The encounter between Senator Ted Cruz and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson over the “scrubbing” of Islamic terminology and Islamist networks from federal anti-terror plans was terrifying to watch — because it showed that President Barack Obama’s appointees are a clique of arrogant, disdainful and gullible amateurs.
Cruz began his June 30 cross-examination by noting the high incidence of important Islamic terminology, such as “jihad,” “Muslim,” and “Islam,” in older anti-terror documents like the 9/11 Commission Report, versus zero mentions of jihad in contemporary documents – even those specifically concerned with combating “violent extremism.”
Cruz then referenced the testimony of DHS whistleblower Philip Haney, who said references to jihad, and the leading role of Muslim Brotherhood organizers and clerics, had been scrubbed from over eight hundred federal documents.
Johnson’s attitude was shockingly blase as he admitted he had no idea whether Haney’s account was accurate. He acted like a spoiled teenager who wouldn’t get off the sofa to do his chores. “No, I have not taken the time to investigate what Mr. Haney said …[and] it makes no difference to me,” Johnson told Cruz.
After waving off several Cruz questions with lazy assertions that he has no idea what’s going on in his own department, Johnson started to brag about how many drone strikes he approved to kill assorted desert-roving “extremists” — as if the problem of domestic jihadis could be solved by whacking Toyota trucks in eastern Syria.
Johnson then tried serving up cliches about how the administration can ignore the reality of Muslims beliefs but still somehow persuade imported older Muslims to hand their angry young Muslim sons over to the FBI for imprisonment. “If we, in our efforts here in the homeland, start giving the Islamic State the credence they want, to be referred to as part of Islam, or some form of Islam, we will get nowhere in our efforts to build bridges with Muslim communities — which we need to do, in this current environment right now, that includes homegrown violent extremists,” said Johnson, so repeating the delusion of cultural harmony that is the foundation of the administration’s “Countering Violent Extremism” domestic anti-jihad strategy.
“They all tell me that ISIL has hijacked my religion,” Johnson claimed, without any hint of recognition that the foreigners might not be telling the truth. “And it’s critical that we bring these people to our side to do this.”
“You’re entitled to give speeches other times,” Cruz interrupted him. “My question was whether you were aware that the [Brotherhood] information has been scrubbed” from federal databases.
“You suggested just a moment ago that it’s essentially a semantic difference,” said Cruz. “Well, I don’t believe it is a semantic difference that when you erase references to radical jihad [from training courses and databases], it impacts the behavior of law enforcement and national security to respond to red flags, and prevent terrorist attacks before they occur.”
“Let’s take Nidal Hassan,” Cruz continued. “The Obama Administration was aware he was communicating with Anwar al-Awlaki, a known radical Islamic terrorist. The Obama Administration was aware that Nidal Hassan had inquired of Anwar al-Awlaki the permissibility of waging jihad against his fellow soldiers.”
“And yet, the Administration did not act, and Nidal Hassan walked through Ft. Hood, in my home state of Texas, murdering 14 innocent souls, yelling ‘Allahu akbar!’ Do you think it was a mistake not to respond to those red flags ahead of time, and prevent the terrorist attack at Ft. Hood?” Cruz asked Johnson.
Johnson, a lawyer, then started dodging by disagreeing with Cruz’s “factual predicate,” evidently in the mistaken belief that the phrase “factual predicate” was a magic spell that would make Cruz disappear, if he repeated it often enough.
Cruz, also a lawyer, then asked Johnson to identify one single fact in Cruz’s case he disagreed with. “What, specifically, do you disagree with, sir?” he asked.
“In one minute, I couldn’t possibly answer your question,” said Johnson.
“Pick anything,” Cruz shot back.
Johnson picked something… and got it wrong, so Cruz took him to school, reducing Johnson to the admission that he wasn’t really sure if the FBI was aware of Hassan’s communications with Awlaki. Cruz pointed out that this “red flag” was a matter of public record.
Cruz moved along to the Tsarnaev brothers, and later the San Bernardino and Orlando jihadis, running through the red flags missed by the Obama Administration, until Johnson could do no better than feebly insist that lessons had been learned — whereupon Cruz pounced, and reminded Johnson that the issue under contention was the Administration’s adamant refusal to learn lessons it didn’t want to hear. They’re not learning lessons — they’re scrubbing key words out of the textbooks as ‘haram.’
“What concerns me, and I believe should concern the Department of Homeland Security, is that because of this effort — scrubbing your law enforcement materials of any acknowledgement of radical Islamic terrorism — when you see the red flags of radical Islamic terrorism, you do not follow up on them effectively,” said Cruz.
“And we have terrorist attack, after terrorist attack, after terrorist attack that could have been prevented, but for this Administration’s willful blindness,” he concluded.
Johnson responded by praising law enforcement for all the dots they do connect, and all the terrorist plots they have stopped, which is both fair enough, and nowhere near adequate as a response. Scrubbing the books of everything related to jihad isn’t going to enhance future performance, and those who have died in attacks that could have been prevented aren’t here to give “A” for effort.
Johnson also insisted that federal officials don’t need to pay any attention to would-be jihadis’ Islamic beliefs and attitudes, and that agents can rely on non-Islamic evidence and actions to stop jihadis before the Allahu Akbar-ing starts;
I think our people are smart enough to identify somebody who is a violent extremist, who is self-radicalizing, who is moving toward violence, when there are some warning signs, like somebody who sees somebody buying a gun, or training or buying weapons of explosive material. Every day I see people connecting the dots across our law enforcement, homeland security, intelligence communities…
I think the labels, frankly, are less important, except where we need to build bridges to American Muslim communities and not vilify them so that they will help us help them. That is my answer to your question, sir.
Johnson was pretty much checking his watch through the whole hearing, treating it as an annoying distraction… which is the arrogant disdain of a man who thinks he’s playing for a team that will never, ever be called on a single bad play by the media referees.