Chaffetz to DHS Secretary: Did you hear the one about the four suspected terrorists who tried to walk across the border?

It’s got a hell of a punch line, Rep. Jason Chaffetz told Megyn Kelly last night, but not one that will have many people laughing. Kelly played a clip from a House committee hearing yesterday, in which Chaffetz asks Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson about reported incidents at two border crossings where four individuals suspected of ties to Middle East terror groups tried to enter the country. Johnson’s nonchalant answer stuns Chaffetz (via Jeff Dunetz):

CHAFFETZ: My concern is that the — I have reason to believe that on September 10th there were actually four individuals trying to cross through the Texas border, who were apprehended at two different stations, that do have ties to known terrorist organizations in the Middle East. Are you not aware of that?

JOHNSON: I’ve heard reports to that effect. I don’t know the accuracy of the reports or how much credence to give them. But I’ve heard reports to that effect.

CHAFFETZ: And I guess that’s my concern is,  you as a secretary, does that information rise to the level of the secretary?

Chaffetz notes that the border security we do have has managed to capture a rather wide range of illegal immigrants:

Chaffetz revealed some shocking numbers: 466,000 people have been captured crossing the border over the last 351 days, and Homeland Security says 157,000 people got away. Those who were captured came from 143 different countries, including Syria, Iraq and Iran.

“We have a porous border […] I’m worried about [ISIS] actually coming to the United States and crossing that porous border and getting into the homeland.”

Megyn Kelly notes that Johnson scratches his nose during his answer, describing it as a “dead giveaway” for lying. Scott Johnson noticed the same gesture, but chalks it up more to ennui and disinterest:

Asked directly if he was aware of four such individuals who were apprehended trying to cross into Texas on 9/10 last week, Johnson gave the question the full Obama kissoff, scratching his nose with his middle finger while conceding he has “heard reports to that effect.” However, according to Johnson, he doesn’t know the accuracy of the reports or how much credence to give them. Observing his demeanor and affect, one might conclude that the whole business is somebody else’s job. Why bother him?

But, alas, the man is Secretary of Homeland Security. We want to know, whom did you hear the reports from, Secretary Johnson, and what would it take to have you get on top of it? Why do you give the appearance of evasion and deceit? What is going on here?

What’s going on here is intense disinterest in border security. Having conceded for the moment on unilateral action on immigration reform before the election, this White House has no intention of supplying any more ammunition for Republicans to demand a focus on securing the border. Think of the irony of this for a moment; the entire raison d’être of Johnson’s job was to coordinate security forces against outside penetration, and the department was created based on the demands of the 9/11 Commission to harden US defenses against terrorism. Now the man running this amalgam of domestic security agencies can’t be bothered to get definitively briefed on a penetration attempt, even after it comes to the attention of Congress.

Must be nice to have steady work in DC, eh? There’s a joke here, all right, but it’s on us.

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