Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson was vague Sunday about what caused his department to bump up security at airports in the wake of the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS or ISIL), telling NBC on Sunday that “obviously we’re concerned any time a terrorist organization acquires territory, picks up capability.”
On Wednesday, Johnson issued a statement stressing DHS would “continue to adjust security measures to promote aviation security without unnecessary disruptions to the traveling public.”
“DHS continually assesses the global threat environment and reevaluates the measures we take to promote aviation security. As part of this ongoing process, I have directed TSA to implement enhanced security measures in the coming days at certain overseas airports with direct flights to the United States,” Johnson said. “We will work to ensure these necessary steps pose as few disruptions to travelers as possible. We are sharing recent and relevant information with our foreign allies and are consulting the aviation industry.”
“These communications are an important part of our commitment to providing our security partners with situational awareness about the current environment and protecting the traveling public,” he added. “Aviation security includes a number of measures, both seen and unseen, informed by an evolving environment.”
One of the threats posed by ISIS is the group’s aggressive recruitment of foreign jihadists who would hold passports to the U.S. or European countries.
“Our job is to try to anticipate the next attack, not simply react to the last one. So we continually evaluate the world situation. And we know that there remains a terrorist threat to the United States. And aviation security is a large part of that,” Johnson told Meet the Press.
“So this past week, I directed that we step up our aviation security at last point — at some last point of departure airports coming into the United States. This is not something to overreact to or overspeculate about, but it’s something we felt was necessary. We do this from time to time. We ratchet it down from time to time,” he added.
When asked if the DHS intended to ratchet up security on domestic flights as well as international ones, the secretary replied, “We continue to evaluate things.”
“The screening we have right domestically from one domestic airport to another is pretty robust as the American traveling public knows. In this instance we felt that it was important to crank it up some at the last point of departure airports and we’ll continually evaluate the situation,” he said.
Johnson said he believes “that we’ve taken the appropriate measures to deal with the existing situation and not unnecessarily burden the traveling public.”
“As I said, the terrorist threat potential out there still remains and a lot of it centers around aviation security, which we continually monitor,” he said.