Obama says no ‘credible’ info of pending attack on US
Obama National Security Briefing: No ‘Specific’ Terror Threats Against U.S., but Americans Must Remain Vigilant.
President Barack Obama said there is no credible evidence of a terrorist threat against Americans now but added that the country must remain vigilant and united. “One of our greatest weapons against terrorism is our own strength and resilience as a people,” Obama said Thursday at the National Counter Terrorism Center. “If you see something suspicious, say something to law enforcement. The White House has seen a week of embarrassing news stories exposing federal investigators’ inability to screen social media like Facebook and Twitter for clues to the destructive intentions of potential visa-holders. The president again sought to reassure Americans about the security risk at home after the terror attacks in Paris in November and in San Bernardino, California earlier this month.
National security chiefs considered in 2011 green-lighting a policy of vetting visa applicants’ social media histories – but decided to deny rank-and-file State Department background checkers access to that tool. We’ve prevailed over much greater threats than this; we will prevail again.” Obama spoke after a briefing by his national security team on the current threat level, the effort to combat extremist groups and propaganda abroad, and steps to tighten scrutiny of people entering the U.S. on visas. Obama said nothing in his latest offering about that troubling liability, nor did he offer new policy prescriptions aimed at tightening the border-control noose around Islamists who mean to create chaos with blood. The speech comes after he was roundly criticized for his response to the San Bernardino terrorist attack that killed 14, first suggesting it could be “workplace violence.” “Our intelligence and counterterrorism professionals do not have any specific and credible information about an attack on the homeland,” Obama said. This work oftentimes demands secrecy.” Obama said the government will tighten security surrounding the visa-waiver agreement, a program that allows citizens from 38, mostly Western, countries to visit the United States for three months without visa; and review the K-5 fiancee visa program under which Malik entered the country last year to marry Farook.
But as he prepares to travel to San Bernardino on Friday to meet with the families of the 14 people killed in the terrorist attack there Dec. 2, Obama also acknowledged that the plans of would-be terrorists are growing more difficult to track, citing the prevalence of such lone-wolf plots. Because Malik and Farook had not been in direct contact with terror-linked groups listed in national security databases, they passed Homeland Security Department background checks.
Over the years, they have taken countless terrorists off the battlefield, they have disrupted plots. they’ve thwarted attacks, they have saved American lives.” The president insisted his team of information-sharing pros, working ‘literally shoulder-to-shoulder,’ can now shift gears into a new phase of terror prevention – although he didn’t say how.
Obama was joined on stage during his remarks Thursday by Nicholas Rasmussen, the director of the center, Vice President Joe Biden, secretaries John Kerry of State and Jeh Johnson of Homeland Security, Attorney General Loretta Lynch, FBI Director James Comey, and James Clapper, director of the Office of National Intelligence. Such plots “are harder to detect, and that makes it harder to prevent.” But just as the threat evolves,” Obama said, “so do we,” indicating the national security advisors at his side and the flags of 11 federal departments behind him. They heard him boast that the U.S. has grown in its capacity to prevent mass-casualty terror attacks on the scale of the largest ones the western world have faced. ‘Here’s what I want every american to know,’ Obama said: ‘Since 9/11 we’ve taken extraordinary steps to strengthen our homeland security: our borders, our ports, our airports, our aviation security, including enhanced watch lists and screening.’ He said comparatively little about the mechanisms that prevent lone wolves from making it across the nation’s borders or slipping past airport passport counters. On Monday, Obama made a rare trip to the Pentagon, where he met with his cabinet officials and senior national security advisers in a gathering billed as a “quick update” on the more than 18-month-old campaign against the Islamic State.
When the result is deadly, Obama said, ‘it tears at our hearts, but it also stiffens our resolve to learn whatever lessons we can and to make any improvements that are needed.’ At the same time, he insisted that his administration has turned back a number of potential terror threats but can’t boast openly about them because of the classified nature of the work. ‘But as Americans, we should not forget how good these patriots are. On Tuesday, Kerry met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow push for a diplomatic solution to the Syrian civil war, which could lead to cooperation between Washington and Moscow in their independent responses to the Islamist militant group. He again urged Americans to not give in to fear and said the latest attacks “only stiffen our resolve” to learn everything possible from them and make improvements where needed. He said the U.S. was focused on three areas: going after terrorists overseas; working to prevent terrorists from entering the country; and strengthening ties between law enforcement and local communities and the technology sector to prevent attacks at home.
On the same day, Johnson activated a new terrorism warning system for the country, replacing an existing that was introduced in 2011 but never activated because of its high threshold for credible or imminent threats. According to a recent poll, only about one-third of Americans say the U.S. is doing enough to prevent another terrorist attack, and 59% say the government is not doing enough. And without mentioning Islam by name, Obama reiterated that dividing America by religious affiliation – as some Republican presidential candidates have toyed with doing – would be antithetical to basic American values.
As if to underscore the faith-neutral nature of his charge to the country, Obama ended his remarks with a curt, ‘Happy Holidays’ instead of ‘Merry Christmas.’
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