in the United States. But we certainly are mindful of the threat that exists, and that's why, you know, DHS has their see something, say something campaign, and we encourage people to be vigilant about that."

2. "But the fact of the matter is the -- you know the intelligence community has indicated that there's no specific, credible plot against the mall, and that, you know, essentially this is a reaction to a propaganda video that was put out by a terrorist group in Africa. And I recognize that may be why the issue of mall security has come to the attention of -- of the people in this room, but the fact of the matter is, the administration has been mindful of this risk for years now."

3. "And that's why Secretary Johnson was -- yesterday when he was asked about this, was able to indicate that we'd already been in touch with local law enforcement, that we'd already been in touch with individuals who are responsible for security at -- at shopping centers, and even this specific shopping center. But I want to reiterate something that the intelligence community has said about there not being any specific, credible threat that they're aware of at this point. OK?"

4."And what I had said, and what the -- more importantly, what the intelligence community has assessed and what they have said, is that we're not aware of any specific credible plot against the Mall of America or any other domestic commercial shopping center. And I think what the Secretary is trying to say and what he -- as what his responsibility to say is the American people should remain vigilant, and if they see something, they should say something.

5. "the Secretary was very cognizant of the fact that it's his responsibility to remind the American people that if they see something, they should say something. It's important for them to be vigilant. But at the same time, in terms of understanding the facts about the threat that we face, the intelligence community is not aware of any specific credible plot against the Mall of America."

6. "Well -- and I just go back to the facts. The intelligence community has indicated that they are not aware of any specific credible plot against the Mall of America or any other shopping center inside the United States. And you know, the reason that we're having this discussion is because of a propaganda video that al-Shabaab did put out. But the fact that we're having discussion in public, is not different than the fact that four years this administration has been working with local law enforcement and in some cases even individuals who are responsible for mall security to make sure that Americans can be protected and that we are aware of the aspirations that groups like this have to strike against soft targets."

7. "But the fact is, again, the intelligence community has been very clear about the fact that they are not aware of any specific credible threat against the Mall of America."


Also see:
DHS Secretary Warns Amid Funding Fight: 'If Anyone Is Planning to Go to The Mall...'

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