Community Partnerships to Counter Violent Extremism

Friday, April 1, 2011

Jane Holl Lute, deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, provided a U.S. administration perspective on efforts to disrupt violent extremism, and discussed best practices in counter radicalization in the United States and the United Kingdom.

This session was part of the symposium, UK and U.S. Approaches in Countering Radicalization: Intelligence, Communities, and the Internet, which was cosponsored with Georgetown University’s Center for Peace and Security Studies and King’s College London’s International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation. This event was made possible by Georgetown University's George T. Kalaris Intelligence Studies Fund and the generous support of longtime CFR member Rita E. Hauser. Additionally, this event was organized in cooperation with the CFR’s Civil Society, Markets, and Democracy Initiative.

BRUCE HOFFMAN: Welcome to the afternoon session of the conference and to the second keynote of the day. Before I introduce Deputy Secretary Jane Lute, let me again remind you to please turn off all BlackBerrys, cell phones, pagers -- not just put them to vibrate but turn them completely off, because otherwise they interfere with the sound system.

Let me also remind you that this particular session is on the record, but when you ask questions, please do not refer to the session earlier in the day that was off the record. That would be greatly appreciated.

The title of this session is "Community Partnerships to Counter Violent Extremism." And I'd be hard pressed to think of someone better to make that presentation than the deputy secretary of the United States Department of Homeland Security, Jane Lute. I have to say that Deputy Secretary Lute has had the type of distinguished career that I know our students at the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown aspire to and indeed that many of their professors dream of.

She served in the United States Army with distinction, including in Operation Desert Storm. She subsequently went on to serve twice with the National Security Council under the first President Bush and also under President Clinton. She was the executive director of the Carnegie Commission's -- the Carnegie Commission on Preventing Deadly Conflict. She subsequently went on to be an assistant secretary at the United Nations and is now in the -- in her current position as deputy secretary of Homeland Security.

Deputy Secretary Lute, welcome and thank you very much. (Applause.)

DEPUTY SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY JANE HOLL LUTE: Well, thanks very much. It's great to be back at the council, and it's extraordinary to see the new surroundings. And it tells you how long it's been since I've been with the council in Washington that I didn't even know you were here. But it's really beautiful. It's great to see Jim and to share a stage with Bruce. I don't think any of us know anything about terrorism or about countering terrorism that we haven't learned from Bruce. And so on behalf of all of us, thanks for what you've done throughout your career.

It's particularly interesting and exciting and not a very usual opportunity for me these past couple of years to have a chance to sit down and talk with scholars and practitioners, with policymakers and journalists and operators all in the same room. And that for me is the most exciting opportunity for conversation, for discussion and for learning.

I have had the privilege in my life to work with some of the most extraordinary scholars, practitioners, operators, journalists that this country, in fact the world, has to offer. My (doctoral) father when I was at Stanford was Alexander George, a giant not only in the field of political science but as a human being. He, along with David Hamburg, Cy Vance, so many others taught me a long about what it means to do well in this business and also taught me maybe the most fundamental lesson is that it's possible to do this work and be kind -- (soft laughter) -- something you don't learn from everybody you interact with every day, let me tell you.

But part of the reason I like it so much is because they -- scholars and practitioners -- scholars and operators ask each other a different set of questions, but the questions merge in really interesting ways.

Scholars always want to know why. Why do people take up violence to advance their cause? Why can some people or why do some people position themselves at the very center of their faith, yet espouse what are clearly marginal or even the ragged edge of the faith and a mis- or maladaptation of that faith, yet occupy the center and claim for themselves the very custodians of the doctrinal core? Why can they do that? Why do they do that? Why do they justify killing in the name of their faith?

Operators, on the other hand -- and I consider myself an operator -- ask themselves what. What are -- what is it about their circumstances that we don't understand? What is it about the journey that these individuals take that we have not yet successfully been able to map? What is the problem? What can be done about it?

You might even ask, I suppose -- and many people do -- you know, given life's complexity and the pressures of everyday life not only in the United States but around the world, why don't we see more of this; why don't we see more people pursuing violence? Yet we don't see it. Why not? What is working in our society that allows so many of us to manage conflict, differences, stresses and pressures in relative peace?

Some of you know me. It's great to see your faces here. I've learned so much in my career. Things that I've been able to achieve are largely due to the influence that you've had on me. Mistakes I've made -- it's probably because I haven't been paying as close attention as I should have throughout my career.

But these have been the kinds of questions that have interested me my whole life long. I started out my career as a soldier, as Bruce mentioned. That was a long time ago. 1976, I went to basic training. I'm married to a soldier, just recently retired. I believe deeply in the calling of a soldier. I love being a soldier.

I love my country, but it's not even a hundred years ago that my grandparents came to this country. Yet you wouldn't mistake me for anything except an American straight out of central casting. (Chuckles.) Just ask my staff.

But it's true that these questions are so deeply interesting, motivating for me not only as a -- as a former soldier and one who believes deeply in the values of this country but also someone who has spent a fair amount of time thinking and writing about war: how wars end, why they end when they do, why they don't end sooner, why factors seem to combine to prevent wars from ending, and how you prevent the emergence and spread and resumption of violence once a peace has been achieved. I will be committed throughout my life to the prevention of deadly conflict, to peacekeeping and peace building. How do you restore societies in the aftermath of violence, and how do you prevent that violence from returning?

Over the course of my career, I've learned there are a lot of mythologies about conflict and war. And for those of you who've studied it, you know that there are these mythologies. For example, we call a conflict religious or ethnic, thinking somehow that that tells us why people are violent. It doesn't tell us anything about why people are violent. It tells us why they're different, tells us why they might not get along very much, but it doesn't tell us nearly anything about why they've decided to kill each other over their differences.

Poverty -- cause of violence? Rich people will kill each other, too. Poverty is one of the mythologies about conflict. I'll talk a little bit about it later.

The role of government -- mythology: government's the most important actor in conflict. Mythology: government is irrelevant to conflict and violence. A lot of theories in general about why there is violence in the world and a lot of theories about violent extremism; far fewer theories to my taste about how we can prevent this kind of violence, how we can prevent the emergence of violent extremism.

How does this matter to the homeland and to homeland security? We're not immune in the United States to the kind of violence and violent extremism that you have been talking about over the course of this conference. Dozens have been arrested over the past two years. Indeed, we know there are people who are present in the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, elsewhere around Europe, North America, who align themselves with the ideology and the operations of al-Qaida and other violent extremists.

Through constant vigilance, effective law enforcement, information sharing, community partnerships, we've uncovered a number of plots, and we continue to do that. And we know this will be well known to you, some of them. Najibullah Zazi intended to bomb the New York subway. Daniel Patrick Boyd intended to murder soldiers in North Carolina. There are others -- some we have not caught in time: David Headley, associated with the attacks -- more than associated, a planner and instrumental agent in the attacks on Mumbai; Faisal Shahzad, the man who would have tried to blow up Times Square, who did try.

We know al-Qaida is actively recruiting. They've got hip language. They're plugged into social media. They are persistent. We have to be equally persistent and alert, because unlike plots overseas, plots originating closer to home will likely have shorter tails, few obvious signs and little or no warning.

So what are our tools? What are our strategies? How do we address this potential for violent extremism? We have expertise and we have experience. And those of you who know me know that I think that there's a big difference between expertise and experience, and we need to bring the two of them together.

Our theory, our strategy in dealing with terrorism has been to find them and fix them abroad -- to find terrorists and fix them in the military sense, find them and fix them abroad. This has been our existing approach. The danger originates abroad. The threat evolves over time. Our familiar tools for doing this -- robust intelligence, active military operations and our partnerships with international partners in London, Paris, Rome, Berlin, elsewhere -- these are the tools we use to combat terrorism and fight it, find them, fix them far away from us.

But as I have learned, over the course of the past two years, after having spent the previous 30 years deeply embedded in the national security community of this country and, in fact, in the international security community, homeland security is really very different. It is certainly a part of national security, but it is very different. And it has been exceedingly interesting to me to see the differences.

How do we combat violent extremism in the homeland? Are these tools -- intelligence, military operations, international partnerships -- the tools that we must use in the homeland? We have different tools here. I'll talk a little bit about them.

We have border tools. We have law enforcement tools. We have information, information sharing, intelligence certainly. And we have the American public, including those parts of the public who serve in public service every day, nearly 800,000 men and women of law enforcement at the state and local level. We want to use their experience -- we want to use all of our experience -- to recognize behavior and preparation that indicate trouble, and we want to use our knowledge and expertise to craft the kinds of effective interventions that prevent this trouble, prevent the emergence of violence.

Well, who is we? As I mentioned, it's all of us. Certainly in Homeland Security, we think we have a special responsibility here, and it's not a responsibility that is new to us. Indeed, the department is now eight years old. The work that we've been doing, over the past two years, is built on the work that has gone on before, and built, in fact, on work that's gone on before the events of 9/11 and the founding of the Department of Homeland Security.

What are we trying to do in DHS? What do we think our vision is -- our mission is?

Well, we say the following. What we're trying to do is build the safe, secure and resilient place where the American way of life can thrive -- safe, secure, resilient place where the American way of life can thrive.

How do we do that? We think we have five core missions.

The first and foremost, of course, is to prevent another terrorist attack like 9/11, prevent terrorist attacks of any kind. We need to secure our borders, enforce our immigration laws, ensure our cybersecurity. We think this is key and essential to a safe and secure and resilient homeland. And we need to build national resilience.

But we know, in DHS, that we can't do all that needs doing by ourselves, certainly. There's an important role for the leaders, for the officials, for law enforcement and for citizens who are closest to the communities -- because they know best, who they are, what their strengths, values, capabilities are and equally what their -- what their vulnerabilities and shortcoming are. And they know first when trouble is about to start or is unfolding.

To support them in the area of preventing violent extremism, we're going to pursue in our department a two-part strategy. In fact, it's already begun. On the one hand, we want to break down barriers that isolate and marginalize communities, and on the other hand we want to strengthen law enforcement to identify and prevent violent acts before they occur.

How do we break down barriers? Well, first and foremost, we might stop by miniaturizing people, by reducing people to a single version of their identity that we think is important or that we think is defining. In fact, one of the things -- one of the great things about being an American is that you can be multiple things. You can have your ethnic identity, your religious affiliation and your social set of engagements all at the same time, and they can coexist, and they are each at least as defining as any single one of them would be. And I think, at a minimum, as the president began in his Cairo speech, and certainly has said before that and since, the cultural diversity of this country is a richness and a strength, and one that we cannot only build on, it's one we can also rely on.

We want to pursue breaking down barriers that isolate communities by engaging with local leaders, with state and local law enforcement, policy leaders, social leaders, religious leaders as well. We're going to do this with partnerships, again, because the Department of Homeland Security can't do all that needs doing -- partnership with other federal agencies, partnerships with the private sector, partnerships with NGOs and, again, at all levels of life in the United States.

We're advancing programs for new immigrants so that they can broadly embrace their new society and so -- and equally importantly so that their new society can broadly embrace them. Both have to happen.

On the other hand, we want to strengthen state and local law enforcement to allow them to do both of their jobs, which is to uphold the rule of law and to serve the people. We're going to do this through advocacy, through convening, sharing of best practice and sharing of knowledge, information, intelligence, where it's appropriate, through the fusion centers that we've been working on and establishing, jointly with the FBI and other federal agencies, through the Joint Terrorism Task Forces. But this is really about reaching down to communities, giving them the kind of training that they need to recognize and connect them to what we have learned about the habits of violent extremists, these groups, al-Qaida and others, and what this might mean for activities closer to them.

You know that Secretary Napolitano has, over the course of the past year, been speaking around the country and talking about the importance of a program that we know from New York City, "See Something, Say Something," which is designed to involve people in the circumstances that are around them. If something is odd and wrong, it's probably odd and wrong. Bring it to the attention of folks who can do something about it. We've built out the suspicious activity reporting database together with the FBI, and we are learning where there are patterns emerging that are troubling and indicate that early action is required.

We want to support and sustain these efforts through grant-making and through our continual engagement with state and local law enforcement officials. In other words, we want to expand our engagement and support for information-driven community-oriented policing, including -- and importantly, based on strategies that have been successful at preventing violent crime in the past.

A lot of people, over the course of my career, have been looking at violent conflict, have been looking at violent extremism, and they often, when they are looking at this phenomenon, examine the discontent of the unfortunate -- the desperately poor, the chronically oppressed. But many of the young who are attracted to the ideology and the message of extremism are by any measure fortunate. So what is at the heart of the discontent of the fortunate? Is it a lack of opportunity, voice, freedom? A lack of respect? A lack of dignity, value and meaning?

This is not the agenda of the terrorist. This is not what the terrorists want. They don't want these things. When it comes to violent extremism, they want our youth. So we must be vigilant and alive to our responsibilities to prevent their success.

Certainly we have to -- and will -- enforce our laws and support efforts to prevent the development of and growth of violent extremists. And we have to break down barriers. We must break down barriers that isolate and marginalize community, and work to create a homeland where all of us -- and that means each of us -- can pursue the American way of life and thrive.

Thanks very much. (Applause.)

HOFFMAN: Thank you very much, Deputy Secretary.

Let me begin by referring actually to the title of this conference, which is of course "U.K. and U.S. Approaches to Countering Radicalization." And we've heard often this morning, in the on-the-record sessions, how the U.K. does it differently. For some years they've had a defined strategy, CONTEST. They've had an arm of that strategy that specifically is oriented towards counter-radicalization, which is Prevent. They have a specific agency that has the lead, the Home Office, and even a specific office within that, Charles Farr's Office of Security and Counterterrorism.

Now I know we've done it differently, and we've done it by learning some of the lessons from the U.K. that apply to the United States. I wonder if you could discuss how DHS has taken that on board and applied some of these lessons.

LUTE: So we've had a very robust dialogue with the Brits over the course not only of the past two years but certainly beyond that.

I would say a couple of things. One, which is obvious, is there -- no one size fits all. They are working with and adapting programs for their communities, their population, in all of its richness and history.

We've taken a different approach, not least because we're -- we are so extraordinarily different, notwithstanding the fact that we share very fundamentally norms and values and even some of that history.

One of the most interesting things to me over the past couple of years is the degree to which the Department of Homeland Security and Home Offices, not only in the U.K. but around the world, have kind of discovered each other and have opened up a dialogue about how they are doing business, the challenges that they are facing, as ministries of interior, Home Offices, Department of Homeland Security. And this dialogue is extraordinarily rich and extraordinarily exciting.

It's also extraordinarily operational. The Department of Homeland Security is a deeply operational department. Nearly 400,000 people come to work every day. Five thousand of them are at headquarters and the rest are deployed in the operating agencies. And similarly around the world, including with the Home Office, there are things that they do every day.

So in the question of violent extremism and the program of Prevent which the U.K. is evolving now and taking a different approach, we continue to share best practices and really look -- share information and look at the best way for each of us, governments at the national level, to engage with state and locals and with communities, in order to achieve the same effect.

HOFFMAN: Well, following on from that, in terms of the sharing of information, I think something we heard this morning as well is the importance of sharing information between federal, state and local authorities. How can DHS be the glue, in essence, that holds this process together, especially when there are multiple federal agencies in the United States involved in counterterrorism but especially in counter-radicalization?

LUTE: So this is -- there's also another very interesting thing for me, as somebody who's spent their whole career in national security. I mentioned that homeland security is very different. I mean, national security is about all of us. Homeland security is about each of us. National security is strategic, centralized, top-driven. Homeland security is decentralized, operational and driven from the grass roots up.

And so -- we recognize this in DHS, and while we -- you used the phrase "glue," I think, in a way, what we're trying to do is empower state and locals and underscore and support community-based policing, the engagement of community leaders. We have fusion centers. We also have partnerships with the FBI, Department of Justice, Health and Human Services, other departments, so that we can create a responsive federal structure that helps build capable communities and through -- both at that vertical and horizontal engagement, I think, provide some of that glue, but we don't think by any means we're the whole story.

HOFFMAN: Let me ask one more question before we open it up to the floor.

I was very taken with the beginning of your presentation, when you sort of fell back on your role at the Carnegie Commission on Preventing Deadly Conflict and were talking about the diversity of the roots of violent extremism and indeed of violence, the reasons why someone is driven or motivated to pick up a gun or to throw a bomb.

Given that we understand that this is highly -- you know, very much of an individual phenomena in many respects, but of course is being propagated and the motivation is coming from organizations with a particular agenda -- but given the diversity, can we have any metrics? I mean, is countering violent extremism amenable to any kind of meaningful metrics that we can actually determine progress? Or is this something that rather we just have to do as a good and because it's one of the only things we know that we can do to stop this?

LUTE: This is a -- this is a fascinating discussion, and one -- why in part it's so important to have scholars and practitioners come together. Practitioners or operators are dealing with the immediate every single day, and it's a -- it's a luxury to have a long-term view. It's a necessity to have short-term view, to be able to see -- discern trends within the immediate or -- among the immediate things that you're observing.

And so first and foremost, we probably have to understand what it is. Are we looking at a match, a flicker or a flare? Or are we looking at a flame?

There are some expressions of violence where people act out their frustrations or their evil intentions, as an individual act of anger and evil. There are other acts that -- that's a flicker or a flame. Does it have wider implications for us as a society? Are there larger lessons to draw? We should make those judgments as we look at these incidents.

There are some incidences that are more like flares. They have a wider effect. They're more visible to others. They're seen and interpreted to be bigger and more important than a -- than a flash expression of anger or hatred.

And then there are flames. There are flames that are both fueling and fueled by causes larger than the individual act, and their aim is to reject the system, to reject the established order, to reject the rule of law. And we need, I think -- and we need the help of scholars here, certainly informed by the practice of the operators, people who are dealing with law enforcement, dealing at our borders every single day, to know what it is we're looking at.

HOFFMAN: Thank you.

Well, let me open up the floor to questions. Let me remind you again this session is on the record. Please don't refer to previous sessions that were not. And may I ask you also to stand and state your name and affiliation. The floor is open.

Yes, sir.

QUESTIONER: (Inaudible) -- Georgetown University and DHS.

You spoke about the partnership with the private sector. What do you see as the role of the private sector at the community level and in social networking, especially among the telecommunication companies?

LUTE: I -- rather than assign responsibilities, what we're doing in DHS is opening a dialogue. Our -- it's not immediately germane, but you mentioned telecommunications companies. We have a very robust dialogue and partnership with the telecommunications companies in cyber, for example. They -- companies have over the course of the past decade or more begun to develop a set of -- a sense of social responsibility engagement with the local communities. What we simply want to know is, we want companies themselves to equip themselves with the knowledge for national resilience, be able to contribute to the See Something, Say Something campaign, and also to be pillars of support for the broader development of the societies within which they live and work, and draw employees and contribute in return.

And so this is -- you know, I -- (you stole my kids ?). You know, life doesn't happen in the passive voice -- unless it does. There is no more opportunity for passive-voice engagement in life today. We all need to play a part.

HOFFMAN: Yes, Arnaud. Microphone's coming.

QUESTIONER: Arnaud de Borchgrave, CSIS.

You mentioned that you were kind of puzzled about violence. But if one pictured a Pakistan, which is probably the most dangerous country in the world today, you have between 100(,000) and 500,000 youngsters that graduate from the madrassas where they've been taught to hate America. You have highly educated people in Pakistan who are convinced that the CIA and Mossad did 9/11 -- these are people who come out of universities in the Western world. So when you listen to all of this -- and I spent a lot of time in and out of Pakistan -- one understands immediately where violence springs from.

LUTE: I -- I'm tempted to say "wrong lute." (Laughter.)

I certainly understand, and I understand what you're saying. I have -- I don't think there's any doubt about the intention of many of the violent extremists. There is no -- there is no doubt. We need to know more about what works. We need to know more about the signs of trouble as it's brewing, to prevent that trouble from becoming violent. And the scholars need to continue to tell us more about the kinds of remedies that eliminate the attractiveness of these extremist ideologies.

We think we know something about that, in terms of promulgating our own norms, our values; living them every day; enfranchising people in the opportunities and promise of freedom, of representative governance, of market economic activity available to all, of the power and strength of the rule of law that is renewed through the voices of all of us, not just a few of us. I mean, we know that. But I think there is still a lot we don't know.

HOFFMAN: Burton.

QUESTIONER: Burton Gerber, of Georgetown University.

Thank you for coming today. We've heard a lot today about what we should be doing, what we want to do and so forth. Can you give us -- share with us some things that you -- not you, deputy secretary, but your organization -- in the past several years has done and has shown marked improvement in protecting the United States, and a couple of things that you'd like to do but you just don't see how you're ever going to achieve it?

LUTE: So what -- again, we've built on the experience of the previous years of the department in its standup and formative years. More concretely with respect to this particular problem of preventing violent extremism has been our building out and working with state and local authorities on the fusion centers, engaging with training, with the big-city chiefs and with other state and local law enforcement officials, to really strengthen their hand in recognizing some of the signs and some of the patterns and precursive steps or preparatory steps to violent conflict, and bring that expertise that we've developed with what might be called, perhaps not altogether accurately, a traditional approach to counterterrorism through intelligence, military operations and our international partnerships, and bring that -- lessons learned, knowledge, expertise -- and put that in the hands, appropriately, of state and local fusion centers, state and local law enforcement, policy leaders, community leaders as well. That has been a big effort of ours to engage with the department.

One of the striking things about homeland security is that it is very -- it's very much a unity of effort, not a unity of command, model. It's a unity of effort model that will take all of us in various parts of the community, and all leaders.

There have been other things. Again, through our grantmaking program, we want to sustain fusion centers and really establish them as information platforms and sources of decision-making available to the states and the major municipalities, to be able to respond to all contingencies when they arise. That's one example.

The to-do list in homeland security is pretty long, so -- (chuckles) -- so I don't know that -- I'll think about one of the things that -- nothing's impossible. And you don't get -- anybody who's lived through the events of 1989 doesn't get to say anything's impossible. If you've lived through 9/11, you don't get to say anything's impossible. So I don't ever say that. But there are sure some things that are harder than others.

HOFFMAN: Could I actually jump in and follow up on that? One of the -- I think one of the big differences is -- certainly 10 years after 9/11, is we have the Department of Homeland Security. We've undertaken massive intelligence reform as well. We have the fusion centers, as you describe. But what about in terms of the American public and our resilience? Do you think that the American public now is more resilient; in Lee Hamilton's words, that we can take a punch better now than we could have 10 years ago? And what has DHS been doing in that respect in reaching out to communities not necessarily with radicalization, extremism, but preparing the American public to have a more realistic appreciation of the threat and of the risks?

LUTE: I think this country is stronger. I think we are fundamentally secure in the basic knowledge that we can defend ourselves. This country can defend itself, and we continue to have a lot worth defending. We have strengthened our faith in each other, moreover, and that's been an extraordinary thing to see over the past 10 years.

The "See Something, Say Something" campaign is a small illustration of that. It hasn't taken people off the deep edge. It has caused the important raising of concerns about behavior that is -- that is anomalous and strange, and given law enforcement the opportunity to look at incidents. It has resulted in the effective prevention of potentially dangerous and violent acts. And so it's -- that's just, again, one illustration. But I think there's no question that this country is stronger and safer for the efforts that have been undertaken -- again, not just by the department but by all of us.

HOFFMAN: Yes. Over there.

QUESTIONER: Kevin Sheehan, ORIX Ventures. Good to see you, Deputy Secretary.

LUTE: We were children together. (Laughs, laughter.)

QUESTIONER: While engagement with the Muslim community particularly is certainly key, that at best is going to allow us to perhaps to -- perhaps delay and certainly identify radicals who identify themselves to those communities. So, for example, young men who are playing basketball in one quarter and are wearing Islamic garb and quoting Said Qutub in the next would -- you would hope that the community would identify those individuals.

But what happens if Islamic terrorist organizations begin to develop a stronger sense of operational security and act more like KSM did prior to 9/11 and train their -- train their recruits to stay away from those communities and not give up obvious signs of radicalization? Have we thought about that? Anything we can do to deal with that particular threat?

LUTE: You know, it's great to see you, Kevin. We really were children together. (Chuckles.) We started our Army careers together a long time ago.

You know, we -- what we know is we have a persistent, adaptive adversary, and they are not spending all their money taking out billboards and advertising their next moves. We have a -- we have in some cases a strategy that depends on their -- our knowing who they are. And what if we don't? What if they use individuals who are previously unknown? What are the signs? What are the behaviors? What are the preparations? What are the elements of preparation?

An old friend of mine used to say, you know, every hurricane has a warning; not all warnings yield hurricanes. But we live in an age when we may have hurricanes without warnings, in the sense of violent extremism. But someone knows. And what we want to do is when people who are closest who know, who have concerns can raise their hand and bring these concerns to the attention of folks who will take -- who will take the appropriate steps.

We don't want vigilantism. We don't want the kinds of worst excesses that we could imagine when people see strange garb or engage -- or don't understand behaviors that they might be observing. That's why it's so essential that we take the knowledge, experience and expertise that we have learned from fighting terrorism abroad, bring it here, engage in a consistent and open channel of dialogue with state and local authorities also to learn what they know.

If something is wrong to a local law enforcement officer, it's probably wrong, but they may not in all cases know just how wrong it is, because the anomalous behavior or the worrying signs that they see may not fit in their particular circumstance but would fit an understanding of a terrorist pattern of action. And we want to put those pieces of the puzzle together to prevent and use what law enforcement knows every day about preventing violent crime so that we can succeed here, too.

HOFFMAN: Mitzi. Over here.

QUESTIONER: Deputy Secretary, I'm Mitzi Wertheim with the Naval Postgraduate School. I'm a social anthropologist by training, so I find myself thrilled to hear you talk about individuals and how individuals are an important piece, because in my defense world, it's all about large numbers. What -- has the whole department recognized it's about how people think, feel and behave? Is this a revolution in understanding that's occurring?

LUTE: I don't know how to answer that. I think what I would say, that people certainly matter. They always have. You know, when you're a -- you know, when you're a soldier and you give part of yourself as an individual to the larger organization, you give it to the -- your country; you give it to the ideals that your people stand for. But what you know is that when it comes down to it, people die one at a time, but people make a difference one at a time as well. And that's -- we can never lose sight of the importance and the power and the -- and the beauty in the contributions of each of us. And so I say, you know, national security really at some level is about all of us. Homeland Security is absolutely about each of us, and each of us have to do our part.

HOFFMAN: All the way in the back?

QUESTIONER: Dean Godson, Policy Exchange think tank in London. Just viewed -- some of us viewed with interest in London the recent report of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, the -- or the report by Senators Lieberman and Collins on the Fort Hood episode. I've made some critical remarks about the culture, particularly of the Department of Defense and the FBI in respect of spotting telltale signals of Major -- that's major's radicalization who perpetrated, obviously, that killing.

I'm just wondering how many of those recommendations, in light of the fact that (there have/they have ?), of course, been the official DOD report, are now going to be integrated more broadly into sort of federal analyses of the kind of signals that should be spotted sooner and sort of having a sort of proper culture of appreciation of those sort of threatening notes that are being sounded early on in the development of someone's radicalization.

LUTE: Well, we work very closely, obviously, with our colleagues in Defense and with the bureau, the Department of Justice but equally with the other federal departments. And what you're hearing from me today is that for Homeland Security, a huge part of our reality is what's happening at the state and local level, what's happening at the grassroots of this country, what we're learning about and what we know, frankly, about how law enforcement officials, policy officials, governance officials, community leaders at every level in this country engage with their communities and with their -- the broader context within which they live.

There's a -- there's a lot to be learned, and there's a potential for wrong lessons to be learned, and equally we want to be sure that the right lessons are learned. So in terms of the signs, that's what I said earlier. Someone knows -- someone knows that this is trouble. What we need to do is be able to connect the person who knows that trouble is brewing with a responsible and responsive structure to take appropriate action.

QUESTIONER: (Off mic.)

LUTE: We can -- we can -- you know, why don't we chat about that afterward.

HOFFMAN: Yes, up there.

QUESTIONER: Mischa Thompson with the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe. I'm struck that Senator Durbin's hearing this week, protecting the civil rights of Muslims, was described as a counter to Representative King's radicalization hearings and its potential to be used as a recruitment tool by extremists. And I was wondering if you could talk more about whether support of international human rights commitments, including anti-discrimination and religious freedom commitments, and civil rights and inclusive democracies at home, are part of your multi-pronged strategy.

If so, I was hoping you might be able to list specific examples; and then also how you can promote a strategy when you have high-profile figures in the United States and also abroad pretty much saying that Muslims are unwelcome in Western society.

Thank you.

LUTE: Well, you certainly won't hear anyone in Homeland Security saying that Muslims are unwelcome in American society. The president himself has set the tone and has been quite specific with respect to the message that this administration is sending on this question.

For us in Homeland Security, as we -- when we say we want to build a safe, secure, resilient place where the American way of life can thrive, that way of life is founded on a set of values, on a fundamental belief in freedom, in the value of individual worth. And that extends to all of our citizens.

When I mentioned that we want to break down the barriers that isolate and marginalize communities, I mean it. And we want to reach out to our new immigrants and, as I said, encourage them and give them ways and means to broadly embrace their new society, but equally, to have their society broadly embrace them.

And so this is an ongoing -- there are no 1.6's, there are no single-shot solutions. This is an ongoing effort. It's part of our culture, it's part of who we are to be a welcoming society, but one -- equally it's part of our culture to be a society based on the rule of law and on the order of that law.

QUESTIONER: Charles King, Georgetown University. Are there lessons learned or items that we might take from the experience in dealing with non-Islamic forms of radicalization in the United States? One thinks of the very important work of the Southern Poverty Law Center in dealing with white supremacist groups in the U.S. And if so, what have we learned? If not, what is particular about that adjective, "Islamic," when it comes to radicalization in the U.S.?

LUTE: You know, I'll leave it -- I'll leave it to the academics among you to sort out the lexicon. I'm an operator. And certainly those groups -- again, you know, are there flickers, flashes? You know, are there flames? Are there groups committed to the pursuit of violence? Yes. Are they the concern of local law enforcement? Yes. Are we working with them and understand them -- to understand these groups and prevent their intentions from manifesting themselves violently? Yes.

QUESTIONER: It's interesting to note that both --

HOFFMAN: Please introduce yourself.

QUESTIONER: I'm sorry. (Name inaudible) -- George Mason University. It's interesting to note that both President Bush and President Obama both noted the same threat to the United States. They both stated that the most significant threat to the United States would be the acquisition of a nuclear weapon by a terrorist group. So given that, and given that you're part of Department of Homeland Security, how do you deal with that threat, given the radicalization topic?

LUTE: So it certainly is a threat. I mean, if one can imagine it, that is significant. We deal with the -- or we have the responsibility -- immediately we have the office of -- the Domestic Nuclear Detection office, which is really designed to prevent such an event like that from occurring.

What would be the strategy and approach to preventing terrorists from acquiring nuclear weapons? First and foremost, as the president has said, having some certainty about the nuclear arsenals and materials that are around the world and that might be vulnerable to hostile exploitation and to prevent that from happening, and certainly to take all measures necessary to prevent terrorists from acquiring them or transiting them to the United States or to the West or to any -- frankly, in ways that might imperil any population.

And so it's something that we think about and we have responsibilities for, which we obviously accept.

QUESTIONER: Alan Schlaifer, Wharton School Club. Given the huge upsurge in digital devices -- our cell phones, our smartphones, iPads and other computers, in the face of the WikiLeaks situation, where a relatively low-level employee exposed massive amounts of documents, where do we stand in meeting your goal of cybersecurity?

LUTE: I spend a lot of time on the question of cybersecurity. There are really only two challenges -- securing our identities and securing our information. The rest, as they say, is commentary. (Laughter.)

But again, we can't -- we can't do this alone. We are working together in -- I mean, there are things I could talk to you about about the fielding of cybersecurity equipment in the dot-gov space. There are things I could talk to you about in working with the critical infrastructure in the lead agencies in this country, working with the Department of Defense, obviously, very closely, Department of Justice, to ensure that we can make progress in securing our identities and our information.

What's our basic theory of the case? Our basic theory of the case is that there is no single-point solution; that this is going to require a broadly distributed system of self-help, where machines and users can activate defenses, supported by smart networks who can recognize, identify and (cabin off ?) hostile signatures, alert the rest of us that trouble is afoot and act at network speed.

All of what I just said in the sentence will probably take two or three years, and so both the problems that we will have and the technology that we'll have to deal with those problems in two or three years haven't been invented yet. But this is something that Homeland Security is very much at the leading edge of government on.


QUESTIONER: Scott Helfstein, West Point's Combating Terrorism Center.

LUTE: Hello.

QUESTIONER: Thank you for your remarks today, ma'am.

I'm curious. We talked quite a bit about identifying negative trends as they occurred -- the "See Something, Say Something" -- before we get to a critical level. I'm curious what the department's role is in preventing that from even getting to bad things seem to be afoot. So what is the role in sort of the Prevent strategy, whether we call it a counter-narrative or a counter-radicalization? Is there a role for the department to play in that regard?

LUTE: Well, when I was -- when I was working on the Carnegie Commission on Preventing Deadly Conflict, I spent a lot of time thinking about this problem. You know, I began my career as a soldier. I wrote my doctoral dissertation on how wars end. I spent a lot of time thinking about how you might prevent the emergence of mass violence, and I spent a lot of time as a peacekeeper. I'm thinking about peace-building -- so have walked this circle of violent conflict.

And a lot of people a lot smarter than me, including the guy I'm sharing the stage with right now, have much smarter answers to your question. People used to say: How do you prevent deadly conflict? What do you need to do? What's the sentence? You want the sentence? The sentence is: Educate young women, employ young men. That's the sentence.

Is that the answer? I don't think so. It's not entirely the answer. Or if it is, there's a lot that goes into educating young women and employing young men. There's a lot we know about the high-payoff interventions with adolescent girls, for example. It is the high-payoff intervention for us as a -- as a global society. There's a lot we know about getting to young men. What's the right age? It's between 7 and 9, they say, when you really want to influence the choices that they're going to make later in life. It's really about then when you begin to shape their world view, their understanding; create their sense of opportunities, entitlement and hope.

How do we prevent the potential terrorist? There's -- for every individual one, there's an individual story, but there is a counter-narrative. What al-Qaida and other terrorist groups are trying to do is create a sense of community, a sense of belonging, a sense of purpose and meaning. It's the wrong purpose, it's the wrong community, it's the wrong belonging and meaning. And counter-narrative -- living the American way of life, making this a safe, secure, resilient place where all of us can pursue it -- is going to be key to what this department does every day in preventing the emergence of violent extremism.


QUESTIONER: Hi. My name is Andy Polk, with Congresswoman Sue Myrick's office.

Thanks so much for coming today, and thank you for your work, because we all understand it's very difficult work. The question is, we've been talking a lot today about Muslim communities and law enforcement communities. We haven't really talked much about local thought leaders, be it, you know, journalists or school teachers or local mayors.

If you look at the Dutch system, what they did was when they set up their national counter-radicalization strategy it was pushed from the bottom up. So local mayors went to the Dutch national government and said: We need help with this issue. I feel like today in America we're kind of seeing a top-down approach, to where we're pushing it down. And I'm wondering what kind of resistance you're getting on this, what kind of response you're getting, especially with tight budgets and priorities on other issues.

LUTE: So that's what I mean when I say homeland security is a bottom-up phenomenon. We are all about the states, the municipalities, the communities. And our role is to help create a responsible and responsive federal piece of the puzzle. But we by no means think we have all the answers. We believe in community-based policing, we believe in the power of community leaders of all -- in all sectors of life. And we have and we are building robust dialogues with all of them on all of these questions.

Our Civil Rights/Civil Liberties Office, for example, is out there every single day, meeting with them, taking with them, understanding not only the grievances that they have, but the frustrations and opportunities -- not because the solutions lie within the Department of Homeland Security; they usually don't. But to provide a forum for convening advocacy along the lines that the president and the secretary certainly have spoken about publicly numerous times. And that's the aim that we're trying to pursue: precisely that joining of local knowledge and local sense of responsibility with additional knowledge, best practice, training and opportunities to sustain that over the long term.

HOFFMAN: Yes, the woman in the back.

QUESTIONER: Nancy Bearg, from Project on National Security Reform in George Washington University.

LUTE: Nancy, hi.

QUESTIONER: Hi, Jane. I was glad to hear you use the term "unity of effort," and talking about horizontal and vertical efforts. And you've addressed this to some extent, but I wanted to ask what do you need in this regard? How is that going, in terms of the U.S. -- the federal government and the efforts with the states? Are there particularly good practices that you're instituting, such as intergovernmental teams or special teams or whatever? But are there things you need that would help you enhance this further?

LUTE: So we meet at a federal level, at the interagency level, all the time, and share what each of us happen to be doing with the constituencies with which we normally interact on a day-to-day level. And here it's important to realize that this is not just the security agencies coming together. You know, I've mentioned Health and Human Services. For example, the Department of Education; they have liaisons and relationships, and bringing their understanding. You know, what is it that we can bring into the schools, for example, to equip people with the knowledge, information and awareness that they need, to be alert for signs? Again, our focus is on the community level, both to break down the barriers and to strengthen the hand of local law enforcement, capitalizing on their extraordinary ability to prevent violent crime.

New ideas are coming in every day, and so there are many portals and opportunities to bring that into the mix. We've met with mayors, and we're going to continue to do that, both to understand the problem as they understand it and to see the needs that they have at the local level. It's very much coming back to this question about, you know, bottom-driven or driven from the ground up -- very much a feature of how we're approaching this.

HOFFMAN: Time for one last question. I'm going to break, then -- probably dangerously -- with CFR protocol, and ask it -- (laughter) -- because I've been dying to ask someone in authority this question.

We've just recently had the fifth issue of Inspire magazine, and in your opinion, is this something that really is a revolution in terrorist communications, or are we getting needlessly spun up because it's in the English language and we can understand it?

LUTE: So I'd -- you know, any time we see this level and kind of appeal, with this kind of a message -- any time? Is this the first time? Is this the first time more of us are paying attention? There's no question it's slick, it's hip, it's connecting at a level with the kind of granularity and information that can lead and encourage people to pursue those means. It's -- is it dangerous? Yes. But we've confronted dangerous literature before in this country, and not panicked.

I have a great deal of faith in the American people. It's an -- we are extraordinary. I've spent the 15 years sort of before I came back into government virtually on the outside, looking in. We are an extraordinary society and an extraordinary nation. And I am betting on us. I always will.

HOFFMAN: Thank you deputy secretary. I had -- in introducing you, I had left out deliberately the most important element in your very impressive vitae, and that's you're a graduate of Georgetown University -- sadly, not the School of Foreign Service, but the Law Center. (Laughter.)

LUTE: (Laughs.)

HOFFMAN: And you've acquitted yourself extremely well and brought great honor to the alma mater. Thank you very much.

LUTE: Thank you. Thank you. (Applause.)











Top Stories on CFR

Election 2024

The Ohio senator is Donald Trump’s choice as his running mate for the 2024 presidential election.

Election 2024

After a shooting that injured former President Donald Trump and killed a spectator at a campaign rally, leaders of both parties must unite behind efforts to calm and stabilize the political climate.

Immigration and Migration