Homeland Security secretary unveils new terror alert system

7 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Homeland Security plans new level to terror advisory system.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration will announce a new terror alert system “in the coming days,” Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said Monday. The U.S. government is reworking its threat-warning system in order to alert Americans about terrorism risks even if officials don’t know of imminent attacks, reflecting an exposure in intelligence gaps following attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, Calif.

The problem, Johnson said, is that NTAS is based on having a specific, credible piece of intelligence of a plot. “We need to get beyond that to go to a new system with an intermediate level,” Johnson said. “We need a system that adequately informs the public about what we are seeing.” As an example, he noted that he announced heightened security at federal government buildings a year ago after the shooting attack on the Canadian parliament building in Ottawa, even though there was no known threat of something similar in the US. That system replaced a color-coded threat-level system put in place after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, which was criticized as an overly simplistic response to the complex situation it addressed.

Elevated threat means there is a credible terrorist threat against the United States, while imminent threat refers to a more specific impending attack. The plan to change the alert system was announced in the wake of the mass shooting in San Bernardino, California, which the FBI has declared a terrorism investigation.

The FBI is investigating the possibility that shooting suspects Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik were inspired by the Islamic State group to carry out the attacks that killed 14 people attending a holiday luncheon at a social services facility. Johnson said while a specific motive has not been determined in the California case the threat from home-grown radicals or those inspired by foreign groups is a growing concern in part because such attacks may not be discovered in advance. Johnson said officials are adapting to what he called a new wave of “terrorist-inspired attacks,” rather than attacks directed by senior leaders of Islamic State or al Qaeda. He said DHS and the State Department are reviewing the “visa waiver” program that allows people from other countries to enter the U.S. through a more-streamlined process.

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