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Opening Statement from Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson before the Senate Committee on the Judiciary in a Hearing Entitled "Oversight of the Department of Homeland Security"

Release Date: 
June 30, 2016

9:45 AM EDT

Thank you, chairman, Senator Leahy, members of this committee. I appreciate the opportunity to be here today. You have my prepared statement. I will say just a few things for the record here this morning.

First, we do have, as reflected on the news, an unfolding situation at Andrews Air Base, which may require that I take a break from this session and I hope you will not mind if I need to do that, chairman.

Second, let me say a few words about what happened in Istanbul two days ago and what we know at this point. So far, based on what we know, it appears that there were three attackers, three explosions. There are reports out of Turkey today about the possible identity of these three attackers. We don't have confirmation yet of their nationality or their names. There were forty-four killed, including the attackers, and some 256 injured, including one U.S. citizen who suffered- I understand- minor injuries. This has the hallmarks of an attack by ISIL, although there has been no claim of responsibility since the last time I looked.

Here in the homeland, since Brussels, we have enhanced security at airports around the nation since the Brussels attack in March. Our TSA viper teams have been more visible at airports and transit centers, generally. The American public should expect to see this July 4th weekend an enhanced security presence at airports, train stations, and other transit centers across the country by TSA, state, and local law enforcement, as well as, security personnel, generally.

We have enhanced aviation security over the last two years since I’ve been secretary. As I said last month, we will not shortcut aviation security in response to increased travel volume and longer wait times. I’m happy to report that with the support and approval of Congress, we have reprogrammed funds to convert a number of TSOs from part-time to full-time to expedite the hiring of additional TSAs, and additional TSA officers, and to make other surges in resources so that wait times today at airports nationwide have been reduced. Ninety-nine percent of the traveling public now has a wait time of 30 minutes or less nationwide. Ninety-three percent of the traveling public today has a wait time of about 15 minutes or less. We are focused on the nation's busiest airports to ensure we don't have a peek of some of the things we saw around Memorial Day weekend in the month of May.

In general, my caution is that when it comes to public places and public events, we should not focus our attention on things like airports to the exclusion of other public places and public events. As we said in our National Terrorism Advisory System bulletin issued just about two weeks ago, we are concerned and focused generally on public events and other places across the nation. And in general, we continue to encourage the public to travel, to associate, to celebrate the holidays and celebrate the July 4th holiday. Continue to go to public events, but be aware and be vigilant.

Public awareness and public vigilance can and does make a difference in terms of detecting possible terrorist plots, terrorist activity. So, with those comments I look forward to your questions. I will be happy to answer any questions you have. Thank you.

Last Published Date: June 30, 2016
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