The U.S. will have a new terrorism threat alert system within days, according to Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson.
The system will address "intermediate-level threats" to the United States, and will augment the current National Threat Advisory System. The alert system has never been used because it is activated only when there is a "credible threat" to the U.S.
“I believe in this environment we need to get beyond that and go to new system that has an intermediate level to it,” says Johnson, adding that the new system will reflect “the current environment and the current realities.”
The Homeland Security secretary's announcement comes a week after 14 people were killed in San Bernardino, California by Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik. Intelligence authorities say the pair were "radicalized" over a period of a few years and that Malik pledged her allegiance to ISIS in a Facebook posting just prior to the shooting.
Last month, a group of ISIS militants killed 130 in multiple attacks across Paris, France.
The Obama administration got rid of a color-coded terrorism threat-level system which had been set up by the Bush administration following the 9/11 al-Qaeda attacks.
“We need a system that adequately informs the public at large, not through news leaks of joint intelligence bulletins to law enforcement, not through leaks from anonymous government officials,” Johnson says. “We need a system that informs the public at large what we are seeing, what we are doing about it and what we are asking the public to do.”
The secretary says the new alert system would remove some of the mystery of the global terrorist threat, as the current system has a “pretty high bar” before it gets activated.
Since last month's Paris attacks, the U.S. has been in a “heightened security posture”, which means that although there is no specific threat of a terrorist attack on the U.S., officials are worried about “copycat acts” and “terrorist-inspired acts by a lone wolf”. These are attacks which are extremely difficult to predict because the attacker shows no warning signs of being radicalized.