Jeh Johnson: 'No credible information that Isis planning to attack the US'
Hours before Barack Obama is to announce an expanded military campaign against (Isis) militants, his senior homeland security official assessed that the organization poses no imminent danger to America at home.
“At present, we have no credible information that [Isis] is planning to attack the homeland of the United States,” Homeland Security secretary Jeh Johnson told a Manhattan audience on Wednesday.
Johnson is the latest in a string of top US officials to concede that the jihadist army currently in control of much of eastern Syria and northern and central Iraq is not targeting the US at present, despite .
Last week, the head of the US National Counterterrorism Center, Matthew Olsen, issued . Earlier on Wednesday, Olsen’s deputy told a congressional panel that al-Qaida’s affiliates pose the greatest threat of a domestic attack, with Isis threatening US interests primarily “.”
Similarly, when the leaders of US intelligence agencies provided their annual threat assessments to congressional oversight committees in January and February, they stressed a domestic threat emanating from a rival jihadist group. The Nusra Front, al-Qaida’s preferred Syrian affiliate, “,” director of national intelligence James Clapper said, . He and his colleagues gave relatively scant focus to Isis, which has now upended the Obama administration’s foreign policy.
The discrepancy between Isis’s assessed threat to the US and the buildup of US military action – thus far standing at 154 air strikes in Iraq and deployed – has sparked . A member of the House intelligence committee, Republican Mike Pompeo of Kansas, wrote that Isis presents an “”.
Shortly after Johnson’s speech, the Justice Department from a Colorado woman for providing “material support” to Isis, which it identified as an al-Qaida “affiliate” despite al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri . The White House promoted the announcement in advance of Obama’s speech.
Despite the assessed lack of imminent threat, Johnson portrayed Obama’s forthcoming anti-Isis strategy as a responsible approach against the “serious threat” posed by a “depraved” adversary.
“After 13 years of war since 9/11, the decision by the president to take on a new fight against this enemy was not an easy one,” said Johnson, who signaled that one of his main tasks in the coming months will be preventing Isis fighters from entering the United States.
Johnson said he had arranged new deals with foreign airports for enhanced passenger screening, which he called an “imperative” that he seeks to expand. Additional intelligence sharing between the department, the FBI and intelligence agencies in the US and Europe will attempt to identify people attempting to enter the US from . Identifying “terrorist travel patterns” will be a priority, he said, with more nations enlisted for the effort.
That likely indicates a renewed focus on the government’s various and highly controversial watchlists – right as , which focus overwhelmingly on Muslims and for inclusion.
Johnson, known for being one of the administration’s more liberal senior officials, also acknowledged “unfortunate examples” in which the government went “too far” on the pretext of protecting Americans.
“In the name of national security, our government should not overreact, or react out of fear, anger or prejudice,” he said.