DHS chief: New terror alert system to be unveiled soon

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said Monday that he will soon announce a new terror alert system that would better inform the public about terror threats.

At an event hosted by Defense One, Johnson said the U.S. must move beyond a system that only issues alerts about specific credible threats to the homeland since there is always the possibility of copycat attacks or terrorist attacks by lone wolves.

"I believe that in this environment, we need to get beyond that and go to a new system that has an intermediate level to it and I'll be announcing soon, hopefully, what our new system is, that I think, reflects the current environment and the current realities," Johnson said at the event.

The U.S. needs a system that better informs the public about terror threats, Johnson said, instead of through news leaks of joint intelligence bulletins or leaks from anonymous government officials.

"I believe that we need to do a better job of informing the public at large of what we are seeing, and removing some of the mystery about the global terrorist threat," said Johnson, who said he would unveil the system "in the coming days."

This would mark the third terror alert system put in place since the 9/11 attacks. The first system consisted of color codes, which was replaced in 2011 by the National Threat Advisory System (NTAS), which has never been activated.

The current system will not be scrapped, a DHS official said Monday, but the administration will make modifications.

In order to trigger the current system, there must be a credible and specific threat. The DHS official explained the new system would institute a lower threshold that will allow officials to notify and inform the public. The new alerts will be similar to intelligence bulletins the FBI and DHS share with law enforcement agencies around the country, and not currently with the public.

Johnson's comments come a day after President Obama delivered a prime time speech to the nation on terrorism and the U.S. strategy to defeat the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Nothing new was announced in his address, during which Mr. Obama defended his current approach, tried to reassure Americans and encouraged the Muslim-American community to root out extremism.

The upcoming alert system also comes after the shooting in San Bernardino last Wednesday that left 14 people dead and 21 wounded. The FBI is investigating the shooting by Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik as an act of terror. The attack came just a few weeks after the Paris terror attacks on Nov. 13 that left 130 people dead.

CBS News' Jeff Pegues contributed to this story.

  • Rebecca Shabad

    Rebecca Shabad is a video reporter for CBS News Digital.