The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is warning that the threat of terrorism in the United States is at an all-time high. In a public address this week, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said that DHS has open terrorism investigations in all 50 states, and that there have been at least 37 ISIS-linked plots to attack the U.S. since 2013. Kelly also noted the rise of threats from homegrown terrorists, those already living here who are radicalized and inspired to commit acts of terror. He said that in just the past year, there have been 36 cases of homegrown terrorism across 18 states.
It all adds up to a mammoth job for the federal government to root out and prevent terrorism across the country. Texas Congressman Michael McCaul, who chairs the House Homeland Security Committee, made similar arguments earlier this year when he called the terror threat "undiminished."
At the local level, the FBI is constantly monitoring for threats, especially in a city as large, broad and diverse as Houston. "We have the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force, which is a multi-agency group of experts who investigate terrorism matters and address terrorism threats on a daily basis," says Shauna Dunlap, special agent with the FBI's Houston field office. "Our goal is to not only prosecute individuals, but to disrupt these threats or to sometimes clear information on potential threats."
While the FBI and DHS are working around the clock to fight and prevent terrorism with an arsenal of technology and official intelligence, the public still plays an equally vital role in the fight against terrorism. "Sometimes the most important information that comes to us doesn't come by way of technology or through one of our investigations, but sometimes when someone in the public is willing to pick up the phone and give us a call, and give us a tip," says Dunlap.