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Partnering with Communities to Counter Violent Extremism

Since 9/11, the United States has made important progress in securing our Nation from terrorism. Nevertheless, the terrorist threat facing our country has evolved significantly – and continues to evolve. One of the most striking elements of today’s threat picture is that plots to attack America increasingly involve American residents and citizens.  Indeed, since 2009 more than two dozen Americans have been arrested on terrorism-related charges.

We’ve seen the rise of a number of terrorist groups inspired by al-Qaeda ideology and seeking to recruit Westerners.  These plots are often harder for authorities to identify because they present fewer opportunities for disruption by intelligence or law enforcement than more elaborate, large-scale plots by foreign-based terrorists.

This has profound implications for how we go about securing our country. It requires a new kind of security architecture that complements the structure we already built to protect America from threats coming from abroad.  And a key piece of this is supporting law enforcement at all levels to enhance their relationships with members of diverse communities that broadly and strongly reject violent extremism.

We therefore see countering violent extremism as both a “whole of government” and “whole of nation” effort. This has been a major priority for President Obama from the start. And today, Deputy National Security Advisor Denis McDonough outlined the Administration’s approach in remarks to an audience of people from different faiths and beliefs at the All Dulles Area Muslim Society in Northern Virginia. Watch the video of the remarks.

At DHS, we have been supporting this approach by working directly with law enforcement and community-based organizations to counter violent extremism at its source, using many of the same techniques and strategies that have proven successful in combating violence in American communities. And we’re pairing this with efforts to better understand the risk confronting the homeland, and to protect the privacy rights, civil rights, and civil liberties of all Americans. As we often say, what’s behind this is a simple, but powerful, idea: that homeland security begins with hometown security. And that we all have a role to play.

Janet Napolitano

Published by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Washington, D.C.
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