This Week in AML

DHS Updates the Terrorism Threat to the US

This week the Department of Homeland Security issued a bulletin, updating its assessment of the terrorism threat to the US. In the bulletin DHS reaffirms that the country remains in a heightened threat environment. John and Elliot discuss the concerns raised by DHS following the recent mass shooting events, that some of the attackers have been motivated by violent extremist ideologies that are racially or ethnically motivated, and the international implications noted by DHS.



DHS Updates the Terrorism Threat to the US TRANSCRIPT


John Byrne: Hi Elliot. How's it going?


Elliot Berman: Pretty well. We're having London weather here in Milwaukee. It's been 55 and raining all day. But other than that, it's fine.


John Byrne: Oh, interesting. Yeah, it's not as humid here in the DC area, but you wait a couple of days. That'll change.


Elliot Berman: Exactly. Exactly. I hope this changes. This is a little dreary. So, I just saw yesterday that DHS, which periodically as, you know, issues national terrorism advisory system bulletins issued a new one. It's essentially, and I would say, a continuation of the most recent one. I just wondered if you saw that?


John Byrne: Yeah, I did. I know we talked a bit ago about the report they did on retail theft.

So, you know, like a lot of these law enforcement agencies, they do a lot of different things, but Homeland security, which as we know is a massive organization, has been sort of in the middle of providing these sort of warnings over time and obviously given everything.


And we've alluded to some of this in the past couple of conversations, but given all the horrific shootings. And given the fact that we have very controversial Supreme Court decisions awaiting finalization or whatever. And then, given the fact that we have elections coming up and what's going on in Ukraine, I think it's, unfortunately, the hack phrase, the perfect storm. They felt it necessary to issue this, these series of warnings, which include all of that, but what I took away from it besides the obvious is that they actually talk about some things that are surprising, but I believe are true like that.


They say the continued proliferation of false or misleading narratives regarding current events could reinforce existing personal grievances or ideologies and can inspire more violence. I mean, I think. That's really important here. And while that's not something that's endemic to the financial sector by any means, it's certainly a broad-based community concern.


And then, they also talk about foreign adversaries who continue wanting to exploit the divisions in our country, all of that. So again, the importance can't be overstated, but also none of us should be surprised that all these elements make government officials stand up and take notice.


Elliot Berman: Yeah. So I agreed with all of that. I think the one you mentioned first about pals for misleading narratives, I know this sounds very simplistic, but it goes all the way back to what our teachers in elementary school always reminded us. And that's that words matter. And you know, the idea.


Just saying whatever you wanna say, whether it's tethered to the truth or not, is okay. And actually, even maybe a positive for some reason, in the mind of the speaker, it's causing one of the largest, you know, agencies in the federal government to remind us that we have a heightened threat environment, at least indirectly related to that. That's pretty scary, actually.


John Byrne: Right? And it's not just internal or, in the US false narratives. They talk about foreign terrorist organizations who will most likely continue to use online platforms to inspire individuals to engage in violent activity. We saw this back in April, that ISIS released an audio message.


The one announcing a new global campaign. To avenge the death of the group's leader and spokesman and it called on ISIS supporters to carry out what they're calling knife and vehicle ramming attacks in the US and Europe. So that's scary in and of itself. I know as we are recording this, there's a news report that an individual was found outside of Justice

 Kavanaugh's home in Maryland with the intent to kill the Justice. They had knives, guns, and duct tape. All sorts of things with them. So, you know, this is both an internal issue and external affecting us. Here and around the globe. So, but the other part of this that I think if there's no comfort in any of this, but what I liked, like is a relative term, but what I liked about the report is they say, here's what we're doing about this.


So DHS says, hey, we're working with the FBI. We're sharing information. We have these various offices on things like cybersecurity. We have a national threat evaluation reporting program. So they talk about all these areas. That they're all working together with the government and private sector partners. Well, I think that's an important statement. We all know this is happening, but I think putting that in the docent gives you some ability to understand that you're all on your own. There are some things that we're doing to try to fix the problem.


Elliot Berman: Right. The other thing about this bulletin, and actually it's sort of right at the beginning, is they talk about the recent, several recent violent attacks by loan offenders.

And it really does feel like a pattern. It's interesting that they see a pattern of, at least again, heightened threat as a result of these. Individual actors, in the various shootings that we've seen over the last, 30 days or so 45 days, that, no, one's connected the dots to say that these folks were in any way in contact with one another or part of some mass plan or anything like that.


Every case has appeared to be individuals acting individually. DHS sees a connection driven by some of the things you mentioned earlier. And the fact that just the Role of these actions is enough to cause them to say, we need to put something out and remind everybody what some of the threats are.


And as you just pointed out, what people are doing. And so, I think that this has a time limit on it. These summaries always have a time limit. So because that's a promise that if not before, you're gonna get another update, and this one goes to the end of November. But, I think it's important for everyone to pay attention.


And, you know, some of these things that DHS says they're doing involve people reporting. You know, to the extent that we see something threatening, we can try to be part of the solution. I mean, that's always tricky, but it's important.


John Byrne: Yeah. You know, the other thing related to this. One of your senators, Senator Baldwin, Tammy Baldwin, announced, I think late in May, but I just said it came across my desk here. She's co-sponsoring a domestic terrorism prevention act. So I know that debate continues to go on. Does there need to be a domestic terrorism statute? I know there's some controversy around that, but some of the more basic provisions in that bill would.


What I think are pretty common sense. Things like creating dedicated offices in all of these agencies and DHS justice, FBI to investigate and prosecute domestic terrorism, and then require reports. You know, similar to what Homeland Security just issued, but reports on what's happening in this space and training and all that.


So, you know, there are a couple of debates on whether there should be a statute where you can actively prosecute individuals for domestic terrorism, but there's also, you know, we should spend more time and energy on it. And since the FBI Director last year said domestic terrorism still remains a top priority.


I think things like this become pretty important. Now we both know you don't need legislation to create these offices. I mean, these agencies can do that in and of themselves, but I thought it was important to sort of connect the dots. What DHS is telling us to be concerned about. And also that, you know, at least some members of Congress are saying let's have some practical responses here.


Elliot Berman: Yes. In the end, I mean it is about the practical response. Okay. So this month, June 23rd, 1:00 PM Eastern time, we will be live streaming our webinar, and we're gonna be focusing on customer risk rating models. So, several folks from our financial crime advisory group will be talking about the latest thinking in that space. We also have invited several other experts who will be added to the panel between now and then. And registration is open, and you can do that on the amlrightsource.com website.

So, we hope you'll join that live stream. And John, I know you've got some interesting interviews in the pipeline that will be added to our website along the way here.


John Byrne: Yeah. A couple of things coming up. I just spoke with an IRS agent that works in cyber issues, and will be talking to an academic and a legal practitioner about cyber issues as well.


I'd also say through the work that you're doing in your group, Elliot, remind everybody that after we've had webinars or podcasts, we reissue those. On social media with some frequency. So you'll see it on LinkedIn. You'll see it in other places. They tend to be issues that we believe remain current, even if we did the conversation or the webinar a few months ago.


So look for those as well. And as we've always said, you can subscribe to our content wherever you get your podcast and all of these. Previously held programs are on our website. And we obviously are pretty proud of the content we have there.


Elliot Berman: Thanks, John. I will talk with you next week. Be safe.


John Byrne: Take care. Talk to you soon. Bye.


Elliot Berman: Yup. Bye-bye.