Homeland Security

New DHS Bulletin Doesn't Raise Alert Level, Notes Concern of 'Homegrown Violent Extremists'

Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson is interviewed June 14, 2016, in New York. (Official DHS photo by Jetta Disco)

The Department of Homeland Security has issued an updated national security bulletin in the wake of the Orlando terrorist attack, but didn’t raise the threat level from a bulletin to an elevated or imminent alert.

The National Terrorism Advisory System was put into place after the post-9/11 color-coded terror alert system was scrapped. Bulletins “permit the Secretary to communicate critical terrorism information that, while not necessarily indicative of a specific threat against the United States, can reach homeland security partners or the public quickly,” according to DHS. Alerts share “specific, credible information about a terrorist threat against the United States…with the American public when circumstances warrant doing so.”

The new bulletin runs through Nov. 15, and notes that “in December, we described a new phase in the global threat environment, which has implications on the homeland.”

“This basic assessment has not changed. In this environment, we are particularly concerned about homegrown violent extremists who could strike with little or no notice. The tragic events of Orlando several days ago reinforce this,” the bulletin said. “Accordingly, increased public vigilance and awareness continue to be of utmost importance. This bulletin has a five-month duration and will expire just before the holiday season. We will reassess the threats of terrorism at that time.”

It added that DHS knows “of no intelligence that is both specific and credible at this time of a plot by terrorist organizations to attack the homeland.”

“…In the current environment, DHS is also concerned about threats and violence directed at particular communities and individuals across the country, based on perceived religion, ethnicity, nationality or sexual orientation.”

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson told MSNBC this morning that the new bulletin “means that we are in an environment where we have to be concerned about the homegrown violent extremist that could strike at any place.”

“And we ask for public vigilance, public awareness, when it comes to public events, public places. The public should know that, for this president, for this government, homeland security is our number one priority. I’ve been working alongside this president now since the beginning. Homeland security is his number one priority,” Johnson added.

“Overseas we’re killing these guys wherever they rear their heads, especially those focused on external ops, external planning. The law enforcement arm of our government, and state and local government, is working overtime to address potential terrorist plots,” he continued. “But in this environment there is a role for the public to play. Public awareness, public vigilance can make a difference. It is also crucial that we continue to build bridges to American Muslim communities, the very communities that the Islamic State is targeting and trying to recruit in this country. And we’re going to keep at that.”

As far as Orlando shooter Omar Mateen, Johnson said “all the signs are this is yet another tragic example of a homegrown, home-born violent extremist.”

“He does not appear to have been part of any cell or any group. This does not appear to be a terrorist-directed attack from overseas. It is most likely a terrorist-inspired attack,” he added.

The DHS director said his department has been talking to the private tech sector about “helping to amplify the counter-message to the Islamic State.”

“There are a lot of members of the American Muslim communities out there who are trying to put forth the counter-message and it needs a larger microphone. I think the tech sector has a role there and we’re beginning to see progress there. But we need to do a lot more, obviously,” Johnson said.

He added that “when you look at Orlando, you look at San Bernardino, we have to face the fact that responsible, sensible gun control is now a matter of homeland security.”

“It’s not just a matter of public safety; it is a matter of homeland security that we address this on a national level. This is something we’ve got to face and we’ve got to do to minimize the opportunities for a terrorist to get a hold of a gun, one way or another. It’s a matter of homeland security that we take this on.”