The threat to the United States has shifted in the 20 years since the 9/11 attacks to come from domestic, homegrown terrorists rather than from the Middle East, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas insisted Friday morning, on the eve of the anniversary of the deadly, history-changing attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
"The threat over the last 20 years has evolved," Mayorkas said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe." "We were, of course, in the aftermath of 9/11 focused on the foreign terrorist, the individual who sought to penetrate our defenses, enter the United States, and do us harm."
But that threat changed, and now the most prominent threat is that of the "homegrown violent extremist, the individual who was already here on American soil," said the secretary.
Such extremists are "drawn to violence because of an ideology of hate or a false narrative that is spread on social media or other online platforms," he added. "We've always kept our eye on every and each form of threat, but we do watch what becomes most prominent and build our defenses and our security accordingly in the service of the American people."
Mayorkas also praised the heroes who responded after the 9/11 attacks, but warned that now is a "time of great division in the United States."
"Sadly. I will say that as this week has unfolded, the week before 9/11, we have become far more united in our memories of and our tribute to the heroes, the lives lost and those who have suffered as a result of that tragic terrorist attack," said Mayorkas. "So, I think we have the capacity to unify."
He also said that he does see potential for the country to come together to support the Afghanistan evacuees coming to the United States, and noted the country is being "celebrated" as a "place of refuge."
Additionally, he insisted that the United States is "far stronger and more secure than we were 20 years ago."
"We work jointly across the federal enterprise," said Mayorkas. "Our law enforcement, counterterrorism, intelligence agencies, and departments work collectively. We also work with state, local, tribal territorial officials in an all-of-government effort to secure the homeland. I do think we connect the dots. We share information. We spread that information out. We are working as a system of security on behalf of the American people."
Meanwhile, the United States may no longer have troops in Afghanistan, but it retains significant resources to learn information on the ground, Mayorkas said on ABC News' "Good Morning America," adding that there is "no significant threat" to the United States on the 9/11 anniversary.
"We have other resources to learn information on the ground and we certainly use those resources to the best of our abilities," he said. "We are quite creative and quite capable of learning information from coast to coast and all over the world."
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