US Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson explored modern counterterrorism strategy in his keynote for “Terrorism Trials and Investigations: A US-UK Transatlantic Dialogue,” a conference co-hosted in May by the Center on Law and Security and the Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law.

Established in 2002, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has seen terrorism evolve from “terrorist-directed” plots, such as the foiled Times Square car bombing, to “terrorist-inspired” and “terrorist-enabled” attacks, as in San Bernardino, in which the perpetrators were “self-radicalized,” Johnson said. To stop this amorphous enemy, Johnson explained, DHS uses multifaceted strategies to amplify countermessages online, improve airport security, build relationships in American Muslim communities, and raise public awareness with the trademarked dictum “If you see something, say something.” Technological developments mean today’s DHS must find ways to counteract the encryption that makes it harder to monitor conversations between suspected terrorists. And an unstable Middle East also places DHS in the position of balancing the need to thoroughly screen incoming Syrian refugees with President Obama’s goal of admitting thousands more.

Johnson praised US-UK collaboration in the face of a terrorist threat that has become global. He repeated the conviction he expressed in a 2012 speech, uttered before he joined the DHS, that war is “finite, extraordinary, and unnatural,” adding, “Peace must be regarded as the norm toward which the human race continually strives.”

Posted May 17, 2016