WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States faces a heightened threat of terrorist attack “for the foreseeable future” but any attack will likely be homegrown, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said on Wednesday.
Chertoff, who said over the summer that he had a “gut feeling” that the country faced a heightened risk of attack, said that assessment still stands.
“It’s not something that’s going to evaporate in a week or two. I think it’s something that’s going to be with us for a while,” he told a small group of reporters in a phone call.
Chertoff, who is in charge of ensuring that the country does not face another attack like that of September 11, 2001, said the heightened risk was not based on any intelligence predicting a specific, imminent attack.
“I said we were beginning to enter into a period like this. And that didn’t mean it was going to be a week, it meant it’s for the foreseeable future,” he said.
“There’s probably a greater risk in terms of likelihood from a homegrown attack than from a massive international attack,” he added.
Chertoff described that sort of “homegrown” attack as a single person or small group of people living in the United States who were “recruited” on the Internet and had pledged allegiance to al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden.
“I think the consequence of that kind of attack is likely to be less cataclysmic than the kind of attack that would be launched from outside like the London plot of 2006 against the airlines,” he said, referring to a thwarted plot to bomb transatlantic airliners using liquid explosives.
Reporting by Deborah Charles; Editing by Eric Beech