Homeland Security adds new ‘bulletin’ level to National Terror Advisory System

23 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Expect more police and tighter security during the holidays.

US authorities on Wednesday added a new “bulletin” category to the national terror-alert system, aimed at communicating intelligence on lower-level threats to American citizens. Shoppers and travelers will see more police and tougher security checks in public places and events during the holiday season, according to a Homeland Security bulletin issued Wednesday. The growing use of the Internet and social media by terrorist groups to recruit followers and inspire attacks by self-radicalized individuals have created a “new phase in the global threat environment,” the notice says.

Alert systems should not feel completely unfamiliar to Americans, as the government used a different version from just after the 2001 September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon until 2011. (Such systems will also be familiar to readers of fiction and moviegoers. Secretary of Homeland Security takes part in a panel discussion at the 70th International Air Transport Association (IATA) in Doha, Qatar, Tuesday, June 3, 2014. (AP) The Homeland Security Department on Wednesday officially updated its terrorism alert system — issuing a bulletin reminding Americans about the ongoing concerns regarding an attack on U.S. soil. The bulletin was issued by agency Secretary Jeh Johnson, who reiterated that the government has no knowledge of a specific or credible terrorist threat against the United States but remains concerned about terrorist-inspired extremists. Law enforcement and intelligence agencies are increasingly worried about self-radicalized extremists who turn to violence, like the married couple in San Bernardino who gunned down 14 people on Dec. 2 before they were killed by police. “As should be obvious this holiday season in particular, there is a heightened security and law enforcement presence at public events and public places across the country,” Johnson said at a news conference called to disclose the new threat advisory. “Law enforcement, national security, homeland security personnel are working overtime to protect the American public and to protect the homeland,” he said.

Such measures are also seen in the 1983 film “War Games.”) The alert system, which the Obama administration overhauled in 2011 and has not used since, previously had two levels – “elevated,” which corresponds to credible threats, and “imminent,” which informs the public of more specific threats. The system was put in place following the 9/11 attacks, when terrorists killed nearly 3,000 people in separate incidents in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.

FBI Director James Comey told US media the two had exchanged private messages in late 2013 “showing signs in that communication of their joint commitment to jihad and to martyrdom.” But he said that, despite reports to the contrary, there was no evidence the pair posted public messages supporting jihad on social media at that time — something that could have alerted investigators to their intenttions. Johnson said he revamped the system to make the public more aware of threats the government is seeing, how authorities are responding, and what people can do.

If the public knows how serious a threat is, what geographic area it affects, and how investigators are trying to take care of it, they may feel less anxious about interruptions by security forces on their daily routines. The new alert system is also supposed to provide the public with specific information about how to protect themselves and their families, Reuters reported.

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