Homeland Security Chief Says Has to Be Balance Between Safety and Freedom After Terror Attacks

"I can build you a perfectly safe city, but it will look like a prison."

November 18, 2015, 9:50 PM

— -- Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson called for a balance between safety and freedom as law enforcement around the United States increased security in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in Paris.

“In our efforts to enhance the security of the homeland, we must not compromise our values as a free and open society,” said Johnson during remarks at a cybersecurity event on Wednesday.

Johnson emphasized his belief that security should not come at the cost of privacy or freedom to travel and gather in public places.

“I can build you a perfectly safe city, but it will look like a prison,” he said.

The secretary made his plea, while also trying to reassure the public that the federal government is doing everything in its power to keep the American people safe.

Security in the U.S. has been on a heightened alert since gunmen killed scores of people in the French capital last Friday, in an attack that has been claimed by ISIS. The NYPD deployed its Critical Response Command, the NFL said it has enhanced security around stadiums and is closely monitoring events, and in Washington, D.C. patrols have been added around the city’s “treasured icons.”

Johnson pointed out that DHS is sharing up-to-date intelligence with local counterparts, as well as reaching out to organizations that represent business, mass transit and college and professional sports. Johnson also said that he had personally been in touch with a number of the big-city mayors to talk to them about the Paris attacks.

“Particularly as we approach the holiday season, we continue to encourage the public to travel, attend events, and freely associate, but remain vigilant and aware,” said Johnson.

Johnson, who oversees DHS' refugee resettlement approvals, also spoke about the controversy over allowing Syrian refugees to come to the U.S. He defended the current administration policy, saying that screening for refugees is “the most thorough vetting process conducted with respect to anyone who crosses our borders.”

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