Trump’s Pick for Homeland Security Chief Exaggerates Narco Terrorism Threat

January 9, 2017 The U. S. Senate hearings are underway to confirm President-elect Donald Trump’s nominees for cabinet positions. Retired Marine Gen. John F. Kelly, President-elect Trump’s choice to lead the the U.S. Department of Homeland Security will testify before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee for his confirmation hearing on Tuesday afternoon. General Kelly is a well respected leader with 40 years experience, but his grossly exaggerated testimony in recent years about the threat of Narco-terrorism from the Mexican border is cause for concern.

Retired Gen. John F. Kelly, a Boston native most recently served as head of U.S. Southern Command from 2012 until his retirement in early 2016. Kelly is respected by both republicans and democratic leaders. Kelly has the sad distinction of being the highest-ranking military officer to lose a child in Iraq or Afghanistan. His son, Lt. Robert Michael Kelly, was killed after stepping on a land mine in Afghanistan in 2010. Alejandro Mayorkas, who served as deputy secretary of Homeland Security in the Obama administration, called General Kelly an “extraordinary partner” of the department during his tenure at the Southern Command. Former Secretary of Defense, Leon E. Panetta said the “new administration will benefit from someone like John Kelly as it finds its footing.”

In previous testimony on Capital Hill, General Kelly has warned that Russia is a threat to United States leadership in the Western Hemisphere – contradicting President-elect Donald Trump’s views. He has argued that under President Vladimir V. Putin, Russia had returned to Cold War tactics to challenge the United States in Central and South America. Critics have raised concerns about remarks Kelly has made in recent years on border security. His tough stance on border control is likely the reason he Trump picked him. Kelly has repeatedly voiced concerns about the threat of narco terrorism, where terrorists could use known drug smuggling routes to send operatives to the United States through Mexico. According to Kelly, due to the geographic proximity, trade, culture, immigration, and the environment, no other part of the world has a greater impact on the daily lives of Americans, In 2014, during testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Kelly told lawmakers that 500,000 Americans “have died from narcoterrorism” since 9/11, a gross exaggeration. (PDF) The findings of a 2014 study supported by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security concluded that since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, less than one thousand Americans have died in any form of terrorism related incidents. A third of the 40,000 Americans killed by drugs annually do not die, as Kelly claimed, from drugs coming into the U.S. across the southern border, but from overdoses of legally prescription drugs. Kelly also claimed one of his top priorities was continuing humane and dignified detention operations at Guantanamo.

Since the agency’s creation, there have been four previous DHS secretaries. Kelly, who is expected to be confirmed will become the first non-civilian to head the department. Experience wise, Kelly is the most qualified nominee for the position to date. Tom Ridge, the first DHS Secretary, the twice elected Governor of Pennsylvania also had military experience, He served as an infantry staff sergeant in Vietnam, earning the Bronze Star for Valor. Ridge is best known for the original color-coded terror alerts. The second DHS Secretary, Michael Chertoff was best known for creating a risk based analysis for predicting likely terrorist targets, a formula that placed a petting zoo in Cleveland at the top of the list. Janet Napolitano, former governor of Arizona was the nation’s third DHS secretary. She managed to not mention the word “terrorism” during her first testimony on Capitol Hill. Two years later, Napolitano warned lawmakers about the evolving threat posed by the “homegrown terrorist,” and is best known for expanding the “If You See Something, Say Something” public awareness campaign to much of the nation’s critical infrastructure — including sports stadiums, railways, movie theaters and shopping malls. Current DHS Secretary, Jeh Johnson inherited a mess. The agency;s employees continue to struggle with low morale. His efforts to bridge the growing gap between the Muslim American community and the rest of America as Donald Trump’s campaign of hate and fear continues to divide the nation is commendable.

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