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Analysis: How Trump has approached national security during first year in office

A week ahead of President Trump's first State of the Union speech"lone wolf" terrorists are the biggest threat to the homeland, and there was a missed opportunity for the Trump administration to take a tougher stance against Russia, said two national security analysts. CBSN's "Red & Blue" Tuesday dived into what will be the Trump administration's national security focus in 2018.

Michael Morell, CBSN senior national security contributor who served as deputy director and acting director of the CIA under former President Obama, and Fran Townsend, CBS News senior national security analyst who served as homeland security adviser to former President George W. Bush, both weighed in on how Mr. Trump's approach to security has panned out so far.

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Michael Morell (L), Fran Townsend (R)

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"I think we continue to worry about the 'lone wolf' ... that individual inspired by jihadist propaganda on the internet," Townsend said. "They're able to get bomb-making recipes. I think we worry about the individual actor as opposed to pre-9/11 where we worried about large scale group activity, multi-national, multi-event ... that's not the same threat as today."

Morell also analyzed whether homeland security threats have evolved since Mr. Trump took office in 2017.

"The threat is essentially what it was a year ago," he told CBSN's Elaine Quijano. "I do think the defeat of the ISIS [Islamic State of Iraq and Syria] caliphate has taken the wind out of the sails of ISIS and I think that the president and Secretary of Defense [James] Mattis deserve a lot of credit for accelerating the fight against ISIS."

Morell predicts that it will become more difficult for that terrorist group to recruit "lone wolfs" in America and Europe to carry out attacks and he said that the U.S. "will eventually feel that in terms of the threat on the ground."

Townsend and Morell also discussed how cybersecurity and attacks via technology.

"It's really twofold: One, the United States worries about the destructive attack -- it's the attack that corrupts a hard drive and literally destroys it and destroys the data. We saw the Sony-type of attack we believe out of North Korea where it's the theft of information and then the destruction," Townsend said. "These that pose a real sort of threat to the United States ... on the other hand, we ought to worry about what I call 'influence operations.'"

"When we think of the Russian cyberoperation to influence our election ... it's influencing the population ... having fake accounts to churn up internal dissent -- whether it's white supremacy, Black Lives Matter -- the use of cyber to divide and sow dissent inside the American population ... that poses a real threat to us," Townsend continued.

Morell also agreed and pointed out the big development in the last year under the Trump administration is the understanding of the weaponization of social media.

"What the Russians are trying to do here -- and what others will try to copy them -- they're trying to weaken us as a nation and divide us and weaken us so that we don't play as big a role in the world and that we stay internally focused," he said. "The other thing they are doing here is trying to give a black eye to democracy."

Morell said "the thing Putin fears the most is democracy in Russia." 

"The Trump administration came in fresh and there was a real opportunity I think lost by President Trump where he could have taken a much tougher, more aggressive line with the Russians -- and made a point on his foreign policy with Russia," Townsend said.

To watch the entire interview from "Red & Blue," click the video player at the top of the page.


Mr. Trump will deliver his first State of the Union address Tuesday, Jan 30. CBS News will have complete coverage on-air and online. Click here for details on how to watch the event.