Homeland Security

Your Updated Terror Alert System: The Bulletin

Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson, along with Mayor of New York Bill de Blasio, New York City Police Commissioner Bill Bratton, Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro, and Emergency Management Commissioner Joseph Esposito observe NYPD’s active shooter training exercise conducted at the Bowery subway station in Lower Manhattan on Nov. 22, 2015. (Official DHS photo by Barry Bahler.)

The Department of Homeland Security today unveiled a new National Terrorism Advisory System — replacing their 2011 replacement of the post-9/11 color-coded alert system, or just adding another level to the existing structure.

The NTAS switched alerts from colors of the rainbow — red being most dire — to “elevated” and “imminent” threat ratings. DHS “has continuously evaluated intelligence threat streams through the NTAS process since the system’s creation, but it has never issued an Alert because neither the circumstances nor threat streams have risen to the required level or purpose of the system,” the agency said today.

Based on a review of the system ordered by Secretary Jeh Johnson, DHS added “bulletin” as an option instead of an alert.

That “will provide information describing broader or more general trends and current developments regarding threats of terrorism.”

DHS said the NTAS Bulletins “will share important terrorism-related information with the American public and various partners and stakeholders, including in those situations where additional precautions may be warranted, but where the circumstances do not warrant the issuance of an ‘elevated’ or ‘imminent’ Alert.”

“An NTAS Bulletin will summarize the issue and why it is important for public awareness, outline U.S. Government counterterrorism efforts, and offer recommendations to the public on how it can contribute to the overall counterterrorism effort.”

With that, DHS issued their first official Bulletin.

First part, a summary: “We are in a new phase in the global threat environment, which has implications on the homeland.  Particularly with the rise in use by terrorist groups of  the Internet to inspire and recruit, we are concerned about the ‘self-radicalized’ actor(s) who could strike with little or no notice. Recent attacks and attempted attacks internationally and in the homeland warrant increased security, as well as increased public vigilance and awareness.”

“Though we know of no intelligence that is both specific and credible at this time of a plot by terrorist organizations to attack the homeland, the reality is terrorist-inspired individuals have conducted, or attempted to conduct, attacks in the United States this year. DHS is especially concerned that terrorist-inspired individuals and homegrown violent extremists may be encouraged or inspired to target public events or places. As we saw in the recent attacks in San Bernardino and Paris, terrorists will consider a diverse and wide selection of targets for attacks.”

The bulletin adds that DHS “is also concerned about threats and violence directed at particular communities and individuals across the country, based on perceived religion, ethnicity, or nationality.”

It then includes ways for people to report suspected radicalization, how to be safer in public places and encouragement for people “to listen to local law enforcement and public safety officials.”

“We urge Americans to continue to travel, attend public events, and freely associate with others but remain vigilant and aware of surroundings while doing so, particularly during the holidays.” The bulletin is active for the next six months.

Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), the top Democrat on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said he thinks the updates “will provide more information for Americans to help them to quickly report suspicious activity to law enforcement.”

“Like all national security programs, the National Terrorism Advisory System must be revisited and revised as the threats we face evolve,” Carper said. “To that end, the Department must continue to work with community and government partners to make sure we are doing all that we can to keep our families and communities safe. Today’s announcement is a small but needed step in that effort.”

The senator said his committee “will continue to monitor the system and the implementation of these updated measures.”

DHS Secretary Johnson said “it’s time we changed the system.”

“People are anxious now; they should know and need to know what its government is doing to protect our homeland,” Johnson said.