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Obama: No known terrorist threats to U.S. ahead of holidays

President Obama speaks at the National Counterterrorism Center in McLean, Va. Joining him are, from left, Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State John F. Kerry, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and FBI Director James Comey.

President Obama speaks at the National Counterterrorism Center in McLean, Va. Joining him are, from left, Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State John F. Kerry, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and FBI Director James Comey.

(Pablo Martinez Monsivais / Associated Press)

President Obama said Thursday that the U.S. has no “specific and credible” information about a terrorist threat over the holidays but he also urged Americans to be vigilant against a strain of terrorism that is harder to predict, the kind of lone-wolf attack unleashed in San Bernardino two weeks ago.

Speaking at the National Counterterrorism Center outside Washington, Obama sought to reassure Americans that almost a dozen federal agencies are working together to keep them safe, pursuing terrorists overseas and trying to prevent attacks at home.

FULL COVERAGE: Terror attack in San Bernardino >>

But as he prepares to travel to San Bernardino on Friday to meet with the families of the 14 people killed in the terrorist attack there Dec. 2, Obama also acknowledged that the plans of would-be terrorists are growing more difficult to track, citing the prevalence of such lone-wolf plots. The San Bernardino attackers had planned their attack for some time, investigators have said, and though they pledged allegiance to the Islamic State extremist group, no evidence has emerged linking them to the militants.

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“We are in a new phase of terrorism including lone actors and small groups of terrorists like those in San Bernardino,” Obama said. Such plots “are harder to detect, and that makes it harder to prevent.”

But just as the threat evolves,” Obama said, “so do we,” indicating the national security advisors at his side and the flags of 11 federal departments behind him.

Ahead of Christmas and New Year’s, Department of Homeland Security officials are warning that shoppers and travelers will see more police and tougher security checks in public places in coming days. Obama urged Americans to go about their holidays as normal.

His remarks followed a lengthy meeting with intelligence, military and national security advisors gathered at the center in McLean, Va., for a check-in before the holiday travel season begins. Obama’s week of light-hearted receptions and events at the White House has been punctuated by such somber briefings, focused on Americans’ concerns about terrorist threats and mass shootings.

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“We’ve prevailed over much greater threats than this,” Obama said. “We will prevail again.”

Obama made a similar guarantee of safety just before Thanksgiving amid jitters over the Paris attacks days earlier, but his assertion then of no known “specific and credible threat” was widely condemned after the San Bernardino massacre a week later.

That Obama was right – U.S. officials were caught unaware – only deepened the criticism of his administration’s counterterrorism efforts.

According to a recent poll, only about one-third of Americans say the U.S. is doing enough to prevent another terrorist attack, and 59% say the government is not doing enough.

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And more than two-thirds said the government was not doing enough to defeat Islamic State, compared with 24% who said the government was doing enough. Among Democrats, 51% said the government was not doing enough, joining 69% of independents and 85% of Republicans, according to the Monmouth University poll, which surveyed 1,0006 adults Dec. 10-13. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

For more White House coverage, follow @cparsons

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