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DHS Chief Jeh Johnson: 'Public Needs to be Particularly Vigilant'

DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson said that the public needs to be “particularly vigilant” in the face of threats like the latest one against the Mall of America.
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Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday that the public needs to be “particularly vigilant” in the face of growing terror threats on U.S. soil.

Johnson was responding to threats posed by an al Qaeda-affiliated group from Somalia in a video released Saturday. The terrorist group, al Shabab, called for attacks on shopping malls in the U.S., U.K. and Canada in the video, which specifically included a mention and images of Minnesota’s Mall of America. Al Shabab carried out a siege lasting four days at the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya, in September 2013. The attack left at least 67 people dead and nearly 200 wounded.

“We've seen this a number of times now where a group will call for an attack on a country, on a specific location,” Johnson said in an interview on “Meet the Press.” “So, we've got to be vigilant.”

The secretary was responding to comments he made in an earlier interview on CNN.

“I am not telling people to not go to the mall. I think there needs to be an awareness. There needs to be vigilance,” Johnson told Chuck Todd. “We’re in a new phase right now, and that involves public participation in our efforts.”

Johnson explained that the new phase of global terrorism — involving both core al Qaeda and other groups including ISIS — gives terrorism organizations the ability to reach out via Internet video, publications and social media “into communities … and inspire independent actors to commit acts of violence.”

In order to stay ahead of terrorist groups like ISIS, Johnson said later, he counts on personnel who will be furloughed if Congress does not fund the Department of Homeland Security by the end of this week. The secretary estimated 30,000 department employees will be let go temporarily if Congress does not act by Friday.

“A large part of the workforce will be required to come to work. But they'll come to work without pay,” he said. “So, the working men and women of my department will be required to work on the front lines without a paycheck, which has serious consequences for working men and women and their families.”

Johnson also said a department shutdown would halt grant-making for state and local law enforcement agencies. Additionally, the department would not be able to pay for the security added to the country’s southern border last summer. The security was added in response to the rise of migrants crossing the border.

“It's bizarre and absurd that we're even having this discussion in these challenging times,” Johnson said, “given the global terrorist threat we've just been talking about, given the harsh winter we're in the midst of, and all the other things that we do.”

— Dan Cooney