Feds roll out new terror bulletin system

Feds roll out new terror bulletin system

The Obama administration unveiled a new threat alert mechanism on Wednesday after weeks of growing concern about the nation’s vulnerability to terror attacks.

The change, announced by Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, adds a new level of national bulletins to the current alert system, which replaced the color-coded scheme in 2011.

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The first bulletin, Johnson said, is being issued on Wednesday to reflect the growing fears of “homegrown” violent extremists in the United States.

The current threat alert program has never been used, in part because the bar for triggering a warning was too high, officials say. The new system intends to fix that, with a goal of better informing the American public about threats facing the nation.

“People are anxious now,” Johnson said at remarks at the headquarters for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). “They should know, and they need to know, what their government is doing to protect our homeland.”

Wednesday’s announcement came a day after Los Angeles decided to close down all public schools in response to a seemingly unfounded terror threat. The move, which some have called a dramatic overreaction, put on clear display the national fears about terrorism in the wake of attacks in San Bernardino, Calif., and Paris that have been traced to supporters of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

President Obama killed off the much-mocked color-coded threat alert system in early 2011, which was maligned for being too blunt an instrument to effectively communicate about looming security threats. It was replaced with a new program offering warnings about “imminent” and “elevated” alerts when officials had detected intelligence showing the credible threat of a terror attack on U.S. soil.

But no alerts were ever issued in the nearly five years since.

Now, the administration is adding an extra layer of warnings to give a public update about the broader environment.

That new bulletins will offer the country a general sense of the trends and developments of terrorists who could try and attack the U.S. They will explain the broad threat, what the government is doing to combat it and how the public can assist, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said.

The first bulletin going out on Wednesday warns of fears about “self-radicalized actors who could strike with little or no notice.”

“Though we know of no intelligence that is both specific and credible at this time of a plot by terrorist organizations to attack the homeland, the reality is terrorist-inspired individuals have conducted or attempted to conduct attacks within the United States this year,” the bulletin reads, according to Johnson. 

Wednesday’s change was in the works for nine months, a senior DHS official told reporters ahead of Johnson’s announcement, and was “not in response to a specific or credible threat to the homeland,”