DHS Unveils New Terror Warning System, Issues First ‘Bulletin’

U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson speaks to members of the media at the National Response Coordination Center at FEMA Headquarters December 16, 2015 in Washington, DC. Secretary Johnson spoke on updates to the National Terrorism Advisory System (NTAS). (Photo by
Alex Wong/Getty Images

The Department of Homeland Security has a new terrorism advisory system, aimed at providing updates about potential threats to the American people. It issued its first “Bulletin” warning Wednesday.

The current National Terrorism Advisory System (NTAS) replaced the color-coded alert system launched in 2011. Prior to the changes DHS announced Wednesday, NTAS had two types of alerts: “Elevated Alerts” — which aim to provide a warning about a general terrorist attack — and “Imminent Alerts” — warning of a specific, impending or on-going terrorist attack.

Under the old model the NTAS had never been deployed because, as DHS Sec. Jeh Johnson explained Wednesday, the two alerts “depend upon a specific, credible terrorist threat to something in the homeland.”

The new system incorporates an “intermediate level” to NTAS called NTAS “Bulletins” which will provide more general information about terrorist threat trends and developments.

“We want to put in one place, for the public to see, what we are seeing concerning the homeland and what we are doing about it and what the public can do about it,” Johnson told reporters.

The first NTAS “Bulletin” warns generally about self-radicalization and terrorist-inspired attacks in the wake of the recent Islamic terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino.

“We are in a new phase in the global threat environment, which has implications on the homeland,” the first NTAS “Bulletin” released Wednesday reads. “Particularly with the rise in use by terrorist groups of the Internet to inspire and recruit, we are concerned about the “self-radicalized” actor(s) who could strike with little or no notice. Recent attacks and attempted attacks internationally and in the homeland warrant increased security, as well as increased public vigilance and awareness.”

In addition to warning about terrorist-inspired individuals attacking public places, the “Bulletin” also highlights DHS’ concern about people being targeted for their religion, ethnicity or nationality.

“In the current environment, DHS is also concerned about threats and violence directed at particular communities and individuals across the country, based on perceived religion, ethnicity, or nationality,” the “Bulletin” reads.

The NTAS “Bulletin” is slated to stay in effect for six months, until June 16, 2016.

“The update to the NTAS announced today will allow us to better achieve the goal of making sure Americans across the country have the information they need to keep themselves and their communities safer.  This action is not in response to a specific, credible threat to the homeland, but is a prudent measure to ensure that Americans are better prepared and aware of the evolving terrorist threats,” DHS added in a press release.