Jeh Johnson brings resume, questionable agency to commencement

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Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson will speak at the Occidental class of 2015’s commencement May 17. As head of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Johnson ultimately bears responsibility for his department’s brazen disregard for the United States Constitution. By choosing him as this year’s commencement speaker, the college is directly supporting the illegal affront against innocent Americans by the DHS.

As the third-largest department of the executive branch, the DHS was founded amidst the chaos of post-Sept. 11 Washington. Multiple agencies of the DHS have repeatedly violated civil liberties since the department’s creation in 2002.

The creation of the DHS has resulted in unyielding bureaucratic growth instead of consolidation, as originally intended. Reaching deeper into our lives, many agencies of the department consistently violate the Fourth Amendment of the Bill of Rights, which guarantees every American’s right to privacy and freedom from arbitrary interference by the government. Congress approved the DHS’s warrantless searching and spying in the Homeland Security Act of 2002, despite its obvious unconstitutionality.

Many agencies of the DHS routinely infringe on the rights of Americans. One such agency is U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), which has been granted certain “extra-Constitutional powers” by Congress, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. For example, CBP conducts countless warrantless searches in the name of security at its “legal” checkpoints within 100 miles of the U.S. border, a region where nearly two-thirds of Americans live.

In addition to the physical assault on our Fourth Amendment rights, the department has instituted various mass surveillance programs since its founding. Along with the Department of Justice, the DHS is a proponent of fusion centers around the country that allow for warrantless data collection and sharing among law enforcement agencies. According to David Rittgers of the Cato Institute, fusion centers and various DHS officials believe a majority of Americans to be threatening (i.e. potential terrorists) due to their political leanings, including advocating for tolerance of all speech and religion.

Shockingly, the American public is largely ignorant to the intrusive, not to mention illegal, actions of these DHS agencies. Most Americans, however, are intimately familiar with the invasive tactics of the Transportation Security Administration. The TSA is one of the most highly criticized agencies of any government department for its unbelievable inefficiency, invasion and ineffectiveness. Ron Paul agrees.

“More terrorist attacks have been thwarted by airline passengers than by the TSA! The TSA may be ineffective at stopping terrorists, but it is very effective at harassing innocent Americans,” Paul said last month.

Perhaps the most glaring example of the TSA’s inefficient and intrusive nature is its Screening of Passengers by Observation Techniques (SPOT) program. SPOT aims to identify potential threats by analyzing passengers’ demeanors through indicators such as stress and fear. Under the guise of security, this program ignores the humanity of airplane passengers and classifies more and more law-abiding Americans as terrorists while thwarting little, if any, crime. Ashley Halsey of the Washington Post explains that the Government Accountability Office and, ironically, the inspector general of the DHS advised that the program be shut down after they found that it accomplished absolutely nothing (while spending nearly $900 million in six years). Despite these recommendations, SPOT continues to this day.

Almost all agencies of the DHS engage in unconstitutional practices, directly violating the civil liberties guaranteed to all Americans. By inviting the head of this department to speak at commencement, the college confirms that it is obviously out of touch with the reality of the DHS’s actions and its own values as a college. Johnson does not represent the mission of Occidental College, unless supporting reckless, illegal attacks on American citizens translates to “a deeply rooted commitment to the public good.” The college should be expected to invite a speaker who actively reinforces the values it claims to support, not someone who blatantly contradicts them.

If the secretary of Homeland Security, a criminal cloaked in bureaucracy, is this year’s commencement speaker, who will the college endeavor to support next?