Tags: Al-Qaida | Emerging Threats | Homeland Security | War on Terrorism | terrorism | lone wolf | al-Qaida

Jeh Johnson: Lone-Wolf Attacks a Real and Growing Threat

By    |   Monday, 17 November 2014 09:05 AM

The United States needs to remain vigilant against lone-wolf acts of terror, but catching potential attackers who are not formally connected with established militant groups takes a different kind of strategy, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said Sunday.

"We have to be vigilant against an independent actor here in the homeland who might choose to strike at any moment," Johnson told CNN's Barbara Starr at the Reagan National Defense Forum Sunday.

It hasn't been that long ago that al-Qaida would recruit potential terrorists, train them at an overseas camp, and send them to commit an attack.

But Johnson said he is concerned about a new phenomenon, such as is being employed by the Islamic State, in which "somebody who has never met another member of that terrorist organization, never trained at one of the camps, who is simply inspired by the social media — the literature, the propaganda, the message — to commit an act of violence in this country."

Catching such people is much more difficult, Johnson said, and often relies on state and local law enforcement officials, as well as religious and community organizations. In the past, the fight involved more government agencies that disrupted plots made by overseas terror cells.

"I've made this a personal part of my agenda by traveling to a lot of community-based organizations around the country, many of them Islamic based, and the dialogue is interesting," he said.

"We have to build trust across the spectrum of issues. I don't want to just go there and say, 'I'm here to talk about countering violent extremism. What can you do to help me?'"

Johnson said the government needs to try to offset the messages young adults are seeing online, where groups like ISIS and others are using Twitter, Facebook and other means to recruit people.

"I think that some men, some young men may be inclined to turn in that direction," said Johnson. "We're seeing that obviously, and so we have to offer a counter narrative. We have to offer a counter vision and so we need public participation in that."

The State Department, among other methods, is countering ISIS' Twitter use with its own account "Think Again, Turn Away," on which it posts anti-ISIS and anti-terrorism messages in hopes of swaying young men and women away from believing what terror groups are posting online.

The account is run by the Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications (CSCC), a State Department unit created in 2011, and so far has 13,000 followers.

"What we're doing is very different from anything else in US government public communications," said Alberto Fernandez, the CSCC's top official, told The Telegraph back in May.

"Our goal is not to make people love the U.S.," said Fernandez, a career diplomat who speaks fluent Arabic. "Our goal is to make al-Qaida look bad."

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Lone-wolf terrorists could strike against the U.S. "at any moment," but stopping people who are not formally connected with established militant groups is hard and takes a different strategy, said Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson.
terrorism, lone wolf, al-Qaida, homeland
Monday, 17 November 2014 09:05 AM
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