Monday, February 23, 2009

DHS: The FBI Is Full of Beans

FBI Director Robert Mueller spoke today to the Council on Foreign Relations about the possibility of terrorists, homegrown or otherwise, attacking the US and what is being done to stop or mitigate these potential attacks.

But a spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Michael Keegan, said today that the odds of homegrown terrorists attacking the US "are very low."

So who is right--the FBI or DHS? Should we be "particularly concerned" about homegrown terror or is its likelihood "very low" and therefore we don't need to concern ourselves too much about it?

In the recent Annual Threat Assessment of the Intelligence Community, Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair wrote:
We remain concerned about the potential for homegrown extremists inspired by al-Qa’ida’s militant ideology to plan attacks inside the United States, Europe, and elsewhere without operational direction from the group itself. In this regard, over the next year we will remain focused on identifying any ties between US-based individuals and extremist networks overseas....Signs that self-generating cells in the US identify with Bin Ladin’s violent objectives all point to the likelihood that a small but violent number of cells may develop here.

So we know 2 things: The FBI Director is concerned about homegrown terrorism. And the Director of National Intelligence is also concerned about homegrown terrorism.

Yet, a spokesman for DHS says it's not likely. He was apparently interviewed specifically for the Fox News story, and said "the latest intelligence" indicates a homegrown attack isn't likely "anytime soon." I'd like to know what intelligence he's talking about and what is his definition, with respect to time, of the word "soon."

This is another unfortunate example of different national security agencies saying different things and giving the American public conflicting signals. I have to go with the FBI and DNI on this one, not the DHS. Homegrown terrorism is a concern to everyone in the country--with the apparent exception of DHS. And does anyone seriously doubt an attack could come at any time? DHS should explain to the public why it feels the need to downplay the likelihood of homegrown terror.

Hopefully the story as written doesn't accurately reflect the true views of the spokesman or DHS, although given the countless well-documented problems of that particular department, nothing would surprise me.

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