In responding to the coronavirus, the U.S. should apply lessons learned from past transnational threats—but unfortunately, in important respects, the federal government is moving in the wrong direction.
Lisa Monaco served as Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism from 2013 to 2017. A career federal prosecutor, she previously spent 15 years in the United States Department of Justice, where she served in senior leadership roles including as Assistant Attorney General for National Security from 2011 to 2013 and as Special Counsel and then Chief of Staff to FBI Director Robert Mueller from 2006 to 2009. She is currently Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Center on Law and Security at New York University Law School and Senior Fellow at Harvard University’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.
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Last week, in the deadliest terrorist attack in New York City since 9/11, Sayfullo Saipov turned a nearly mile-long stretch of bike path along Manhattan’s West Side Highway into a killing ground. The attack reflects a terrorism threat that is morphing from the complex, externally directed attack carried out by a network that we saw on 9/11 to violent individuals, inspired online by ISIS and other radical jihadist groups. We built an architecture to prevent another 9/11, but we have a long way to go when it comes to tackling this latest phase of terrorism.
In my twenty years of government service, I have been part of three Presidential transitions. In my experience, it is common for members of an outgoing administration to be unsure—and sometimes skeptical—about the policy direction of the administration that succeeds them. Having spent the last four years as President Obama’s principal advisor on homeland security and counterterrorism, my concerns today are broader than any particular policy.