EDITORIAL: A fix for Homeland Security

A sprawling agency needs more than a lawyer and a lobbyist

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Janet Napolitano finally retired as secretary of the Department of Homeland Security to take a job as president of the University of California. That’s good news for friends of reason, good sense and liberty, considering her tenure was marked by the implementation of backdoor amnesty schemes. The not-so-good news is that President Obama’s replacement doesn’t sound much better. Jeh Johnson, formerly the top lawyer at the Pentagon, was crowned, or bemedaled, or beribboned, or whatever may be appropriate for that job, in a Rose Garden ceremony Friday. He was a Manhattan trial lawyer and a lobbyist who was general counsel at the Defense Department during Mr. Obama’s first term. The department looks dysfunctional, and may need someone more than a professional lobbyist.

Mr. Johnson was an early backer and fundraiser for Mr. Obama’s presidential candidacy, and that’s credentials enough for Mr. Obama, but otherwise he was only an expensive lawyer, and there’s no shortage of those in Washington. “There doesn’t seem to be any indication that he has any experience at all in immigration,” says Rosemary Jenks, chief lobbyist for NumbersUSA, which advocates for stricter immigration limits.

The Department of Homeland Security is a sprawling bureaucracy with 240,000 employees spread across 22 agencies notorious for infighting and a reluctance to play nice with one another. The job of a leader is to rein in dissent and give an organization the cohesiveness it needs to function. Homeland Security needs leadership more than almost any other department of government, particularly since the department, despite its many billions, doesn’t get much support from the White House. The president has left 40 percent of the senior management jobs vacant. Customs and Border Protection, for example, remains without a permanent chief. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is getting by with only an acting commissioner.

The director of Citizenship and Immigration Services, Alejandro Mayorkas, was chosen by Mr. Obama for the No. 2 post at Homeland Security, but he is under federal investigation for accusations that he unfairly obtained U.S. EB-5 visas for foreign investors in a company run by Hillary Clinton’s brother. He has been implicated in a scandal involving Terry McAuliffe, a close friend of the Clintons, and the Democratic nominee for governor in Virginia. He has a lot on his mind.

Having a permanent chief is no guarantee of leadership. John S. Pistole has presided over the Transportation Security Administration’s abuse of the privacy of travelers at the airports. The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is considering the appeal of the lawsuit of a Miami man, one Jonathan Corbett, who is suing to pull the plug on the nude body scanners, arguing they serve no safety purpose. He posted on his Internet blog about documents, meant to have been sealed, that the Transportation Security Administration now considers the possibility of another Sept. 11 attack remote, so surely nude scans are not necessary.

The Department of Homeland Security needs a chief willing to shake up a fat and complacent bureaucracy, to stop turf battles, shut the curtains on the security theater and follow the law as written, all to secure the borders. At the end of his Rose Garden remarks accepting the appointment, Mr. Johnson tugged obediently at his imaginary forelock: “I remain loyal to you, Mr. President.” Loyalty is an admirable trait, but what Homeland Security needs is loyalty to taxpayers who pay the bills.

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