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MSNBC "Morning Joe" - Transcript

Interview

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MSNBC "Morning Joe" Interview With Janet Napolitano, Secretary Of Homeland Security

Subject: Talks In Mexico On Border Security

Interviewers: Joe Scarborough, Mika Brzezinski

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MR. SCARBOROUGH: Let's bring in right now the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security and former governor of the great state of Arizona, Janet Napolitano.

Thank you so much for being with us, Madame Secretary.

SEC. NAPOLITANO: Good morning.

MR. SCARBOROUGH: Okay, we have about a 78-second delay, so -- (laughter) -- so I'll -- we'll ask you a quick question about some other news and then get to Mexico.

The Democratic chairman of the congressional committee that has oversight over your Department has expressed some concerns about police guidance that the Department of Homeland Security gave regarding right-wing extremist groups and veterans.

Let me read to you what he said and then get your response. This report -- he said he was dumbfounded and said, "this report appears to raise significant issues involving privacy and civil liberties of many Americans, including war veterans.

"As I'm certain that you agree, freedom of association and freedom of speech are guaranteed to all Americans, whether a person's beliefs, whatever their political orientation, are extremist or not." That was Congressman Benny Thompson he's chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee.

How would you respond to the Democratic chairman?

SEC. NAPOLITANO: Well, I look to meeting and speaking with the chairman. I think he has misread the report, not only in what it says, but its intent.

These are routine intelligence assessments that are made for state and local law enforcement. They're for situational awareness. They're not accusatory, nor are meant to be accusatory.

The last thing we want to do at the Department of Homeland Security is infringe on anyone's constitutional or civil rights.

So I'll look forward to speaking with the chairman. I don't know that he's actually read the whole report. I know it's similar to other reports he's seen out of the Department in years past.

So again, I think everybody needs to take a deep breath. There was -- I think there was a lot of Washington spin going on yesterday about this report.

But all it was saying is look, there's a constant and constantly changing threat environment in the United States. Our job is to protect against terrorism, whether it comes from abroad or internally.

There are some factors that, unfortunately, but it is so -- think Tim McVeigh -- you need to be aware of. And it's not about accusing veterans.

We have a huge number of veterans in our own Department. The Coast Guard is a member of our own Department. So it's far from that at all.

But I'll meet with the leaders of some veterans' groups next week, clear the air. I think the Veterans of Foreign Wars even yesterday were saying, hey, wait a minute, this is not an accusation.

But I'll meet with some of the other groups next week and, of course, I'll meet with the chairman.

MS. BRZEZINSKI: Secretary Napolitano, I want to ask you about your trip there to Mexico City and what you're involved with there.

What are the challenges that you're confronting in terms of trying to keep the border safe and secure?

SEC. NAPOLITANO: Well, it -- there's a lot of activity there, as you know. And we've got a pretty straightforward strategy.

We want to work with Mexico to help their law enforcement efforts against these cartels. We want to prevent illegal narcotics, illegal immigrants from entering our own country and we want to make sure spillover violence does not occur.

And then we want to stop the flow of guns and cash going south across our border into Mexico that are helping to fuel these big drug organizations.

MS. BRZEZINSKI: And what do you need to hear, and what does President Obama need to hear when he meets with President Calderon later today to help know that this is a joint effort? What assurances are you looking for from Mexico?

SEC. NAPOLITANO: I couldn't hear you clearly. Could you repeat the question?

MS. BRZEZINSKI: What assurances are you looking for from President Calderon on to make sure this is a joint effort, and what is President Obama hoping to achieve in his meeting with President Calderon later today?

SEC. NAPOLITANO: I think the discussion will revolve around many things. One will be what we can do jointly to train and vet law enforcement in Mexico itself, what resources the United States can bring to bear, what resources -- we're prepared to put additional resources at our own border.

And I've already moved, literally, hundreds of agents as well as scanners and specially trained K-9 teams to our border to help both on northbound but also southbound traffic.

MS. BRZEZINSKI: All right. Secretary Napolitano, thank you very much for being on the show. We'd love to have you back. Lot of issues we could talk about.

SEC. NAPOLITANO: Thank you.

MS. BRZEZINSKI: All right. Take care.

MR. SCARBOROUGH: Thank you so much.

END.


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