Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said Islamic leaders who can talk the language of terrorists need to help battle the massive social media offensive being waged by groups like ISIS.
Johnson disagreed this morning with an assessment at a hearing last week by Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), who called the federal government’s efforts to counter social media jihadists laughable.
“But it’s important to remember that a lot of the counter-narrative needs to come from within the community. And so when I meet with community leaders, I am asking them, what are we doing to counter this narrative?” Johnson told ABC. “It is slick. It is effective. But we need to get the message out, and that’s not necessarily a government objective, a government mission. It has to come from within the community.”
“It has to come from Islamic leaders, who frankly can talk the language better than the federal government can,” he added. “And so when I meet with community leaders, Islamic leaders, that’s one of the things that we urge them to do. Some have began it. We’ve seen some good progress, but there is a lot more that can be done.”
Johnson called the reason for the raising of the threat level at military bases “pretty much self-evident.”
“I saw other groups have called for attacks on government installations, military installations, which is why we have ramped up our federal protective service at federal buildings around the country, and why the military, the Department of Defense, is taking action itself,” the secretary said. “These are prudent steps, these are prudent, cautious steps, in a time when the public and law enforcement and our government needs to be vigilant and needs to be aware.”
Johnson called it “definitely… a new environment, because of ISIL’s effective use of social media, the Internet, which has the ability to reach into the homeland and possibly inspire others.”
“And so our government and our state and local law enforcement are having to do a number of things to address that, which is why FBI director Comey and I spend a lot of time these days talking to police chiefs, sheriffs around the country. We did that in a video teleconference just on Friday,” he said. “…Because of the use of the Internet, we could have little or no notice in advance of an independent actor attempting to strike. And so that’s why law enforcement at the local level needs to be ever more vigilant and we are constantly reminding them to do that.”
“Just on my watch in the last 16 months, we’ve had to ramp up our communications with state and local law enforcement because of the manner in which the global terrorist threat is evolving. And the FBI and my department work every day together to get information out to law enforcement on the local level…It is a new environment, but we are not discouraging Americans from doing the things they do on a daily basis.”