The former chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee said he believes this week’s decision to step up security around federal government buildings is more an “abundance of caution” than a distinct threat.
Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson ordered the Federal Protective Service to “enhance its presence and security at various U.S. government buildings” in Washington as well as “other major cities and locations around the country.”
The Federal Protective Service is tasked with protecting more than 9,500 federal facilities owned or leased by the General Services Administration.
DHS said 1.4 million visitors and occupants pass through these buildings daily.
“We are taking this action as a precautionary step, to safeguard U.S. government personnel and facilities, and the visitors to those facilities,” Johnson said. “The reasons for this action are self-evident: the continued public calls by terrorist organizations for attacks on the homeland and elsewhere, including against law enforcement and other government officials, and the acts of violence targeted at government personnel and installations in Canada and elsewhere recently.”
Rep. Peter King (D-N.Y.) told CNN he believes Johnson increased security out of an abundance of caution.”
“There was just a series of events over the last several weeks, including ISIS really making very effective use of social media, that I believe the Homeland Security secretary believed that especially with what happened in Canada with the two soldiers being killed, Canadian parliament being attacked and with the NYPD officer being actually attacked with an axe in New York City, in Queens, with federal buildings being a target, it’s important to get this done. That was never necessary in New York because they were always at a high level of security,” King said.
“But, no, I’m not aware of any specific threat other than the constant stream and very sophisticated stream coming from is encouraging these kind of attacks upon the police, upon the military. So these are not the actual members of ISIS or even declared followers of ISIS but even people on the fringes, such as the man in Queens who attacked the police officer. These are sympathizers who can be motivated by these type calls from the ISIS leadership.”
The White House recently revived warnings of an “imminent threat” from Khorasan, an al-Qaeda chapter in Syria.
“I am not aware of any specific threat that would require what Jeh Johnson did as far as the upgrading of the security,” King said.
“I think it’s an accumulation of events. The Khorasan group is a — ‘imminent’ is a typical word. I’m not aware of an imminent threat from the Khorasan group other than the fact they have been a threat for the last couple of months. And the same with ISIS. But I’m not aware of any imminent in the country right now.”