WASHINGTON, January 17 (Sputnik) — US citizens’ privacy will be protected even as the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) prepares additional efforts to counter the “new phase” in the threat of global terrorism, DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson told Sputnik on Friday.
“The thing that is the greatest strength in our country is…our values in our privacy, our freedom to associate,” Johnson told Sputnik when asked about the agency's planned response to the renewed global terror threat. “Those [values] we have to preserve.”
Asked whether the next phase in US counter-terrorism and intelligence efforts would bring increased infringements on US citizens’ privacy, Johnson explained that homeland security is a balance between ensuring civil liberties and basic security. “It’s striking a balance,” he added.
The DHS and US intelligence community has begun a process of “vertical intelligence sharing” among state and local law enforcement agencies, Johnson explained. Engaging with state and local law enforcement has become an increased priority of DHS, “given the domestic-based nature” of the terrorist threat to the US homeland, the DHS Secretary said.
The US Department of Homeland Security was created in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and quickly became the third largest federal agency.
Since its inception, DHS has come under scrutiny by US civil liberties organizations like the ACLU, Electronic Privacy Information Center and multiple state-based civil liberties groups for allegedly engaging in domestic surveillance.