Department of Homeland Security chief Jeh Johnson basically warned against going to the Mall of America today, after threats of a terror attack by al Shabaab. " I would say that, if anyone is planning to go to the Mall of America today, they have got to be particularly careful," said Johnson.
He made the comments this morning on CNN:
I have to get right to the news this morning, which is that an al Qaeda-linked terror group, Al-Shabaab, is publicly calling for attacks now on shopping malls in the United States, as well as overseas. They have specifically targeted the Mall of America in Minnesota in a video they have released.
What can you tell us about how operationally advanced this threat is, Mr. Secretary?
JEH JOHNSON, U.S. SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: Gloria, this
latest statement from Al-Shabaab reflects the new phase we have evolved to in the global terrorist threat, in that you have groups such as Al-Shabaab, ISIL publicly calling for independent actors in their homelands to carry out attacks.
We're beyond the phase now where these groups would send foreign operatives into countries after being trained someplace. We're now at a stage where it is all the more important in our counterterrorism efforts that we have a whole of government approach.
We have the military response through an international coalition, but there's also law enforcement and Homeland Security, which is why the summit we had this week on countering violent extremism in our communities is all the more important. I have personally been to Minneapolis to meet with Islamic community leaders there.
And so our law enforcement-Homeland Security engagements here at home, given how this terrorist threat has evolved, are becoming all the more important.
BORGER: Well, there are reports that ISIS is trying to recruit Al-Shabaab, and that that may be part of the problem in Minneapolis. Is that your read of it?
JOHNSON: We're in an environment right now where I suspect these groups are competing for attention.
ISIL has received a lot of attention through their very effective use of the Internet, social media. And we're now seeing, for example, AQAP in its most recent edition of "Inspire," a whole chapter on how to build a non-metallic device, as well as this most recent public statement.
So, my concern is that these groups are actually competing for attention and for fund-raising and recruitment.
BORGER: And not only that, saying to their members, do it at home. You can do this at home, and you don't need to travel.
JOHNSON: We're in -- we're in a new phase, in that these groups are relying more and more on independent actors to become inspired, drawn to the cause, and...
BORGER: And the Internet, through the Internet.
JOHNSON: ... carry out small-scale attacks on their own through their effective use of the Internet.
And so that's why it's critical that we work in the communities where these groups might be able to recruit to help develop the counternarrative, to build trust with law enforcement, with Homeland Security, with state and local law enforcement.
BORGER: So, how seriously are you taking this threat?
JOHNSON: I am very concerned about the serious potential threat of independent actors here in the United States.
We have seen this now in Europe. We have seen this in Canada.
BORGER: But specifically against the Mall of America.
JOHNSON: Any time a terrorist organization calls for an attack on a specific place, we have got to take that seriously.
And so, through our intelligence bulletins, through working with state and local law enforcement, through working with the FBI, we take this kind of thing very seriously.
BORGER: And I just want to read you one more thing on this. This is a statement from the Mall of America today: "Mall of America is aware of a threatening video that was released which included a mention and images of the mall. We take any potential threat seriously and respond appropriately. We have implemented extra security precautions. Some may be noticeable to guests, and others won't."
What are you telling Americans who might be planning a trip to the mall this Sunday?
JOHNSON: What we're telling the public in general is, you have got to be vigilant.
We just revamped our If You See Something, Say Something campaign at the Super Bowl last month. And so public engagement, public awareness is critical. Americans should still feel that they are free to associate, they are free to go to public gatherings. But it's critical that we have public awareness and public participation in our efforts.
Several years ago, I was having drinks at an Irish bar with an intelligence official. (Al Qaeda is always best discussed while drinking Guinness.) He had brought with him several pages of publicly available statements made by leaders within Shabaab, a terrorist-insurgency organization that now controls large parts of Somalia. Shabaab’s leaders offered effusive praise for Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda, he explained, but some of his colleagues refused to believe that Shabaab was closely allied with al Qaeda. “Why shouldn’t we take their own statements seriously?” he asked.
The Department of Justice last Thursday unsealed indictments charging 14 individuals – mostly American citizens – of allegedly supporting, or attempting to support, the al Qaeda-linked Somali terrorist group al Shabaab.
Last Thursday, July 22, 20-year-old Zachary A. Chesser of Fairfax County, Va., was arrested for providing material support to, and attempting to join, the Somali Islamist militia affiliated with al Qaeda, al-Shabab. Chesser has been ordered to remain in jail until his trial.
A fascinating nugget comes from an unnamed senior U.S. official in a story today by ABC’s Jake Tapper. Citing U.S. intelligence, the official states that "Al Qaeda recruits have said that al Qaeda is racist against black members from West Africa because they are only used in lower level operations."
The United Nations has recently ratcheted up its criticism of the United States’ decision to withhold humanitarian aid to parts of Somalia controlled by the Islamist terror group al Shabaab. The international body’s official in charge of aid distribution in Somalia accused the U.S. of preventing the distribution of tens of millions of dollars in aid to a desperate and starving population. Any decision regarding the limiting of humanitarian aid to a country in need can be terribly difficult, especially for a country such as Somalia, which has seen 85,000 people displaced in 2010 alone and is described by the World Bank as “one of the poorest countries in the world.” But the United States' decision to withhold aid to terrorist-controlled parts to the country is the right decision for the people of Somalia and, more importantly, the security of the United States.