Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano is resigning to become president of the University of California system, where she stands to make triple her current salary. Here is a look back at some of her most memorable moments in office.
The time she said the 9/11 hijackers came from Canada.
In an interview with a Canadian television journalist in April 2009, Napolitano suggested that some of the September 11 hijackers had entered the United States from Canada, which is false (they all entered via overseas flights). The Canadian ambassador was pretty annoyed by Napolitano’s remarks, which she quickly clarified. However, she continued to rile our northern neighbors by insisting that the Canadian and Mexican borders deserved equal scrutiny.
The time she said, “the system worked.”
In discussing the Christmas Day terrorist plot in 2009, which was barely averted when Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s underwear bomb failed to do anything more than severely scald his genitals, Napolitano defended the administration by saying, “The system worked.” It clearly had not. Abdulmutallab was allowed to board a flight to the United States despite being on a terrorism watch list, being a known associate of radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, and having suspiciously bought a one-way ticket with cash while checking no luggage. His own father had warned CIA officers in Nigeria about his son’s “extreme religious views” and possible ties to terrorism. Napolitano later walked back her remarks, stating that “our system did not work in this instance.”
The time DHS published a report on the growing threat of “rightwing extremists.”
The Department of Homeland Security riled conservatives in April 2009 by publishing an official assessment titled “Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment.” Right-wing extremists might be becoming more prevalent and a more viable threat to national security, the report suggested, owing to “the economic downturn and the election of the first African American president.” The document also singled out military veterans as possible recruitment targets. Napolitano drew a lot of criticism over the report, and later issued a quasi-apology.
The time she (allegedly) dabbled in cronyism.
A federal lawsuit filed in July 2012 accused Napolitano of discriminating against male staffers at the Department of Homeland Security and giving special treatment to female employees who were also her friends. Suzanne Barr, one of Napolitano’s first appointments at the department in 2009, resigned several months after being named in the suit, amid claims that she had also engaged in sexually inappropriate behavior.
The time she said the border is secure.
Napolitano was a key target of the opposition to the Gang of Eight immigration-reform bill, which, if passed, would give the Homeland Security secretary sweeping authority to implement the law as she sees fit — for example, by waiving major provisions. Skeptics of the Gang’s plan were not keen on putting Napolitano in charge of border security when she has already insisted that the border is secure. The Congressional Budget Office projects that, under current law, millions of new illegal immigrants will enter the country over the next decade.
The time she ordered bagpipes during sequestration.
Even as the Obama administration was warning that sequestration would inflict catastrophic consequences on the American people — prisoners would be freed, wild animals would escape captivity and roam the streets, the nation’s food supply would go uninspected, and so on — the Department of Homeland Security placed an order for “bagpipe and drum supplies.” The order was promptly canceled after coming to light.
The time she ruined airports for everyone.
Napolitano oversaw the increasingly robust airport-security regime, complete with full-body “naked” X-ray scanners and invasive pat-downs. On the other hand, she has sent a strong message to the nonagenarians, breast-cancer patients, and wheelchair-bound toddlers of the world that their terror will not be tolerated in American skies.
The time she hid in an elevator to avoid taking a stance on gay marriage.
In May of this year, after speaking at the Center for American Progress, Napolitano ignored a reporter who had asked about her support for gay marriage. She then hid behind her security detail in an elevator until the doors closed.
— Andrew Stiles is a political reporter for National Review Online.