US security response to Paris attacks likely can't stop ISIS

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Police in the District of Columbia and elsewhere have stepped up security in and around government buildings, landmarks and transportation hubs after an offshoot of the Islamic State group reportedly released a video saying it it will carry out a Paris-style attack on the nation's capital.

Metro Transit Police in the District have increased K9 sweeps of the subway system for explosives, and U.S. Capitol Police have issued a statement saying the department now has a " heightened security posture." The New York Police Department has also bolstered security, adding 500 more officers and eight K9 units, according to a statement. More than 100 counter-terrorism officers are on unit at all times, the department says.

The moves are representative of those being taken by departments in cities across the U.S. that are surely considering whether they may become the next site of a high-profile attack instigated by the Islamic State group. But while those tasked with protecting the homeland worry an attack is inevitable, they fear the U.S. preoccupation with stopping another Sept. 11 has blinded it to strikes on other much more vulnerable and potentially devastating "soft targets," which in the Paris attacks included restaurants, a concert hall and a sports arena.

Former special agent Paul Fennewald, a bomb and explosives expert with the FBI for 23 years, told U.S. News in February about troubling and widespread lapses between federal security agencies like the FBI that are able to gather threat intelligence and the state and local law enforcement departments that can best apply that kind of information.

See photos of heightened security in New York City:

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New York steps up security after Paris/Brussels attacks
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US security response to Paris attacks likely can't stop ISIS
A NYPD officer stands guard inside the Times Square subway station in New York on March 22, 2016, following a series of bombings claimed by the Islamic State group in Brussels, Belgium. Airports across Europe swiftly boosted security, while across the Atlantic, New York and Washington ordered security personnel to key areas. / AFP / EDUARDO MUNOZ (Photo credit should read EDUARDO MUNOZ/AFP/Getty Images)
New York Police Commissioner William Bratton (2nd-L) speaks to the media next to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (C) in New York, March 22, 2016, following a series of bombings claimed by the Islamic State group in Brussels, Belgium. Airports across Europe swiftly boosted security, while across the Atlantic, New York and Washington ordered security personnel to key areas. / AFP / EDUARDO MUNOZ (Photo credit should read EDUARDO MUNOZ/AFP/Getty Images)
UNION SQUARE PARK, NEW YORK, NY, UNITED STATES - 2016/03/22: In solidarity with the Belgian people, NYC residents held a candlelight vigil in Union Square Park to commemorate the victims of the bomb attacks in Brussels which claimed at least 30 lives and wounded over two hundred. (Photo by Albin Lohr-Jones/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio (C )walks inside Times Square subway station secured by police March 22, 2016, as securiy measures are tightened following a series of bombings claimed by the Islamic State group at the airport and a metro train in Brussels, Belgium, killing around 35 people in the latest attack to bring carnage to the heart of Europe. Airports across Europe swiftly boosted security, while across the Atlantic, New York and Washington ordered security personnel to key areas. / AFP / EDUARDO MUNOZ (Photo credit should read EDUARDO MUNOZ/AFP/Getty Images)
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio (2nd-L) speaks with police officers on guard in the Times Square subway station in New York, March 22, 2016, as securiy measures have been tightened following a series of bombings claimed by the Islamic State group at the airport and a metro train in Brussels, Belgium, killing around 35 people in the latest attack to bring carnage to the heart of Europe. Airports across Europe swiftly boosted security, while across the Atlantic, New York and Washington ordered security personnel to key areas. / AFP / EDUARDO MUNOZ (Photo credit should read EDUARDO MUNOZ/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 22: Heavily armed police patrol the streets in lower Manhattan following a heightened terror alert after attacks in the Belgian capital of Brussels on March 22, 2016 in New York City. Dozens are thought to have been killed after numerous bombs were set off at the Brussels airport and Metro. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 22: Heavily armed police patrol the streets in lower Manhattan following a heightened terror alert after attacks in the Belgian capital of Brussels on March 22, 2016 in New York City. Dozens are thought to have been killed after numerous bombs were set off at the Brussels airport and Metro. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 22: Heavily armed police patrol the streets in lower Manhattan following a heightened terror alert after attacks in the Belgian capital of Brussels on March 22, 2016 in New York City. Dozens are thought to be killed after numerous bombs were set off at the Brussels airport and Metro. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
A heavily armed New York city police officer with the Strategic Response Group stands guard at the armed forces recruiting center in New York's Times Square, Saturday, Nov. 14, 2015. Police in New York say they've deployed extra units to crowded areas of the city "out of an abundance of caution" in the wake of the attacks in Paris, France. A New York Police Department statement released Friday stressed police have "no indication that the attack has any nexus to New York City." (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
Heavily armed New York city police officers with the Strategic Response Group stand guard in New York's Times Square, Saturday, Nov. 14, 2015. Police in New York say they've deployed extra units to crowded areas of the city "out of an abundance of caution" in the wake of the attacks in Paris, France. A New York Police Department statement released Friday stressed police have "no indication that the attack has any nexus to New York City." (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
Heavily armed New York city police officers with the Strategic Response Group stand guard at the armed forces recruiting center in New York's Times Square, Saturday, Nov. 14, 2015. Police in New York say they've deployed extra units to crowded areas of the city "out of an abundance of caution" in the wake of the attacks in Paris, France. A New York Police Department statement released Friday stressed police have "no indication that the attack has any nexus to New York City." (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
Heavily armed New York city police officers with the Strategic Response Group patrol New York's Times Square, Saturday, Nov. 14, 2015. Police in New York say they've deployed extra units to crowded areas of the city "out of an abundance of caution" in the wake of the attacks in Paris, France. A New York Police Department statement released Friday stressed police have "no indication that the attack has any nexus to New York City." (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
Police officers stand guard in Times Square, Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2015, in New York. The New York Police Department says it's aware of a newly released Islamic State group video showing images of Times Square but says there's no current or specific threat to the city. (AP Photo/Michael Balsamo)
In this photo provided by WNYW Fox 5 NY, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks during a news conference in New York's Times Square, Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2015. The New York Police Department says it's aware of a newly released Islamic State group video showing images of Times Square but says there's no current or specific threat to the city. (WNYW Fox 5 NY via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT; NEW YORK OUT; NEW JERSEY OUT; TELEVISION OUT
NYPD officers stand guard at the 9/11 memorial in New York on November 16, 2015, during a vigil for the victims of the Paris terrorist attacks. A series of coordinated attacks by gunmen and suicide bombers in Paris on November 13 that killed at least 129 people and injured 352 in scenes of carnage at a concert hall, restaurants and the national stadium. AFP PHOTO/JEWEL SAMAD (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 16: The first deployment of the NYPD Critical Command of the Counter-Terrorism Bureau on Randall's Island November 16, 2015 in New York City. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and New York Police Department Commissioner William Bratton announced the formation of the NYPD's new Critical Response Command of the Counter-Terrorism Bureau in order to respond to terrorist threats like the recent attack in Paris. (Photo by Bryan Thomas/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 16: New York Police Department Commissioner William Bratton announces the formation of the NYPD Critical Command of the Counter-Terrorism Bureau on Randall's Island November 16, 2015 in New York City. Following the announcement was the first deployment of the NYPD's new Critical Response Command of the Counter-Terrorism Bureau trained to respond to terrorist threats like the most recent attack in Paris. (Photo by Bryan Thomas/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 16: New York City Police Commissioner William Bratton announces the formation of the NYPD Critical Command of the Counter-Terrorism Bureau on Randall's Island November 16, 2015 in New York City. Following the announcement was the first deployment of the NYPDÃs new Critical Response Command of the Counter-Terrorism Bureau trained to respond to terrorist threats like the most recent attack in Paris. (Photo by Bryan Thomas/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 16: New York Police Department Commissioner William Bratton (right) announces the formation of the NYPD Critical Command of the Counter-Terrorism Bureau on Randall's Island November 16, 2015 in New York City. Following the announcement was the first deployment of the NYPD's new Critical Response Command of the Counter-Terrorism Bureau trained to respond to terrorist threats like the most recent attack in Paris. (Photo by Bryan Thomas/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 16: New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announces the formation of the NYPD Critical Command of the Counter-Terrorism Bureau on Randall's Island November 16, 2015 in New York City. Following the announcement was the first deployment of the NYPD's new Critical Response Command of the Counter-Terrorism Bureau trained to respond to terrorist threats like the most recent attack in Paris. (Photo by Bryan Thomas/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 16: New York Police Department Commissioner William Bratton (right) announces the formation of the NYPD Critical Command of the Counter-Terrorism Bureau, while New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (left) listens, on Randall's Island November 16, 2015 in New York City. Following the announcement was the first deployment of the NYPD's new Critical Response Command of the Counter-Terrorism Bureau trained to respond to terrorist threats like the most recent attack in Paris. (Photo by Bryan Thomas/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 16: The first deployment of the NYPD Critical Command of the Counter-Terrorism Bureau on Randall's Island November 16, 2015 in New York City. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and New York Police Department Commissioner William Bratton announced the formation of the NYPD's new Critical Response Command of the Counter-Terrorism Bureau in order to respond to terrorist threats like the recent attack in Paris. (Photo by Bryan Thomas/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 16: New York City Police officers await the announcement, by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and New York Police Department Commissioner William Bratton, of the formation of the NYPD Critical Command of the Counter-Terrorism Bureau on Randall's Island November 16, 2015 in New York City. Following the announcement was the first deployment of the NYPD's new Critical Response Command of the Counter-Terrorism Bureau trained to respond to terrorist threats like the most recent attack in Paris. (Photo by Bryan Thomas/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 14: A New York Police Department officer stands guard outside of the 9/11 Memorial following a series of terrorist attacks in the French capital on November 14, 2015 in New York City. Security in New York City has increased following the a coordinated assault on Paris which ISIS claimed responsibility for that left at least 120 people killed and over 200 injured, 80 of which seriously. (Photo by Andrew Renneisen/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 14: New York Police Department officers stand guard outside of the 9/11 Memorial following a series of terrorist attacks in the French capital on November 14, 2015 in New York City. Security in New York City has increased following the a coordinated assault on Paris which ISIS claimed responsibility for that left at least 120 people killed and over 200 injured, 80 of which seriously. (Photo by Andrew Renneisen/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 16: New York City Police officers await the announcement, by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and New York Police Department Commissioner William Bratton, of the formation of the NYPD Critical Command of the Counter-Terrorism Bureau on Randall's Island November 16, 2015 in New York City. Following the announcement was the first deployment of the NYPDÃs new Critical Response Command of the Counter-Terrorism Bureau trained to respond to terrorist threats like the most recent attack in Paris. (Photo by Bryan Thomas/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 14: Bomb detection dogs stand with security personnel outside of the 9/11 Memorial following a series of terrorist attacks in the French capital on November 14, 2015 in New York City. Security in New York City has increased following the a coordinated assault on Paris which ISIS claimed responsibility for that left at least 120 people killed and over 200 injured, 80 of which seriously. (Photo by Andrew Renneisen/Getty Images)
New York Police Department (NYPD) officers patrol the subway at Times Square in New York November 14, 2015, the morning after the attacks that killed at least 128 people in Paris. AFP PHOTO / TIMOTHY A. CLARY (Photo credit should read TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)
Commuters make their way through the New York Police Department (NYPD) officers as they gather before they begin to patrol the subway at Times Square in New York November 14, 2015, the morning after the attacks that killed at least 128 people in Paris. AFP PHOTO / TIMOTHY A. CLARY (Photo credit should read TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 14: A police officer patrols the Times Square subway stop with his dog following a series of terrorist attacks in Paris on November 14, 2015 in New York City. Security in New York City has increased following the coordinated assault on Paris which ISIS claimed responsibility for. At least 120 people have been killed and over 200 injured, 80 of which seriously. (Photo by Andrew Renneisen/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 14: Bomb detection dog stands with security personnel outside of the 9/11 Memorial following a series of terrorist attacks in the French capital on November 14, 2015 in New York City. Security in New York City has increased following the a coordinated assault on Paris which ISIS claimed responsibility for that left at least 120 people killed and over 200 injured, 80 of which seriously. (Photo by Andrew Renneisen/Getty Images)
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The breakdown in communication still has not been addressed, says Fennewald, who now advises public institutions in Missouri on safety after serving as a homeland security coordinator there. The Paris attacks only further highlight U.S. vulnerability.

"I full on expect it to happen here," he says.

Some French citizens who facilitated the attacks in Paris reportedly became radicalized by the Islamic State group's propaganda and international outreach. The plotters were able to effectively plan and launch the strike by staging in neighboring Belgium, police suspect, and by taking advantage of Europe's open borders. The rates of young people attempting to travel to Syria to join the Islamic State group's so-called caliphate far exceed the resources the FBI and other law enforcement agencies have to investigate them, and a strategy based around reacting to these kinds of reports can only fail.

"We're banking on the FBI being able to interdict themselves before a kid gets on a plane, then straps a bomb on. We need to get ahead of that," Fennewald says.
American domestic security officials, however, all the way up to President Barack Obama are acting as though the attack in Paris, for which the Islamic State group claimed responsibility, has had little if any effect on the U.S.

And for the most part, it hasn't.

"It is business as usual," says former FBI special agent Clint van Zandt, who previously worked in the bureau's Behavioral Science Unit. Counter-terrorism agencies would only react differently if there were active intelligence of another impending attack, he says, which government officials say is not the case now. "Whether France got hit three days ago or not, we know America is high on the list of ISIS, and we know we have to be leaning forward in the saddle 24 hours a day."

Indeed, Obama stymied repeated inquiries during a press conference in Turkey early Monday about how the devastating, coordinated attack that killed at least 129 people in Paris would change U.S. policy, either in its military efforts in Iraq and Syria or in the homeland.

He countered that the U.S. strategy is succeeding in defeating the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS, ISIL or regionally as "Daesh."

"Every day we have threat streams coming through the intelligence transom," the president said. "The concerns about potential ISIL attacks in the West have been there for over a year now, and they come through periodically."

A Homeland Security official speaking on the condition of anonymity repeated that no credible threats exist and confirmed that nothing has changed at the department, created in the wake of the 2001 terror attacks to coordinate U.S. governmental efforts to prevent and manage terrorist threats. It will continue to work with foreign partners and takes seriously threats by the Islamic State group to attack Western targets, the official says, and will adjust security measures as necessary.

National Guard troops working with local police at New York City transportation hubs stepped up their presence over the weekend as a part of its Joint Task Force Empire Shield that has been in place since 2001, and a rotation of National Guard units continues to be based in the District of Columbia to help with air defense. A spokesman for the National Guard Bureau told The Military Times there are currently no plans to expand those missions in the wake of the Paris attacks.

Other senior government advisers believe attacks would have to occur much more frequently and on a greater scale to elicit any change in U.S. strategy. A pattern has emerged over the last generation of high-profile terrorist strikes that kill dozens to hundreds, followed by a year or two without incident. This was true for previous terrorist attacks in places such as London in 2005, Mumbai in 2008 and then Paris last week.

"If ISIS were to make Paris look like Baghdad in 2006, you'd have a different reaction from people," says Stephen Biddle, who previously advised Gens. David Petraeus and Stanley McChrystal during the Iraq War.

And the Islamic State group has an incentive against ramping up these strikes too quickly.

"[ISIS leaders] are worried about their recruitment profile and their donation profile, and they're trying to combat the perception that they're stalemated," Biddle says. "If anything like this sort of argument turns out to be what's going on with them, then what they want is an occasional spectacular [attack]. They don't want steady attrition that would motivate someone to send 200,000 troops."

But that doesn't mean the Islamic State group won't continue trying to attack the U.S.

"They've threatened that in the past, but I think it's a logical escalation for them to do," says van Zandt. "If one wants to expand their base of recruits, one of the ways you do it is showing success."

Copyright 2015 U.S. News & World Report

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