The nation’s top homeland security official said Sunday there are no credible threats of a Paris-style attack on U.S. soil, despite rumors that the Islamic State or other extremists could attack the country.
Security officials said they are testing their communications systems and conducting other drills ahead of holiday-season events, including the Thanksgiving Day parade in New York City.
The ramp-up comes as Belgian officials shut down the subway system in Brussels and asked the public to avoid large crowds, citing the risk of an imminent attack.
“We have no specific credible intelligence about a threat of the Paris-type directed at the homeland here,” Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson told NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “We are always concerned about potential copycat acts, home-born, homegrown, violent extremism of the types that we’ve seen in recent months and years.”
Suicide bombers and gunmen linked to the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq killed about 130 people in Paris on Nov. 13, kicking off a round of anxiety in the U.S. and debate over President Obama’s plan to resettle 10,000 Syrian refugees in the U.S.
Mr. Johnson said about 2,100 Syrians already have been resettled through a “very extensive vetting process,” and that the real concern is a visa waiver program that makes it easier for travelers from some countries, mainly in Europe, to get onto American soil.
The fear is that Europeans will be recruited by the Islamic State — a dynamic that played out in the Paris attacks — and then take advantage of their countries’ relationship with the U.S.
“The visa waiver program is something that we’ve been focused on, frankly, since I’ve been secretary, because there are a number of foreign terrorist fighters who have gone into Iraq and Syria from countries in Europe and elsewhere,” Mr. Johnson said.
He said the program shouldn’t be eliminated, however.
“It’s a very popular program that people use virtually every day,” Mr. Johnson said. “But there are security enhancements that we have made and we should evaluate whether more is necessary and I’m happy to have that conversation with our friends in Congress.”