Top DHS Official: Boston Bombing Could Be ‘Sign of the Future’

Secretary Jeh Johnson said the U.S. faces an increasing threat from homegrown, “lone-wolf” terrorists.

National Journal
Jordain Carney
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Jordain Carney
Feb. 26, 2014, 9:44 a.m.

Home­land Se­cur­ity Sec­ret­ary Jeh John­son on Wed­nes­day warned that the Bo­ston Mara­thon bomb­ing may be a sign of things to come as the U.S. at­tempts to de­fend it­self from ter­ror­ist at­tacks.

“I think the Bo­ston Mara­thon bomb­ing maybe a sign of the fu­ture. And in many re­spects those threats are harder to de­tect,” John­son told the House Home­land Se­cur­ity Com­mit­tee. “I am also con­cerned about those who self-rad­ic­al­ize … about the so-called lone wolf.”

Spe­cific­ally, John­son was re­fer­ring to in­di­vidu­als who work alone to plan or carry out a ter­ror­ist at­tack without in­struc­tions from a ter­ror­ist or­gan­iz­a­tion. Of­fi­cials have said that with the rise of the In­ter­net a per­son can “rad­ic­al­ize” without trav­el­ing to a coun­try where a ter­ror­ist group is act­ive.

The al­leged Bo­ston Mara­thon bombers, Dzhokhar and Tam­er­lan Tsarnaev, are con­sidered “lone wolves” be­cause they al­legedly planned and car­ried out the at­tack on their own, rather than with the sup­port of a broad net­work such as al-Qaida.

To ad­dress such threats, John­son said his de­part­ment must con­tin­ue to boost its ties with state and loc­al of­fi­cials “to ad­dress the threats we face from those who self-rad­ic­al­ize to vi­ol­ence, the so-called lone wolf who may be liv­ing quietly in our midst, in­spired by rad­ic­al, vi­ol­ent ideo­logy to do harm to Amer­ic­ans — il­lus­trated last year by the Bo­ston Mara­thon bomb­ing.”

The April 2013 bomb­ing killed three people and left at least 260 in­jured. The tri­al for one of the al­leged bombers, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, is ex­pec­ted to start in Novem­ber.

“We’ve got to be vi­gil­ant. I think the ter­ror­ist threat is be­com­ing more dif­fuse,” John­son said.

His com­ments echo those made by FBI Dir­ect­or James Comey, who has re­peatedly warned of the off­shoot of al-Qaida-aligned groups, rad­ic­al­iz­a­tion with­in the United States, and the po­ten­tial threat from Amer­ic­ans and Europeans who have traveled to Syr­ia and pos­sibly been re­cruited by ter­ror­ist groups to carry out at­tacks back in their home coun­tries.

“We have to be con­stantly vi­gil­ant in look­ing out for those ef­forts and pre­vent­ing them,” John­son said in re­sponse to ques­tions about Syr­ia be­com­ing a breed­ing ground for ter­ror­ism be­cause it has large spaces of un­gov­erned areas.

Com­mit­tee Chair­man Mi­chael Mc­Caul noted that “the events in Syr­ia are now threat­en­ing to be­come is­sues for us at home.”

John­son was con­firmed to DHS’s top spot in Decem­ber with bi­par­tis­an sup­port. Dur­ing the con­firm­a­tion pro­cess he named mor­ale, lead­er­ship va­can­cies, and ter­ror­ism as his top con­cerns.

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