U.S. Won't Raise Terror Threat Level Even Though U.K.'s Is 'Severe'

U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron announced the move Friday. U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron announced the move Friday. Frederic Legrand/Shutterstock.com file photo

The U.S. is not following the United Kingdom in raising its terror threat level in response the Islamic State and the defection of citizens from both countries to fight with the terror group, Obama administration officials said Friday.

U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron announced earlier in the day that Britain's Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre had raised the country's threat level to "severe" – the first time it has been that high in three years.

A severe threat level in the U.K. means a terrorist attack is considered "highly likely."

White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters that senior Obama administration had been in touch with their British counterparts but that the U.S. was not "at this point" altering its threat level.

"We don’t at this point see a reason to change the threat level in this country," Earnest said.

The Department of Homeland Security makes those decisions, and Secretary Jeh Johnson said in a statement Friday that while officials are "deeply concerned" about the threat posed by ISIL, they are "unaware of any specific, credible threat to the U.S. homeland."

Plainly, however, violent extremists who support ISIL have demonstrated the intent and capability to target American citizens overseas, and ISIL constitutes an active and serious threat within the region.    

Additionally, in response to recent threats generally from overseas, the Department of Homeland Security over the past several weeks has taken a number of steps to enhance aviation security at overseas airports with direct flights to the United States, and the United Kingdom and other nations have followed with similar enhancements. This government, in close collaboration with our international partners, has also taken a series of steps to track foreign fighters who travel in and out of Syria, and we are contemplating additional security measures concerning foreign fighters. Some of the security measures will be visible to the public and some understandably will be unseen.   

At the same time, the Department of Homeland Security is mindful of the potential for homegrown violent extremism inspired by radical ideology overseas, and, both through law enforcement and community outreach, we are taking steps to counter that potential threat."

The announcement from the U.K. follows the videotaped beheading of American photojournalist James Foley by a masked ISIL terrorist with a distinct British accent. Cameron said at least 500 British nationals had joined ISIL in Iraq and Syria.

In explaining the U.S.'s decision not to change its own threat level, Earnest noted that the number of American citizens known to be fighting with ISIL is "somewhat lower" than for the U.K.

One who won't be joining ISIL anytime soon is Nidal Hassan, the killer in the Ft. Hood massacre who reportedly wrote a letter to ISIL leaders from prison in which he asked to become "a citizen" of the group's planned Islamic caliphate. Two Americans have now been confirmed to have been killed overseas after joining up to fight with ISIL.

The concern over terrorists with Western passports launching an attack on the homeland comes as Republicans have called on Obama to step up security on the Southern border in response to an influx of migrant children seeking to enter the U.S.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

    Download
  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

    Download
  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

    Download
  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

    Download
  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.