Cambridge, Mass. (CBS DC) — Delivering a speech at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government on Tuesday, White House Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Adviser Lisa Monaco said that local communities have to be aware of terrorist threats where the government cannot, noting that parents should watch for “sudden personality changes in their children at home.”
In the speech at the Harvard Kennedy School Forum entitled, “Countering Violent Extremism and the Power of Community,” Monaco made mention of the Boston Marathon bombings anniversary and the Kansas shootings at Jewish community complexes.
“President Obama has been laser-focused on making sure we use all the elements of our national power to protect Americans, including developing the first government-wide strategy to prevent violent extremism in the United States,” said Monaco, in a transcript made available by the White House. “At the same time, we recognize that there are limits to what the federal government can do.”
Monaco continued, saying that local communities have to share some responsibility in awareness of possible terrorist threats within the U.S.
“Local communities are the most powerful asset we have in the struggle against violence and violent extremism,” said Monaco. “We’ve crunched the data on this. In the more than 80 percent of cases involving homegrown violent extremists, people in the community—whether peers or family members or authority figures or even strangers—had observed warning signs a person was becoming radicalized to violence.”
Monaco said that many of these warning signs are ignored, and that local communities and parents should be more wary of problems developing domestically. She listed a series of behaviors that may indicate a growing threat.
“Parents might see sudden personality changes in their children at home—becoming confrontational. Religious leaders might notice unexpected clashes over ideological differences. Teachers might hear a student expressing an interest in traveling to a conflict zone overseas. Or friends might notice a new interest in watching or sharing violent material.”
“The government is rarely in position to observe these early signals, so we need to do more to help communities understand the warning signs, and then work together to intervene before an incident can occur.”
Monaco said that in addition to citizen alertness, the Department of Homeland Security is increasing its partnerships across the country and making hundreds of millions of dollars in grant money available annually to local law enforcement to help improve anti-terrorism security at the municipal and county level.