The killing of Usama Bin Laden in May by Navy SEALS may have damaged the al Qaeda organization in Pakistan and Afghanistan, but the terror group’s franchise in Yemen, its American-born leader Anwar al-Awlaki and homegrown threats are the next wave of terrorism, according to a new government report.
“Terrorism didn't begin with him and hasn’t ended with him and we have all these other groups in addition to core al Qaeda,” Napolitano said of Bin Laden in an interview with Fox News.
Napolitano’s comments come on the heels of a new Department of Homeland Security progress report that examines whether the 9/11 Commission’s recommendations are being implemented. The 9/11 Commission was a bipartisan, independent study group created in the wake of the 2001 terror attacks to account for what happened and to find ways to prevent the next attack.
The new DHS progress report shows that homegrown terrorism is central to the emerging threat picture.
Recent Justice Department documents show a case of homegrown terrorism with links to an international group have popped up every two to three weeks since January 2009. Just last week, a 22-year-old Pennsylvania man was accused of using the Internet to encourage domestic attacks by jihadists.
“We cannot presume that a threat would come at us from abroad, so the whole notion of violent extremism happening within our shores is very different,” Napolitano said.
She also confirmed that plots have been disrupted without the public's knowledge, but wouldn’t say how many. “There have been many plots that have been interfered with over time, yes,” Napolitano said.
The new report claims information sharing has been expanded since 9/11 and a multilayered approach to airline security has been adopted. Intelligence is used more broadly to identify high-risk passengers and cargo before they enter the U.S. The agency contends those measures could lead to less-invasive screening in the future.
“What is called divestment,” Napolitano said. “[A]ll the things you have to take off as you go through the (airport) gate - we'll be able to relieve some of those restrictions over time.”
But Napolitano says cyber-security remains a weakness.
“We are still somewhat new at it,” she said. “It's so rapidly developing and changing so rapidly that almost by the time to talk about a particular virus, or piece of malware it's already anachronistic, it's already out of date.
The former chairman and vice chairman of the 9/11 Commission said in a statement the Department of Homeland Security had made progress in the time since the terror attacks, but gaps still exist, and the nation is not as safe as it could be. They pointed specifically to the communications of first responders.
Fox News National Correspondent Catherine Herridge contributed to this report.