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Monday, April 19, 2010

Napolitano Has Got To Go

I don't like to get into politics on this site, but Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano appeared on CNN's "The Situation Room" this evening and blew my mind. Host Suzanne Malveauz asked a direct and fairly simple question: How did she prioritize the threat of domestic extremism vs. Al Qaeda extremism vs. Other?

MALVEAUX: What is the biggest threat now facing Americans?

Is it from a domestic attack, is it from local groups or is it from foreign groups like Al Qaeda?

NAPOLITANO: You know, I don't have the luxury of ranking those things.

Remember the outrage after the underwear bombing incident, when she claimed "the system worked"? This statement makes that one look brilliant. I was willing to hold my tongue last time, hoping it was a gaffe rather than an indicator of incompetence. But if DHS can't prioritize terrorist threats, then we're in big trouble.

Obviously, someone in the federal government is deciding how to allocate resources for homeland security, and that person had better be making that decision based on the priority of the threat. But that person is supposed to be the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.

Answering "What is the biggest threat?" is the JOB DESCRIPTION of the DHS chief. Anyone who can't mount a sensible response should not be filling one of the most important jobs in this country.

Napolitano has got to go.

Here's the rest of the exchange. Note that Malveaux can't quite believe the answer either, although she was too polite. Regular host Wolf Blitzer would have been better in this "situation."

NAPOLITANO (continued): We have to lean forward and be prepared for both, that it could be an international terrorist or a domestic terrorist. It could be someone who is a -- a U.S. citizen who now has been trained in an international camp and come back.

All of those things are phenomenon that are currently happening in the United States. All of them are things that, you know, we are constantly working, as I said, to -- to minimize the risk that they could actually go from those kind of extremist and violent extremist beliefs into violent action.

MALVEAUX: But certainly, Madam Secretary, there's a way of measuring which -- which organization, which group, which individual is -- is most prepared and perhaps the most potentially threatening to the United States?

NAPOLITANO: Well, I -- I'm not sure. I think that's a -- you know, I think that's a question the media might ask.

I'm not sure that's quite the way that law enforcement would respond. Because if we are attacked internationally, it doesn't give any comfort if I say, yes, well, internationally, it was ranked number two or -- or the reverse.

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INTELWIRE is a web site edited by J.M. Berger. a researcher, analyst and consultant covering extremism, with a special focus on extremist activities in the U.S. and extremist use of social media. He is a non-resident fellow with the Brookings Institution, Project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World, and author of the critically acclaimed Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam, the only definitive history of the U.S. jihadist movement, and co-author of ISIS: The State of Terror with Jessica Stern.


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