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World & Nation

Expect more police and tighter security during the holidays

Jeh Johnson

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson discusses the updates to the National Terrorism Advisory System on Dec. 16.

(Manuel Balce Ceneta / Associated Press)

Shoppers and travelers will see more police and tougher security checks in public places and events during the holiday season, according to a Homeland Security bulletin issued Wednesday.

The growing use of the Internet and social media by terrorist groups to recruit followers and inspire attacks by self-radicalized individuals have created a “new phase in the global threat environment,” the notice says.

The one-page advisory, called a National Terrorism Advisory System Bulletin, is the first to be released under a revamped terrorism alert system that authorities say will keep Americans better informed about threats.

“More stringent security should also be anticipated at public places and events,” the bulletin says. “This may include a heavy police presence, additional restrictions and searches on bags and the use of screening technologies.”

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Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said authorities have not detected any credible, specific terrorist threat against a U.S. target but remain on guard. 

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Law enforcement and intelligence agencies are increasingly worried about self-radicalized extremists who turn to violence, like the married couple in San Bernardino who gunned down 14 people on Dec. 2 before they were killed by police.

“As should be obvious this holiday season in particular, there is a heightened security and law enforcement presence at public events and public places across the country,” Johnson said at a news conference called to disclose the new threat advisory.

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“Law enforcement, national security, homeland security personnel are working overtime to protect the American public and to protect the homeland,” he said.

Wednesday’s bulletin will be in effect until June 16 unless new intelligence indicates a greater danger.

At that point, officials could issue an elevated alert to warn of “a credible terrorism threat,” or an imminent alert to warn of a “credible, specific and impending terrorism threat.”

The current advisory system in 2011 replaced the widely mocked color-coded alert system, which was created after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Although the country has faced several terrorist attacks in recent years, including the 2009 shootings at Ft. Hood, Texas, and the 2013 bombing of the Boston Marathon, the intelligence was never specific enough beforehand to change an alert status.

Johnson said he revamped the system to make the public more aware of threats the government is seeing, how authorities are responding, and what people can do.

Follow me @ByBrianBennett on Twitter.

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