Reflections on Homeland Security

TIME:  10:30-11:30, 24th October 2017

VENUE: Committee Room 5, House of Commons,

Houses of Parliament, London SW1A OPA


Secretary Jeh Johnson
4th United States Secretary of Homeland Security

Jack Lopresti: Good morning everyone, thank you very much for coming. It’s lovely to see so many of you here. I represent a constituency just to the north of Bristol, which has a very large defence,aerospace and security footprint. I serve on the Northern Ireland committee, and the all-party group on defence and security matters. It’s great to be asked to chair this meeting. I’m sure most of you are aware of our speaker… (inaudible) He was the fourth Secretary of Homeland Security and appointed by President Obama.  We only have an hour. We’ll let you speak and then take questions afterwards.

Jeh Johnson: Thank you very much. It’s a real pleasure for me to be here. It’s a particular pleasure for me to be able to sit on this side of the table in the legislature. When I was Secretary for Homeland Security I had the ‘pleasure’ of testifying to our congress 26 times in three years. The face reflects what I’m thinking. That’s a lot of times… This is the Henry Jackson Society. I actually met Henry Jackson. I was a college intern for my senator from New York, Daniel Patrick Monahan. Who was an ideological soul mate with Henry Jackson when it came to matters of national security. They were both Democrats but hawkish conservative Democrats when it came to national security. I had the pleasure of working for Sen. Monahan in the summer of 1978 between my junior and senior years of college. I remember the experience vividly. For one week, I got a special pass to be on the floor of the US senate to carry Sen. Monahan briefing books around while he debated a bill. In 1978, you had all this senate giants: Mohanan, Scoop Jackson (Henry Jackson), Ted Kennedy, Robert Bird, Barry Goldwater. I’ll never forget, it was August when I thought all the senators were on vacation, and the senator’s driver said to me, ‘let’s take a ride on the senators only elevator’… I said, ‘sure’. So we’re standing there, and the doors open and we come face to face with Barry Goldwater. I’m 20 years old in jeans a t-shirt I was working in the mail room that day. Without batting an eye, he looks at me and says ‘hello senator’ and keeps on walking…

I wanted to spend a few minutes giving you my perspective on national, homeland and cyber security in the Western world. I’ve served four times in public office. I was a young prosecutor in the 1980s and 1990s for Rudi Giuliani in New York. In 1998, 1999 and 2000 I was the senior council for our US air force as a civilian political appointee. I left office when Bill Clinton left office. I was back in private practice in my law firm in New York City… September 11 2001, which happens to have been my 44th birthday, the day all of us will remember. I was in Manhattan. I recall having a real feeling of hopelessness and helplessness, having left the Pentagon just nine months before. Five years later, I met Senator Barack Obama. He recruited me to participate in his campaign, which I did for two years. He asked me if I would serve in his administration as general counsel of the Department of Defence, which I did for four years. Some of you may be interested to know that there are 11,000 lawyers in the Department of Defence… It was a significant and momentous time to be the senior lawyer for the US military. We repealed the law known as ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’. Which prohibited gays from serving openly in the military. Which went smoother than we predicted. We developed a new legal architecture for our counter terrorism efforts, what is also known as targeted lethal killing in places like Yemen and Somalia. Which kind of returned to the news as of late. Of course, we got Bin Laden on 1st May 2011, which was probably my best day in public office. The day our special forces went into Pakistan to get Bin Laden… That four year period, for me at least, our counter terrorism efforts were on offence. The president asked to me serve as Sec. For Homeland Security in 2013. It was a job I’d never anticipate that I’d do, but I said yes. The US department of Homeland Security is the third largest department of our government, with 230,000 personnel. It’s the most decentralized cabinet level department. Our missions range from terrorism, aviation security, maritime security, border security, cyber security, port security and immigration laws, which is the most controversial and politicised aspect of all, detection of chemical and biological threats… and last but not least response to natural disasters. For that three year period, I was very much on defence. It’s the nature of the job. I witnessed an evolution in the terrorist threat to our ‘homelands’. From, what we refer to in the United States as terrorist directed attacks, where a terrorist organisation, with a caliphate, will direct and launch and attack from overseas by exporting people to our homelands to conduct attacks of the style of 9/11, to a more complicated world where we must deal with the threat of terrorist inspired attacks. Where people are recruited on the internet to conduct terrorism on their own land, where they were born, that is obviously more challenging for our law enforcement and intelligence communities because it’s very random and can strike at a moment’s notice… In the face of that threat picture in the US, like here, we’ve had attacks of that nature in San Bernardino, Orlando, and Chattanooga. There has also been some attempted attacks or attacks that could have been far worse. About a year ago, an individual left two pressure cooker bombs, like the ones at the Boston Marathon, he planted them in New York City poorly so luckily nobody was killed. But this is what we face. Everybody asks the Sec. of Homeland Security, ‘what keeps you up at night?’ That’s what kept me up at night, the next small scale attack from home-grown actor inspired by ISIS or AQ (Al Qaeda). The good news is that we have through our international coalition efforts, we have done a lot to claw back the land that ISIS acquired 3 years ago in Iraq and Syria. The bad news is they will still make every effort to inspire those living among us to conduct terrorist attacks. In our country at least, ISIS effectively out sourced terrorism. Because its low risk, low cost. I spent a lot of time in office visiting major metropolitan areas which had significant American-Muslim communities to build bridges to those communities, to encourage them to work with us on turning back efforts to recruit within those communities. We raised public awareness about the threat environment, if you see something say something. Which does work.

Last thing I’ll say is when it comes to our CVE (counter violent extremism) efforts, we have a lot more work to do. Frankly, in the UK you’re several steps ahead of us in the United States. When she was Home Secretary, I spent a lot of time with your Prime Minister discussing about taking down terrorist content on the internet. We had the first amendment and so, many people are concerned that governments should not be in business of censoring and regulating content online. It’s also extremely difficult to do.  But there are things like, sections of magazines, ‘how to build a bomb in your mother’s kitchen’, that I don’t think is first amendment protected speech. But it’s difficult to identify this stuff… There’s a lot of work to do there.

Finally, now that I’m back in private life as a lawyer, everyone wants to consult me on cyber security. It’s all about cyber security. I’m returning to the Oxford Union tonight. Where the topic is ‘have we sacrificed our liberties for a false sense of security? The Union put me on the privacy/liberty side, not the security side. So, I’m debating two of my former colleagues and good friends, Avril Haines, the former Deputy National Security Advisor to Obama, and Bernard Cazeneuve, the former French Interior Minister. They’re my debate opponents even though I recruited them to the debate. My partner is my good friend, Anthony Romero of the American Civil Liberties Union. I’ve got my work cut out for me. What I’ve decided to say in support of the proposition is that the answer is yes because if you equate liberties with privacy, we have all surrendered our privacy to the internet through collective efforts. Data mining companies, and data intelligence companies know your name, what you buy, your search history, your dating history, who you communicate with, where you travel and this presents a security issue. Alongside these legal organisations are hackers who can get at your privacy, and that is a scary issue. That’s the road we’ve gone down and it’ll be difficult to walk back. Happy to be here, and have questions and debate.

Jack Lopresti: before we go to general questions Yvette (Cooper) would like to say a few words. Thank you.

Yvette Cooper: It’s a great pleasure to have the Secretary Johnson here, and hear his thought provoking words today… We have the Home Affairs Select Committee, which I chair, we will be taking evidence this afternoon from various Chief Constables on issues around counter terrorism, and the threat we face and the way in which policing responds to cyber threats and so on. First thought I had was the point you made about how we deal with the terrorist inspired threats. Particularly those that are inspired through online extremism and recruitment. How do we challenge that and also defend the free speech which is crucially important within democracies? Some of our debates around this has been clumsy. For centuries, we have debated the balance between free speech and public protections, and challenging the spread of hatred and extremism offline. We’ve debated how you ensure you can protect both liberty and security. These are very familiar debates offline. But the online territory has almost thrown people into a lather again, as if we can’t cope with debate. Actually it’s the very same principles but something about the internet being started and the theory of free speech and freedom online in some ways prevented proper healthy debate from the beginning… I’m interested in what you think about in terms of the spread of online extremism, and what more social media companies can do, and what can we do in terms of the law. My experience is that some of the social media companies are not even doing the basics in terms of preventing the spread of online extremism. Just to give you an example, the Henry Jackson Society has done a lot of work looking at online extremist and content still being available on YouTube, and how slow YouTube can be to take them down. We had this one video, in this case it was a far-right video, which we reported it back in February. It was a National Action video, which is banned far-right extremist group. They took it down, and accepted that it was illegal and shouldn’t have been there. A couple of months later, we found the video still up on YouTube but on a different channel. We reported that, they took that down. Again last week, I found it again simply by putting in basic search terms. So things that actually they have the capabilities and technology to do, using the same technology as they do for copy right… (inaudible) It seems to me, whether you’re talking about Islamist or far-right extremist, there are capabilities that social media does have but they are not doing the basics. What more pressure should be put on them in order to get them to do so? Many of them say, well it’s the US legal framework that prevents us from doing so.

I’m interested in whether you had any reflections on cyber threats from foreign states? In particular, the Russian involvement in the US election. Whether or not there is a new cyber cold war developing? How much do you think that forms a threat to US and other Western democracies? We will be concentrating a lot on Islamist extremism in our evidence session this afternoon. Which is an issue you raised a lot around prevention, and police response to threats like we have experienced this year. In the US point of view, some of the big attacks that you’ve experienced, do you see similar patterns in the way in which Islamist and far right are operating? Or do you see them as very different phenomenon? Interestingly here, I think the police respond differently. For example, going back to propaganda videos, whether they’re far right or Islamist in the emotions that they try to evoke and the imagery. I’d be interested in your reflections on the differences and common features.

Jeh Johnson: There are a couple things in there to address. First, I think I agree with, what was implicit in your question about online content. I think the answer lies with the internet service providers.  Almost all terrorist content violates the terms of service that a user agrees to. So, terrorist content can, and should be, taken off the internet because it violates these terms. I do not believe that as a legal matter, the government should get into the business of regulating content, that’s censorship. The Chinese government does that, the UK and the US government do not do that.  We go down a slippery slope if we try. The problem is it’s like chasing rabbits because you take a video down, and it appears someplace else or on a different channel. It’s very difficult to chase companies. These companies probably have it within their technological capability to limit the ability of groups to put their stuff online. This is a serious problem. Right after, the shooting in Las Vegas, there was on a very conventional internet service provider, lots of misinformation about the identity of the shooter being affiliated with ISIS. It stayed there for hours for people to read, and people read it and believed it, they didn’t go back for a second look. This is a huge challenge because of the way in which the public, in both countries, receives its information. We used to have gatekeepers, very conventional ways in which the people would hear their news. For example, the BBC, CBS, NBC. You had gatekeepers with standards, now it’s everywhere. Every time I encounter a young person, I ask them how they get their news. They say, Facebook, Google. There are a plethora of ways to get information, which may not be reliable or have journalistic standards.

In terms of the behaviour of nation state actors in cyber space. I think the term cyber cold war… (inaudible) Last year when I was still in office, it was the Director of National Intelligence and I, which publically accused the Russian government of interfering in our election in a statement we issued in October 2016. We formally accused the Russian government of doing that, at homeland security we were encouraging election officials to come to us for their cyber security assistance. Insofar as the election was concerned, we were very worried about a successful hack into a voter registration database. Which could wipe it clean or alter it so people couldn’t vote in key states. As far as I know did not happen. But last years’ experience was a wakeup call that it could happen. At the federal level, we are encouraging state election officials, given how elections in our country work it’s a very decentralized operation, with thousands of jurisdictions. We’re encouraging best practices where voting is not on the internet, its offline. In terms of Russian hacking into political organisations like the DNC (Democratic National Committee), that’s something that frankly should not be a surprise. It happens all the time, this time it was a nation state actor that attempted to intervene in our election… We did a number of things in the Obama administration in response, but it’s up to the current Trump administration to really follow through on this.  I hope they develop the resolve to do so.

Your last question on countering violent extremism whether it’s right wing or terrorist inspired. I’ll be frank, in my efforts in our country to engage Muslim communities to encourage them to develop a counter message. I did not use the phrase Islamic extremism. Whether it was a Pakistani-American group or a Syrian-American group, and these are very diverse groups because Islam is a very diverse religion. They all said however, ‘Sec. Johnson it’s not Islamic extremism because they’re attempting to high jack my religion and call it Islamic.’

Yvette Cooper: We refer to it as Islamist extremism not Islamic.

Jeh Johnson: That’s a distinction I have yet to grasp… I’m learning something here. They all said to me they’re hijacking my religion and there are efforts within the American-Muslim communities to counter the message of terrorist organisations. Some of it is pretty good but it needs a larger microphone.

Jack Lopresti: Now if we could have some questions from the floor.

Question 1: My question is about Islamic State. (inaudible)

Jeh Johnson: Well, I don’t have access to intelligence anymore. Reading my daily intelligence briefing was the most important part of my day in office. They’ve very clearly been driven from Raqqa, Mosul and they occupy less territory than three years ago. There’s probably far fewer fighters with allegiance to them, but I’m also hearing they’ve been driven underground and they’re hiding out. Even if they’ve been driven out, it does not eliminate their ability to recruit on the internet, which is my concern.  We have not seen, what some feared years ago, a mass exodus from Iraq and Syria back to Western Europe, US, Canada. We have not seen that yet among foreign fighters, either because they’ve been killed or surrendered or whatever. I believe it (ISIS) is not nearly as strong as it was three years ago, but it’s not by any means defeated. We could have another ISIS inspired attack in the western world tomorrow. We should not be letting our guard down.

Question 2: Thank you very much for the update. A theme which I often give talks on is the curse of the silo mentality about the need to (inaudible) across government, across Islamists and other areas. I quote in an opening part of my speech, 9/11 being an example of silo mentality where the State Department, FBI, CIA were not joined up. I always highlight that. Do you think that’s a fair comment? And have we eliminated the silos in Washington?

Jeh Johnson: We haven’t eliminated the silos completely, but it’s a lot better than it was 16 years ago. Our intelligence community does a lot better job connecting the dots. I was a daily consumer of our intelligence products. I was not a big fan of the creation of the DNI (Director of National Intelligence) structure created in 2002. But I think Jim Clapper in particular made it work well. So, you get intelligence products from multiple agencies in the alphabet soup.  One or two will be the author and the other may concur. If one disagrees there is dissent that’s transparent and visible. If somebody dissenting, I would often have the analyst come and see me. ‘Okay why did you dissent?’ and root out the differences. Often it was a difference in interpretation. But collectively, I think we do a much better job now. To the point where, when you read this stuff, you have to sort out the noise from the credible. So, we’re in a better place within the US Government and internationally. Although we’ve had some setbacks. As I’m sure you know, we have a very close collaborative relationship with intelligence services here. Which is probably the best relationship we have on earth.

Now, what happens is we do all this to connect the dots. Then there’s an incident. There’s an insider theft or hack, and people will ask ‘how could you let this contractor or private have access to all this classified information across the US government?’ Because we were connecting dots… So then there’s a swing in the pendulum. You have to be more silo-ed, more careful. Then an event happens. They ask, ‘well, why did that happen?’ Because the information was very compartmentalised. There’s always this policy political push to react to events. But you have to stay the course. I believe that because different intelligence services have different capabilities. So, Homeland Security the principle thing we contribute to the intelligence picture is travel data. It’s crucial that we continue the effort to connect the dots, to put together one concise, consolidated picture. I think we’re better than we were. We’re way better than we were 9/11. There was some lessons learned after the Boston Marathon attack in 2013. It’s pretty good right now.

Question 3: (inaudible) I experienced many times going to Washington in the 1980s, this terrible feeling that things weren’t joined up at all. I’d go round all the government agencies around Washington, and I was disheartened by a lot of them. Could I just pick up on one point though? Could 9/11 have been avoided had there been more joined up intelligence?

Jeh Johnson: I’ll answer it this way. I believe that if there were a 9/11 style plot, and you had the same number of operatives in the US planning something of that scale. It is likely, given what I’ve seen over the three year period I was secretary. I think that it is likely that our FBI would have seen signs of it. In fact, there were parts of our intelligence community that saw parts of it pre-9/11. But I tend to believe that if there were a cell in the US plotting something of that scale. We would see signs of it today with our capabilities that we have today. The reason that I know that is because, constantly we were interdicting plots, whether overseas or by those in our homeland, that were going down the same road. We have an undercover or an informant who would make us aware of it.

Question 3 (continued): But could it have been avoided? That’s my question. You had enough information from various parts of your intelligence community. (inaudible)

Jeh Johnson: It’s hard for me to take today’s capabilities and roll back the clock to 2001 to say that, if we had today’s capabilities in 2001, yes we could have prevented it. There were clearly signs of an attempt to do something with civil aviation, there were clearly those signs. It’s publicly documented. We tried to kill Bin Laden in 1998, we missed. We had indications. I tend to believe that today something of that scale, we could see and prevent… Which is why the lone wolf actors are so challenging. But even there, there’s almost always somebody who’s close to that person that sees the stock piles of ammunition in the garage, who sees the large cache of assault weapons somewhere that doesn’t say anything. Which is why I believe that the public has a role, and they need to be encouraged to play a role.

Question 4: I’m going to ask a couple of questions on the subject of returning jihadists that you mentioned in your talk. There’s been quite a vigorous debate here, and on the other side of the Atlantic about how much of a threat they do actually pose. You’re quite right to suggest that not many have come back.  But, there’s a debate about what they should do. Our independent reviewer of terrorism legislation caused some very interesting eruptions, when he said that he didn’t believe that they were such a threat, and many of them were naive… Of course we’ve had other comments, a minister at the weekend, and people over on your side of the Atlantic, who have said that the optimal is to kill them in Syria, not to even have them attempt to return. I don’t know what your view is on that sort of spectrum of debate. But I’d like to hear it.

Jeh Johnson: If someone, whether it’s a US citizen or irrespective of their citizenry has taken up arms against the US, and aligned themselves with a congressionally declared enemy and our lawyers say that the Islamic State is a remnant of AQ, and therefore its current (inaudible). If somebody has taken up arms with the congressionally declared enemy of the United States, then they can be taken out within the law of conflict that is a lawful military objective. It was my job to access that for four years when I was at the department of defence. If they leave Iraq, Syria, if they’re allowed to leave, and they’re in transit and they come home. Then, it becomes a matter for law enforcement. That’s where I see the dividing line.

Question 4 (continued): So as long as they’re in the theatre of operation, even if they’re not at the time engaged….

Jeh Johnson: Engaging in terrorism and plotting. In my observation, there are lots of reasons why people pick up, leave home, and go to Syria, Iraq. Multiple motives. So you have to sometimes peer below the surface to find out what’s going on… A lot of these people are kids, they’re 16 and 17 year olds. They’re just screwed up and confused, and looking for a cause.

Question 4 (continued): That’s absolutely correct. So, you would take a case by case analysis essentially.

Jeh Johnson: Yes but you can’t always do that in a bombing campaign in Syria.

Question 5: Thank you for a very informative synopsis on the current situation. I wanted to ask you quite a specific question about the definition of terrorism and the framing of certain events in that light. Whether you think that perhaps that leads to a somewhat irrational fear of terrorism… (inaudible) having a greater impact on society as it should cause.

Jeh Johnson: That’s a good question. There is no one definition of terrorism. There’s a definition of terrorism in our federal, criminal laws in the US. Basically, as you probably know, its violence against innocent civilians for some political objective to further some political cause. That could be right-wing extremism, it could be various forms. Now, the interesting part of that is you could have an act of mass violence, like Las Vegas, and whether its terrorism or not, a whole different part of our government responds depends entirely on the motive of the shooter, and nothing else; the impact, the means, the arsenal, could be identical and the response, in terms of first responders. But it depends on the motive of the shooter. So, if this guy in Vegas had said ‘I declare my allegiance to ISIS’ just before he did what he did. We would react totally differently, politically and through law enforcement.  There are several people that asked, ‘why isn’t what he did considered terrorism? Isn’t that a form of terror?’ Again, to this day we don’t know his motive, he didn’t leave, as a far as I know, any suicide notes or anything. He didn’t post anything about what he was doing or why he did what he did. There’s a whole different debate about gun control in our country. How is it that somebody like that can assemble an arsenal to wound or kill as many as he did without anybody saying or seeing anything?

So, when it comes to fear of terrorism.  Some people tend to intellectualise this. There’s greater chance of you slipping in the bath tub or there’s a greater chance of you getting hit by a vehicle on the streets of London or something like that. In my experience as the Secretary of Homeland Security, people don’t want to hear that from me. They want to know what I’m doing about it. So, when there were times of high anxiety, like after Paris in November 2015, then we had San Bernardino shortly after. There was high anxiety, fear of terrorism was high. People want to know, from the Secretary of Homeland Security, here’s the threat picture and here’s the ten or twelve things your government is doing about it and working overtime to prevent another attack. After you go through that, people understand that in a free and open society you cannot eliminate all risk. But, they don’t necessarily want to hear that from me, it sounds too fatalistic… In a, hopefully, in a sober rational sane environment people get this. Where we’re challenged, in times of anxiety, is if they happen to be in a presidential election season. When one of the candidates is really amping it up, amping up the fear of terrorism and the media’s not always our best friend either. CNN during a time of high anxiety is not necessarily my best friend. It’s hard to deliver a methodical message when cable news wants a headline and to simplify it. Like, ‘Johnson worried about next terrorist attack’ or something like that. Part of the job of being Secretary for Homeland Security was being the public face to project to the public what we’re doing about it.

Jack Lopresti: Any further questions?

Question 6: With your experience of working with the Brits, two governments working closely together on defence and security etc. What observations could you make about how we could improve our homeland security?

Jeh Johnson: Well, the UK in my observation is a very impressive national security, law enforcement homeland security apparatus. From what I can see, you’ve got the very best people devoted to the effort. I think that collectively because the internet is now the channel for a lot of terrorist recruitment and activity. I think that together we need to make a commitment to work with internet service providers and urge them to do more. If we don’t we leave it to different forms of government to try and deal with this, like the Chinese government. The Chinese government has a fundamentally different view to what counts as terrorism.

Question 6 (continued): As for an operational view or task, what about our infrastructure? How do our departments work together?

Jeh Johnson: So your question stirs my thinking. We tend to interface ministry by ministry. So, it would be me to Home Affairs. State Department to Foreign Affairs. Intelligence community to intelligence community. Perhaps, there needs to be a more collaborative approach. Where our national security council will engage your UK version of that collectively. Because there is a collective picture that we have at our national security council. Which consists of state, defence, homeland security, intelligence, and treasury. We don’t engage each other collectively in that matter. I just came up with that listening to your question. That might be worth doing.

Question 7: I want to ask about one department that fell within your unit. (inaudible) The Secret Service had a lot of problems and security breaches, the Director had to resign. I was wondering if you could comment on the cause of the problems within that agency was? And whether you think they’ve been rectified?

Jeh Johnson: First of all, I think the Secret Service is in a better place now than it was. We had a lot of attrition, a couple of years ago. The previous Director, Joe Clancy, did a lot to build it back up. The fence jumping incidents have all but ceased. It used to be a caused celeb to jump the fence at the White House. So, we built a taller fence so you can’t do that now. The most infamous one was the fence jumper in September 2014, got all the way into the house. Frankly the reason for that was the guy was a hybrid. The Secret Service trained for two scenarios. Scenario one is the fence jumper who’s doing it for a cause. They do it and immediately surrender and comply. Scenario two, the more serious one, is the guy that’s up to no good, who wants to conduct some kind of serious attack. This guy was somewhere in the middle. He jumped the fence he was not interested in killing anybody. He had a knife but wouldn’t comply with demands. So they’re now trained for that scenario as well. The Secret Service is half law enforcement agency, half protection agency. The Secret Service was created, ironically, by Abraham Lincoln before he was assassinated. It started as bank crimes, counterfeit currency. First time I ever dealt with the Secret Service was as a young prosecutor, prosecuting a counterfeit currency case… I was a protector of the Secret Service for three years. Secret Service protects the President, the first family, the Vice President, former presidents, presidential candidates. The Secretary of State for Homeland Security decides which presidential candidates the Secret Service protects… We moved secret service from treasury in 2002 to homeland security. The secretary of treasury negotiated a deal, ‘you can take away the agency from me, but don’t take away my protection’. So, he is still protected. I happen to believe it’s among the best protection agency in the world.  Who else, in one week and one place, could protect 140 world leaders at once when they come to the general assembly each year? It’s a massive security operation. They’re very busy with this first family. There’s a lot of grown-ups, who need to be protected, who also do a lot of travelling. So, it’s been a drain on the agency. They work very long hours. It’s challenging to be in the service. So, it’s a challenge to make sure we have the man power to make sure the needs are met.

Question 8: Just a couple of points. In your answers into some of the discussion. Could you follow up on the question about how we use terrorism and how we describe it? Here, the police referred to the attack at Finsbury Park Mosque as terrorism. Just as they referred to the London Bridge, Westminster, and Manchester as terrorism. Also the judge in the case of Thomas Mair, who murdered Jo Cox a fellow parliamentarian of ours, also described that as a terrorist attack… In each case, you’re right that some part of the focus is about motivation. So when the focus is to push an ideology or to spread fear and terror more widely than the individual crime. Be it about a far right extremist motivation or jihadi motivation. We talk about all of it as terrorism. I’m interested in whether you would take the same approach in the US or whether you would refer to the terrorism as jihadi and externally inspired? Or whether things like Charleston or other far right attacks, in our views these would be viewed similarly in terms of political motivation and spreading fear and terror. Or whether in the US you use the language differently, and what the implications are of that?

Jeh Johnson: Well, we definitely have right wing domestic based extremist terrorism in our country. The most prominent example is the Oklahoma City bombing, Timothy McVeigh in 1995. He was anti federal government. Charleston guy was racist, white nationalist. I think that there is a divided school of thought on whether that should be considered an act of terrorism. Although, it’s very clearly a hate crime. It’s not just jihadi external inspired attacks. It can also very obviously be of a domestic right wing flavour as well to further some political objects or cause of some type. It doesn’t have to ISIS based or AQ inspired. You’re right that depending on the root of it differently elements of our government get involved. So, if it’s ISIS inspired it’s treated one way. If it’s right wing domestic it’s treated slightly differently.

Question 9: (inaudible) Thank you for your insight on homeland security and international security in general… (inaudible) to sign a petition in Guantanamo. I recognise you were very influential in Obama’s administration in attempting to close down Guantanamo Bay. My question to you is can you give us any indication that president Trump, who is now attempting to undo all the good Obama did. Can he stop expanding Guantanamo Bay or rather try to give some of them fair trials and jail them if they were found guilty? (inaudible) Thank you very much.

Jeh Johnson: He (Trump) seems to wake up every morning thinking about ways he can undo Barack Obama’s legacy across the spectrum; whether its climate change efforts, the Iran deal, or ten other things. It seems to animate and motivate much of his presidency. One of the things that has endured and has worked remarkably well in our government, and has worked probably exactly the way the framers and authors of our constitution had hoped, is the separation of powers and checks and balances. Our framers created the three branches of government as a check on each other with no one branch superior to the other two. That endures. In our history, when the executive branch gets a little too big for their britches and tries to assert itself in ways that are extraordinary. The other two branches push back; the judicial branch and the legislative branch. We maybe going through a period soon when we see that. In fact we are right now. A year ago it would have been unthinkable that a US court would be involved in regulating our borders. It was thought of as a legal matter that the President and the Secretary of Homeland Security have a lot of discretion in terms of regulating borders and entry. But now the courts are involved. I tell young lawyers that bad facts make bad laws. So you do crazy things, extraordinary things. You get courts involved in ways you could not anticipate for. That’s where we are right now. We have US District courts overseeing executive orders concerning border security. So, the good news is in our system of government the checks and balances continue. In our country, politically we have, what I believe, to be a pendulum effect in our politics. Where every eight years after two term presidency, the voters seem to want something radically different than what they had before. There are no two human beings on earth who are more different than Barack Obama and Donald Trump.

Jack Lopresti: Secretary Johnson, thank you very much for a fascinating and interesting discussion. It was a real pleasure.


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