(WASHINGTON) — Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson announced Wednesday a new National Terrorism Advisory System level called “bulletin” at a news conference in Washington, followed by DHS promptly issuing the first terror bulletin to the public.
The new bulletin specifically warns about “self-radicalized actors” who could strike “public events and places” with little warning.
“It’s time we changed the system,” Secretary Johnson said. “People are anxious now; they should know and need to know what its government is doing to protect our homeland.”
Johnson noted that despite the rising threat of homegrown terror, DHS has not issued a terror advisory to the public since the much-criticized, color-coded threat system was abandoned in 2010. The bulletin issued Wendesday covers at least the next six months, and will be re-evaluated as threats evolve, Johnson said.
Wednesday’s bulletin warns, “We are in a new phase in the global terrorism threat, which has implications on the homeland. Particularly with the rise and use of the internet by terrorist groups to inspire and recruit, we are concerned about the self-radicalized actors who could strike with little or no notice. Recent attacks internationally, and in the homeland, warrant increased security, as well as increased public vigilance and awareness.”
Johnson said there was no “credible and specific” evidence at this time of a plot by terrorist organizations to attack the homeland, but said, “The reality is that terrorist-inspired individuals have conducted, or attempted to conduct, attacks in the United States this year.”
The bulletin also warns that there is heightened concern about attacks on Americans “based on perceived religion, ethnicity or nationality.”
With the introduction of the bulletin, Johnson said, the National Terrorism Advisory System will now consist of two kinds of advisories: bulletins and alerts. As under the existing system, if there is sufficient information regarding a credible, specific terrorist threat against the United States, DHS will share an NTAS Alert – either “elevated” or “imminent” – with the U.S. public.
The alert may include specific information about the nature of the threat, including the geographic region, mode of transportation or critical infrastructure potentially affected by the threat, as well as steps individuals and communities can take to protect themselves and help prevent, mitigate or respond to the threat.
In the meantime, Johnson asked the public to continue to be vigilant, adding, “The public should expect an increased presence of law enforcement across communities in the weeks ahead. More stringent security should also be anticipated at public places and events.”
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