Politics From al Qaeda to QAnon: How the Department of Homeland Security has had to evolve since 9/11
There's 'zero question' Afghanistan will be a safe haven for terrorists again, experts warn
"The Al Qaeda network will be invigorated globally, with significant ramifications across Africa, the Middle East, and parts of East Asia," on expert warned.The Islamist militant group has vowed that it will not allow Afghanistan to be a launching pad for terror attacks in other parts of the world. But experts warn that the Taliban regaining control of Afghanistan provides a boost to terror organizations like Al Qaeda, and say groups like ISIS-K - an opponent of the Taliban - will also look to exploit the chaos.
WASHINGTON — When then-President George W. Bush commissioned the formation of the Department of Homeland Security in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, he was clear about the new agency’s top goal — to be “one department whose primary mission is to protect the American homeland.” In other words, to prevent another foreign attack on American soil.
Twenty years after the attacks, DHS is now the third largest federal agency, with nearly 230,000 employees, and is most visible for its role inat the .
This week, two former DHS secretaries and current Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas reflected on the agency’s evolution and whether the agency formed in the wake of 9/11 was built to respond to threats such as cyber intrusion and domestic violent, which they say now eclipse the threat of foreign terrorist organizations.
Ayman al Zawahiri: Taliban's return fuels questions about al Qaeda leader's health, whereabouts
GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba — The whereabouts of Ayman al Zawahiri, who succeeded Osama bin Laden after U.S. special forces killed the al Qaeda leader in a 2011 raid in Pakistan, remain a mystery even as the terror group could be poised to rise again. © Provided by Washington Examiner The shadowy Zawahiri, a 70-year-old native of Egypt, is believed to be hiding out in Afghanistan or Pakistan. But he may not even be alive. The return of the Taliban to power two decades after their longtime al Qaeda allies carried out the 9/11 attacks could give the terrorist group a safe harbor once again.
Michael Chertoff served as DHS secretary from 2005 to 2009 under Bush. He was the second person to hold the post, and in those early years, he recalls, “we had to build pretty much from scratch.”
He arrived less than two years after the creation of DHS and shortly before Hurricane Katrina would expose the shortcomings of the Federal Emergency Management Administration, which had just become part of the newly formed agency.
Chertoff said they had to work to “flatten” the agency, so that groups once separated would talk to one another, and he retooled FEMA to be more than an aid organization in the wake of disasters, and instead one focused on preparedness ahead of time.
During his tenure, Chertoff’s DHS was still mainly focused on foreign threats. He was responsible for imposing the liquid limits on airplanes in response to intelligence DHS gathered about foreign terrorists plotting to blow up planes with what would be made to look like sports drinks.
Matt Gaetz Among GOP Figures Joining Pro-Trump Event With QAnon supporters
Gaetz, Paul Gosar and Anthony Sabatini are set to appear at AmpFest, along with conservative figures who have pushed or supported the radical movement.Gaetz is the latest lawmaker added to AmpFest 2021, an event hosted by conservative group American Priority that will take place at the Trump National Doral in Miami, Florida between October 7 and 11.
“I have to say, during my tenure the homegrown terrorism threat was not really a big concern. We didn’t even have any incidents of inspired terrorism, which later came up," said Cheroff, meaning lone attackers radicalized by the internet. " We were mostly concerned with people coming in from overseas."
Under the Bush administration, the size of Customs and Border Protection doubled, reaching 20,000, about one-third of what it is today. But Chertoff said the Trump administration “undercut” DHS by being too focused on what he considers “cruel” immigration policies while downplaying the emerging threat of domestic violent extremists.
“It’s also clear that not only was there an incessant focus on immigration, but the strategy was to be as cruel as possible,” Chertoff said.
“The [Trump] administration pushed back on any effort to call out domestic extremists, and in fact, Trump encouraged extremists by speaking about what great people they are.”
Heeding Steve Bannon’s Call, Election Deniers Organize to Seize Control of the GOP — and Reshape America’s Elections
by Isaac Arnsdorf, Doug Bock Clark, Alexandra Berzon and Anjeanette Damon ProPublica is a nonprofit newsroom that investigates abuses of power. Sign up to receive our biggest stories as soon as they’re published. One of the loudest voices urging Donald Trump’s supporters to push for overturning the presidential election results was Steve Bannon. “We’re on the point of attack,” Bannon, a former Trump adviser and far-right nationalist, pledged on his popular podcast on Jan. 5. “All hell will break loose tomorrow.
When criticized by former DHS officials for not doing enough to prevent to the Jan 6 riots earlier this year, a spokesperson for thesaid at the time, “We are working closely with our partners. We are sharing information and we are monitoring the overall security environment for possible threats.”
Six different people served as confirmed or acting secretaries of DHS under President Trump.
Jeh Johnson served as DHS secretary from 2013 to 2017 under President Obama.
Johnson said when Congress created DHS, “in some respects they went too far and in some respects they didn’t go far enough.”
“The view at the time was that terrorism was an extraterritorial threat from beyond our borders, and therefore if we consolidate into one large cabinet department, the regulation of all the ways someone can enter this country — land, sea and air — we will have dealt with the terrorist threat most effectively,” he said.
But now, Johnson says that model is outdated.
“The principal terrorist threat to our homeland is now domestic based. And they’re not a whole lot of DHS cops running around the interior looking for terrorists,” Johnson said.
Biden says al Qaeda could 'come back' but defends Afghanistan withdrawal on 9/11 anniversary
President Joe Biden said the terrorist group responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks could "come back" now that the United States has fully withdrawn from Afghanistan. © Provided by Washington Examiner Biden, who visited each of the three crash sites on the attacks' 20th anniversary, said a surge in militancy from al Qaeda is possible after asserting previously that the group is "gone" from Afghanistan. “Could al Qaeda come back? Yeah," Biden told reporters in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, near the site where United Airlines Flight 93 crashed into an empty field on Sept. 11, 2001.
In part, that is because the statute did not give DHS the authority to investigate and prosecute Americans inside the country, that still falls to the FBI and Justice Department. As a result, Johnson said, DHS has become most consumed with enforcing immigration laws.
“We don’t always like to acknowledge that but the reality is that the principle focus day to day of the secretary of homeland security and the senior leadership of DHS is the immigration mission,” Johnson said.
And, due to the politically polarizing nature of immigration, for the leaders at DHS, “no matter what you do, somebody’s going to be mad at you.”
Although DHS does allocate grants toward studying, preventing and combating domestic terrorism, “the underlying premise for the counterterrorism mission of DHS is now outdated,” Johnson said.
was confirmed on Feb. 2, less than one month after the violent attack by domestic rioters on the U.S. Capitol.
Mayorkas disagrees that the DHS model for preventing terrorism is outdated and limits its ability to combat domestic violent extremists.
“I think that local communities are the most effective mechanism to address the domestic threat,” Mayorkas said. He pointed to family members, girlfriends and other community members who recognized strange behavior in people they knew before they went on to commit an act of violence.
With Taliban victory, Afghanistan could become the 'second school of jihadism'
The disheartening end to America’s longest war raises a number of questions about U.S. national security policy in Central Asia and the future of the newly installed Taliban government in Afghanistan. Perhaps the biggest unknown amid the power vacuum and confusion of the American withdrawal is what the Taliban’s relationship with Al Qaeda really is, 20 years after harboring the terrorist group that planned and coordinated the 9/11 terror attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
Unlike the Obama administration, which led its Countering Violent Extremism effort primarily through U.S. attorneys offices, which presented “challenges in gaining the communities’ trust,” the Biden administration is leaning more heavily on local communities to do the work, Mayorkas said.
Shortly after becoming secretary,to state and local governments that required at least $77 million of funds allocated to be spent preventing domestic violent extremism.
“In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, and quite frankly for probably 10 years thereafter, the primary area of concern was the the foreign terrorist threat," said Mayorkas, "the individual who would seek to come to the United States to do us tremendous harm.”
After that, the threat changed, not because the foreign threat disappeared but because another one emerged: the homegrown violent extremist — as Mayorkas described it, “The individual who was already resident in the United States who was radicalized by a foreign terrorist organization.”
Now, the threat has changed again, as evidenced by the Jan. 6 attacks on the Capitol by hundreds of U.S. citizens with no apparent connection to foreign terrorist ideologies.
“What we are speaking of now are individuals in the United States who are driven to violence born of a an ideology of hate or false narratives that are propagated on social media or other platforms,” he said.
On top of that threat, today’s DHS is also contending with cyber and ransomware attacks, a 20-year high in southern border immigration traffic, more frequent and more deadly natural disasters while taking charge in the resettlement of what will be an estimated than 65,000 vulnerable Afghans fleeing their country after the withdrawal of the U.S. military.
Leading up to the twentieth anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001, Mayorkas says he has been reflecting on “how much the threat landscape has changed over the last 20 years.”
California QAnon follower indicted on charges of killing his 2 kids with speargun in Mexico .
A California man, who authorities say claimed to be a devout QAnon follower, was indicted on charges of killing his two young children in Mexico.Matthew Taylor Coleman, 40, a surfing instructor from Santa Barbara, California, is accused of taking his 2-year-old boy and 10-month-old girl last month from the home he shares with his wife and traveling to Mexico to kill them, according to a criminal complaint.