Entries in Department of Homeland Security (32)


Color-Coded Terror Alerts Retired by Homeland Security 

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano announced Thursday that the color-coded terrorism alert system will end within 90 days. It will be replaced, she said, with a new two-tiered system to provide clear and specific information about terrorist threats and actions people should take.

"Today I announce the end of the old system of color-coded alerts. In its place, we will implement a new system that's built on a clear and simple premise: When a threat develops that could impact you -- the public -- we will tell you," Napolitano said. "We will provide whatever information we can so you know how to protect yourselves, your families, and your communities."

Napolitano called the new threat warning method the National Terrorism Advisory System. Napolitano made the announcement in a speech at George Washington University, where she also urged students to consider a career with the department.

Napolitano said that the new system, unlike the old one, will have specified end dates when there is an alert. Napolitano said that was possible because of better intelligence collection and analysis.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


DHS to Scrap Color-Code Terror Alerts by April

Photo Courtesy - DHS dot gov(WASHINGTON) -- On Thursday, Homeland Secretary Janet Napolitano will announce that the much-maligned color-code threat level, formally called the Homeland Security Advisory System, will be replaced with a more specific public alert system, according to officials briefed on the issue.

In July 2009, DHS Secretary Napolitano ordered a 60-day review of the system used to inform the public of the terror threat environment to see if it needed to be altered. The task force appointed by Napolitano was split on whether to keep the current advisory system in place. A report prepared by the Task Force noted, "Task Force membership believes the color-code system has suffered from a lack of credibility and clarity leading to an erosion of public confidence such that it should be abandoned."

The system has not been raised or lowered since 2006 and officials say they have been better able to tailor security procedures without making changes to the color-code system. While DHS officials declined to comment on the changes, which will be detailed Thursday by the Secretary in a speech at the George Washington University Homeland Security Policy Institute, officials briefed on the issue say the new system will resemble terrorism alerts that are used by the United Kingdom.

The U.K. threat level system does not rely on colors but spans five levels from low -- meaning an attack is unlikely -- to critical -- indicating an attack is expected imminently. Currently the U.K. system is set at severe -- meaning that a terrorist attack is highly likely.

"The old color coded system taught Americans to be scared, not prepared. Each and every time the threat level was raised, very rarely did the public know the reason, how to proceed, or for how long to be on alert," said Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS). "I applaud the Secretary for her decision to create a common sense approach to alerting the public when credible threats arise."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Package Ignites in DC: Homeland Security Chief Targeted

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- A package addressed to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano ignited Friday at a Washington, D.C. postal facility. The package looked "similar" to the book-sized envelopes that detonated in Maryland on Thursday, officials said, but it was not immediately clear whether the incidents were related and whether the same person sent all three packages.

DC Metro Police Chief Cathy Lanier said "there was popping, smoking, a brief flash of fire and then it extinguished itself."  No injuries were reported and the building was evacuated as a precautionary measure.  U.S. postal service spokeswoman Irene Lericos said that the building is an annex that handles U.S. government mail.

On Thursday, a pair of incendiary devices in small packages, including one addressed to the governor of Maryland, erupted within hours of each other inside two government office buildings in Maryland. The detonations injured two people but there were no major injuries. Those devices -- similar in construction to ones recently mailed to embassies in Rome and in Greece -- were described by one official as "terror vandalism," that are "intended to scare, and hurt you a bit, but not kill." Officials described them as powered by a small battery linked to an electric match and a switch.  A message linked to the devices suggested they were sent by someone who was angry with the government's terror warnings, sources told ABC News.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Report: Homeland Security Assembling Massive Database on Americans

Photo Courtesy - U.S. Department of Homeland Security(WASHINGTON) -- Worries about homegrown terrorism have compelled the Department of Homeland Security to put together the largest database ever assembled of information collected on Americans, according to a story in the Washington Post.

Spurred by billions of dollars in grants to state governments since the 9/11 attacks, state and local authorities will collect data that the DHS says will help to enhance the counterterrorism efforts of the FBI.

Citing interviews and documents, the Post says that the database will include personal information on thousands of Americans, who may be judged to be acting suspiciously even if they’ve never been charged with breaking the law.

All together, more than 4,000 federal, state and local organizations are participating in this vast domestic spying network.  In addition, surveillance technologies first used in Iraq and Afghanistan are being employed to keep a closer watch on Americans.

Naturally, news of this elaborate spy effort has alarmed privacy advocates, who argue the government is going too far in efforts to protect the public from terrorist attacks.

Michael German, a former FBI agent at the American Civil Liberties Union, cautions, “It opens a door for all kinds of abuses.  How do we know there are enough controls?”

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Counterterror Chiefs: London Terror Suspects Were No Threat to US

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- On a day of frayed nerves and false alarms in the U.S. counterterrorism community, ABC's Diane Sawyer sat down with President Obama's national security team in Washington D.C.

Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, and Chief Counterterrorism Advisor John Brennan spoke with Sawyer about the threat of terror around the globe, particularly in the wake of Monday's arrest of 12 men in England said to be in the final stages of a major bomb plot.

"As far as I know, we have not yet found any connection between those arrests and any threats to the United States," said Napolitano.

The trio declined to speak about the particulars of the British threat but sought to assure the American public ahead of a busy week of holiday travel. Just Monday, travelers at Newark Airport in New Jersey were held up after authorities closed a terminal to investigate a suspicious package that turned out to be a computer monitor.

"What I say to the American people is that... thousands of people are working 24/7, 364 [sic] days a year to keep the American people safe."

Sawyer asked about recent comments from Michael Leiter at the National Counterterrorism Agency, asserting that not all attacks can be stopped and some innocent lives will be lost.

"I think Mike Leiter was correct," Napolitano said. "You cannot hermetically seal the United States."

"We're not going to bat 1,000 necessarily. We can't guarantee that," said Clapper. "But we're certainly doing everything we can to ensure that we do thwart any kind of an attack."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio 


Holiday Terror Warning Cites Car Bombs, Small Arms Attack

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Federal law enforcement terror bulletins have become as much a part of the holiday season in the past decade as egg nog and department store Santas.  But this year, which ends amid a heightened concern over terror, is a little different.

A Department of Homeland Security bulletin sent to law enforcement nationwide Thursday says that federal authorities worry terrorists will try to rattle Americans by attacking during the holidays, and lists concerns including car bombs, trucks ramming crowds, and a Mumbai-style small arms attack.

"We are concerned these terrorists may seek to exploit the likely significant psychological impact of an attack targeting mass gatherings in large metropolitan areas during the 2010 holiday season, which has symbolic importance to many in the United States," the "Security Awareness for the Holiday Season" bulletin states.

The bulletin cites no specific threats for Christmas and New Year's, but makes clear that this year's enhanced concern is based on a persistent, evolving threat.  The past 12 months brought multiple attempted attacks on U.S. targets, including the attempted Christmas Day underwear bombing of Northwest 253, Faisal Shahzad's failed Times Square car bomb, the "printer bomb" cargo plane plot, and a number of alleged would-be bombers caught in stings in Oregon and elsewhere.

"During the last year," said the bulletin, "al-Qa'ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) have attempted to carry out attacks in the United States, thereby raising their international profile.  We cannot discount the possibility that other al-Qa'ida-linked groups, such as al-Qa'ida in Iraq, al-Qa'ida in the Islamic Maghreb, Lashkar-e Tayyiba, or al-Shabaab, will attempt to target the Homeland during the holiday season."

The document suggests that terrorists may consider public gatherings like "sporting events, parades, religious and cultural activities" to be attractive targets.  "Attacks against these targets could maximize the psychological impact on the American public given the symbolic importance of the holiday season to many in the United States," says the bulletin.  "Attacks against air cargo during this busy season are also a concern."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Homeland Security Teams with Walmart in Expansion of 'See Something, Say Something' Campaign

Photo Courtesy - U.S. Department of Homeland Security(WASHINGTON) -- Monday in a conference call with reporters, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced the expansion of the recent campaign, “If You See Something, Say Something” to hundreds of Walmart stores across the country. The campaign, which was first started in New York City, is designed to elevate awareness among the public to report possible suspicious activity to law enforcement.
Napolitano recently taped a PSA that will play in Walmart stores that have video displays in the checkout lanes. The video is expected to be shown in about 530 Walmart stores in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Nebraska, Texas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, West Virginia and Wyoming.

In recent months, Napolitano has recorded similar PSAs for use on mass transit in Washington, D.C.  Homeland Security has also briefed the hotel industry on the awareness campaign as the heightened threat environment continues. Following the Mumbai, India attacks in 2008,  Homeland Security began to raise security awareness regarding terrorist interest in targeting luxury hotels.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Homeland Security Recommends Replacing Color-Coded Warnings

Photo Courtesy - Department of Homeland Security(WASHINGTON) -- The Department of Homeland Security is recommending that the current color-coded system used to warn Americans of imminent threats and attacks be replaced, ABC News has learned.

The government agency wants President Obama to scrap the Homeland Security Advisory System, "a color-coded terrorism risk advisory scale," in favor of warnings that are more specific.  The agency would instead put out warnings with clearer language so Americans could understand what kind of threat exists.

The color-coded scale was implented in 2002.  The current overall threat level is yellow, or "elevated," marking a significant risk of terrorist attacks.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano Thanks TSA Employees; Pistole Says Planned Protests Could Have 'Negative Effect'

Photo Courtesy - PRNewsFoto | Transportation Security Administration(WASHINGTON) -- As the controversy over the Transportation Security Administration's enhanced screening continues, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano sent a message to all TSA employees to personally thank them for their work during the holiday rush.

The message obtained by ABC News that was sent Tuesday afternoon to employees stated, "The threats we face in the aviation sector are real and evolving, and we are meeting them with a strong and dynamic response. Serving on the front lines, you ensure safe and efficient travel for the millions of people who rely on our aviation system every day."

Following the increased public scrutiny the TSA has received in recent days, even getting the attention of a Saturday Night Live skit, Napolitano bucks up the TSA officers and employees, writing in her note, "Time and again, the men and women of TSA have demonstrated poise and professionalism. Travelers and the public realize that your job is difficult and demanding. This holiday season, I am confident you will again demonstrate your commitment to ensuring the safety of the traveling public to everyone who passes through an airport security checkpoint."

In an interview with ABC News, TSA Administrator John Pistole urged the public to build in some more time to their schedule to accommodate security. The TSA chief also expressed his concern about  possible protests, saying, "If I was a traveler I would have significant concerns about it because it’s unpredictable. So I would make sure I get to the airport on time, that I don’t miss my flight," Pistole said. "Our security checkpoints are fully staffed and we’re ready for the normal rush, but if people do opt out in significant numbers it will have a negative effect."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Napolitano Issues Blunt Comments on Domestic Terror Threat

Photo Courtesy - U.S. Department of Homeland Security(ORLANDO) -- Speaking before the International Association of Chiefs of Police Annual Conference in Florida on Monday, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano provided a more stark assessment of the domestic threat to the United States and the emergence of homegrown terrorism domestically.

Although Napolitano has been discussing the issue of homegrown terrorism more frequently over the past several months, her remarks Monday were blunt. “We’re operating under the premise that individuals prepared to carry out terrorist acts are in the country, and may carry out these acts of violence with little or no warning,” Napolitano said before the police group. 

One month ago, Napolitano had painted a similar picture before the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee when she testified about the rise in homegrown terrorism threats.  At the September 22nd hearing, Napolitano said,  “A new and changing facet of the terrorist threat comes from homegrown terrorists.  And by which I mean, U.S. persons who are radicalized here and receive terrorist training either here or elsewhere, and bring knowledge of the United States and the West to terrorist organizations.  A clear trend in recent attacks has been the role of English language and online propaganda from operatives like al-Awlaki, a United States citizen, based in Yemen.”

In her speech Monday before the police group, the DHS Secretary again stated the concern of individuals that may be radicalized and recruited to support terrorist activities or undertake attacks here in the U.S., but cited the concern that many of these individuals may not be known to the U.S. Intelligence Community or law enforcement, “More and more, we’re seeing the increased role of Westerners, including U.S. citizens, engaged in terrorist training, planning, and attempted attacks...and many of these individuals are unknown to the Intelligence Community and unknown to federal authorities.  And that means traditional Intelligence Community efforts and travel analysis may not be enough to identify domestically-inspired terrorist planning and attacks.”

Napolitano cited a recent push to involve the public and raise awareness among the public to be on the lookout for suspicious activity with the “If You See Something, Say Something” campaign to have people notify law enforcement if they view something that seems suspicious.  In an effort to try and get more information to state and local police officers Napolitano also said that DHS would be expanding the Nationwide Suspicious Activity Reporting system to push new information about trends and items of interest to law enforcement agencies across the country.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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