By Liz Goodwin
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson warned Tuesday that the United States is entering a “new phase” of threats from terrorism, as the so-called Islamic State and other groups gain ground in the Middle East and spread their message online in increasingly sophisticated ways.
“Today … the global terrorist threat is more decentralized, more complex, more diffuse,” Johnson said Tuesday in an exclusive interview with Yahoo Global News Anchor Katie Couric. “And we now see very effective and slick use of the Internet and social media by groups such as ISIL [and] al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula.”
Johnson referred to the recent IS video showing the execution of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christian hostages on a Libyan beach. “I’ve watched every one of these videos, and they’re horrific,” he said. “They’re graphic. They’re terrible. They’re depraved.”
Johnson and other U.S. and foreign leaders are gathering at a three-day summit meeting at the White House on countering violent extremism this week. It will focus on how to stop radicalization both at home and abroad.
“Our domestic efforts are equally as important as our international efforts,” Johnson said. “We have to be aware of and vigilant about the independent actor who may choose to commit an act of mass violence inspired by ISIL. We’ve seen that now in other countries, and we have to be on guard for the same thing in this country.”
Johnson said it is not possible to “know for sure” how many Americans have joined or attempted to join IS, but had earlier offered an estimate putting the number at about 100 people. He said the government needs to support a “counter-narrative” in the United States that pushes back against the notion that IS represents the Islamic faith.
The secretary also addressed a ruling by a federal judge in Texas on Monday temporarily halting the Obama administration’s extensive expansion of a program to protect unauthorized immigrants from deportation. “I have read the decision issued by the judge last night,” he said. “I've read all 123 pages of it. And I strongly disagree with it.” The Obama administration will appeal the ruling and ultimately prevail, he said.
Watch complete interview below: