The Center on Law and Security (CLS) event “Homeland Security in the Twenty-First Century” on November 13 featured Jeh Johnson, former US secretary of homeland security; Lisa Monaco, a distinguished senior fellow at CLS and assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism during the Obama administration; and moderator Dean Trevor Morrison, who served as associate counsel to President Obama. In a wide-ranging conversation, the panelists considered the shifting definition of “homeland security” since the Department of Homeland Security’s establishment after 9/11, how a criminal act is deemed to be terrorism or not, and what approaches to homeland security would be optimal as technology and terrorist methodology continue to evolve.

Select remarks:

Jeh JohnsonJeh Johnson: “In the face of what I’ll refer to as sort of this American style of terrorism, where you’re dealing with a deranged individual who may invoke ISIS or who may have some workplace dispute or may have some domestic dispute and is determined to carry out an act of mass violence, maybe we need a term so that all of it is taken just as seriously. If it’s terrorism, you get an immediate response from our national leadership calling for national policy changes. If it’s 80 people mowed down with an assault weapon, it’s ‘Well, we’ll talk about it later.’ Maybe we need a label to encompass all of it so that at a national level we take all of it just as seriously, because otherwise the stuff in the latter category, which is uniquely American, is going to just go on and on and on.”

Lisa MonacoLisa Monaco: “I think it’s important that we call the mowing down of a peaceful protester in Charlottesville terrorism. I think it’s important that we call the killing of nine worshippers in Charleston in a church terrorism, in addition to being a civil rights crime, a hate crime. And the reason it’s important to give it that label when it fits the definition…is because of the societal opprobrium that goes along with it…. Failure to do so erects barriers within discussions with the communities that we need to help us fight terrorism. If certain communities think we are only labeling one type of ideologically motivated violence as terrorism, you start losing the battle in terms of enlisting that community to help you.”

Watch the full video of the event (1 hr, 10 min):

Posted December 5, 2017