Homeland Security Secretary Johnson announces tighter security at federal buildings

The news comes one week before the midterm elections, amid threats from Islamic State terrorists

U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson takes part in a question and answer session during a Canadian American Business Council luncheon in Ottawa September 30, 2014. REUTERS/Chris Wattie (CANADA - Tags: POLITICS) (REUTERS)

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson announced on Tuesday that the government is stepping up security at federal buildings in Washington, D.C., and nationwide, citing enhanced risks of “small-scale attacks by a lone offender.”

“The reasons for this action are self-evident: the continued public calls by terrorist organizations for attacks on the homeland and elsewhere, including against law enforcement and other government officials, and the acts of violence targeted at government personnel and installations in Canada and elsewhere recently,” Johnson said in a recent statement. The secretary appeared to be referring to the fatal shooting at the Canadian Parliament building.

Johnson also urged state and local governments “to be equally vigilant, particularly in guarding against potential small-scale attacks by a lone offender or a small group of individuals.”

The secretary did not spell out what form the increased security would take, and emphasized that it “will vary and shift from location to location.” He did not explicitly cite the rise of the so-called Islamic State. Law enforcement officials have regularly expressed concern that the extremist group could inspire “lone wolf” solo terrorist attacks in the United States, or that Americans who joined the extremist group could travel back to the United States and bring the war home.

The new security measures have no expiration date, a DHS official told Yahoo News. A congressional aide briefed on the measures said it was his understanding that they would last beyond the elections and that the Federal Protective Service would be stepping up its visible presence at key facilities nationwide.

“We are taking this action as a precautionary step, to safeguard U.S. government personnel and facilities, and the visitors to those facilities,” Johnson said in a written statement. “Given world events, prudence dictates a heightened vigilance.”