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Security Beefed Up At Federal Buildings Across U.S.


The Department of Homeland Security is beefing up security at federal buildings in Washington, D.C., and other cities. Secretary Jeh Johnson says the move is a precautionary measure after recent attacks in Canada and ongoing threats from the group that calls itself the Islamic State. With us to talk about this move is Justice Department Carrie Johnson. Hi, Carrie.

What do we know about who will be involved in securing these U.S. government buildings and where the security is going to be added?

CARRIE JOHNSON, BYLINE: Jeh Johnson has enlisted something called the Federal Protective Service. It's part of DHS. And it's a core of security officials who design plans for federal buildings, and they hire thousands of armed guards to work as contractors in those buildings. The service already operates in nearly 10,000 buildings leased by the federal government. These are buildings, Robert, that get a lot of traffic - up to 1 million employees and visitors every day. And DHS is closely guarding where it's going to beef up security. It says they don't want to give out too much operational detail at this point, but they're going to shift locations and reevaluate based on the threat.

SIEGEL: And is it pretty clear that the motivation here was the deadly attack in Canada last week on a soldier who was doing ceremonial guard duty guarding a memorial?

JOHNSON: That attack in Canada for sure and ongoing threats and propaganda ISIS is pushing out. Homeland Security didn't mention any specific, credible threat information here in the U.S. Although last week, of course, in New York, we had the man attack some police rookies there with a hatchet. And the IS has been urging Westerners to join the fight in Syria. Americans and Europeans have already done that. But if they can't or won't travel, Robert, terrorist groups are urging these lone actors, these lone wolves, to lash out at home, against military and police targets here.

SIEGEL: Don't law enforcement people say that those incidents involving just one person are the hardest to detect?

JOHNSON: Absolutely. FBI director Jim Comey and DHS officials have all talked recently about how worried they are about those kinds of strikes, how difficult it is to find people if they're not communicating online or making phone calls to buddies. That's part of the reason DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson is asking local communities to be vigilant and why federal authorities are relying so much on state and local police partners to help them before something bad happens.

SIEGEL: Carrie, thank you.

JOHNSON: You're welcome.

SIEGEL: That's NPR Justice Correspondent Carrie Johnson. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Carrie Johnson is a justice correspondent for the Washington Desk.
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