Bart R. Johnson is the new executive director of the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), the nation's largest and oldest police organization. Previously, he was the principal deputy under secretary at the Office of Intelligence and Analysis (I&A) within the Department of Homeland Security (HLS). I&A is the lead office within the federal government responsible for sharing terrorism-related information and intelligence with state, local, tribal, and territorial governments and the private sector. He also formerly served as the director of Homeland Security and Law Enforcement (HSLE) in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence . In this capacity, Johnson was the principal advisor to the director and his executive staff for HSLE issues, and primary subject matter expert on missions, capabilities, and organizations of the Intelligence Community’s homeland security and law enforcement federal, state, local, and tribal partners. Before joining the federal government, he served as a colonel with the New York State Police. He has more than 30 years of law enforcement experience, most of them with the New York State Police. The interview was conducted in late November, just before Johnson departed HLS for the IACP. We spoke with him both about his HLS experiences and his plans as head of the IACP.
With core al Qaeda decimated, what’s the greatest threat of terrorism targeting the United States?
Over the past two-and-a-half years, the United States has witnessed an evolution of the threat. Not only is the threat emanating from outside the United States’ borders, but it is now originating from within the United States, as evidenced by the activities of individuals like Nidal Malik Hasan, Faisal Shahzad, Khalid Ali-M Aldawsari, Naser Jason Abdo, and many others who have been investigated and subsequently arrested by FBI-led Joint Terrorism Task Forces (JTTFs). If you asked me what does that mean, it means that we need to make sure that we have a well-informed, well-equipped, and well-trained homeland security and law enforcement community, and therein lies the importance of the unique role that I&A plays in providing them with that information. Additionally, we also need to realize that since these threats are emanating from within our borders, it is state and local law enforcement officers who are probably going to be the ones who detect and report the threats.
Ten percent of I&A’s mission is identifying emerging threats. What emerging threats should security professionals watch out for?
I would say the emerging threat of increasing concern is the lone actor. An individual who is being inspired by individuals or Web forums to then perform a violent act in the form of a terrorist attack, very similar to what Faisal Shahzad tried to do on May 1, 2010, in Times Square. And that’s the most difficult threat to identify. But, of course, giving the private sector and homeland security and law enforcement officials the indicators and warnings they need to identify is once again the role of I&A and the national network of fusion centers. This, coupled with the “See Something, Say Something” campaign, provides the country with a better opportunity to detect and report suspicious activity to law enforcement.
I know FBI officials were critical of fusion centers’ shift from counterterrorism to an all-hazards approach. Do you believe the shift was necessary? And are there any successes because of the shift that you can share?
I know the FBI is very supportive of the National Network of Fusion Centers and I personally believe it’s very important for fusion centers to be all crimes.
Other types of crimes and threats that we’re facing as a country cross not only jurisdictional boundaries within the United States but those outside the United States in the form of human smuggling, narcotics smuggling, and weapons smuggling. And oftentimes, those types of crimes support or facilitate terrorist activities. As you’re building these systems and capabilities for countering terrorism, the good thing is for law enforcement to have that duality of approach.
(To continue reading this interview from our March 2012 issue, please click here)