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

Susan Jones | February 23, 2015 | 5:44am EST
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Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson spoke at the White House summit on countering violent extremism on Feb. 18, 2015. (CNSNews.com/Penny Starr)

(CNSNews.com) - Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson went on the Sunday talk shows to demand that Republicans fund the Department of Homeland Security without blocking money for President Obama's executive amnesty plan.

But he prefaced his you-better-fund-my-department pitch by warning 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. And, as the statement you read indicates, there will be enhanced security there that will be apparent to people who are there," Johnson told CNN's "State of the Union" with Gloria Borger.

But on at least two of the Sunday morning shows, Johnson steered the hosts to the topic he wanted to talk about -- Republicans using a DHS funding bill to block President Obama's immigration policy, which goes beyond the scope of current law.

After talking about the threatening al-Shabaab video on CNN, Johnson said that "public vigilance, public awareness and public caution in situations like this is particularly important. And it's the environment we're in, frankly. And it's all the more reason why I need a budget. And I'm assuming you're going to ask me about that."

"I will," host Gloria Borger replied. "I am going to ask about that because, of course, this comes down at a time when Republicans in Congress are threatening to shut down your department in a week over a fight on immigration."

(In fact, Republicans say they do not want to shut down DHS. They want to fund the Department of Homeland Security, except for President Obama's plan to give work authorization and Social Security numbers to millions of illegal aliens living in the United States.)

The same thing happened later on ABC's "This Week" with George Stephanopoulos, whose first three questions to Johnson involved national security, not DHS funding:

Johnson told Stephanopoulos, "The reason I think we're all concerned about this is because it encourages independent actors who could strike with very little notice to our intelligence community, our law enforcement community here at home. And so that's one of the reasons, frankly, why it's imperative that we have a budget for the Department of Homeland security, which is due to expire at the end of the week. And I'm assuming you'll ask me about that at some point."

"I will ask you about that," Stephanopoulos replied. But first he asked Johnson about something else.

According to CNN, DHS officials began "walking back" Johnson's warning after he appeared on the Sunday shows.

A spokesman for DHS told CNN the agency "is not aware of any specific credible plot against the Mall of America or any other domestic commercial shopping center."

"Secretary Johnson didn't say that they should not go to the mall, he told shoppers to be extra vigilant and that security was increased," CNN quoted DHS Assistant Secretary Tanya Bradsher as saying.

Johnson later told CNN he does not regret any of the comments he made on the Sunday shows.

The threat of lone-wolf attacks in the United States is nothing new, nor is it a surprise that shopping malls might be a target. And as Johnson amplified the video message from al-Shabaab Sunday morning, he said he was doing it because "there needs to be vigilance and, you know, just be careful, obviously. It is a new phase. We're in a new phase right now. And that involves public participation in our efforts."

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

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