The CSS Virtual Speaker Series asks security practitioners and scholars to join us via videoconferencing to discuss their areas of expertise. In this video, we feature John Cohen, a former Acting Under-Secretary for Intelligence and Analysis and Counterterrorism Coordinator at DHS with over three decades of experience. He examines how social media and other online tools are used by terrorist organizations, domestic extremist groups, and foreign intelligence services and how law enforcement and national security professionals are adapting their efforts to counter the evolving threat posed by these entities.
Social media and other Internet-based communication platforms influence the way we communicate with others and the way we gather and share information with others across the globe. While these capabilities have brought many positive changes to the global community, they have also influenced the behavior of those who threaten the national security of the United States or engage in illegal activity. As an example, we have experienced mass casualty attacks by individuals who become inspired by extremist materials posted over social media and who in many cases forewarn of their planned attack through their own posts. Foreign intelligence services are increasingly using social media as tool to gather information and recruit operatives and to spread disinformation and propaganda as part of active measure programs targeting the United States, such as that conducted by Russia during the 2016 US Presidential election.
–About the Speaker–
John D. Cohen has over three decades of experience in law enforcement, counter-intelligence, and homeland security. He is currently a Senior Intelligence and Threat Expert for the Argonne National Laboratory and Director of the Rutgers University Center for Critical Intelligence Studies. Previously he served as the Acting Under-Secretary for Intelligence and Analysis (I&A) and Counterterrorism Coordinator for the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS). During his time at DHS, Cohen was a direct adviser to the Secretary and he oversaw the development and implementation of a number of high visibility Department-wide crime prevention, counterterrorism, counter-intelligence and border and transportation security initiatives. Cohen also led the Department’s efforts to establish multi-disciplinary programs focused on: countering violent extremism; preventing and responding to mass casualty/active shooter attacks; improving information sharing; and expanding DHS interactions and collaboration with state and local law enforcement organizations, private sector companies and faith-based organizations.
Previously, Cohen served as the Senior Advisor to the Program Manager for the Information Sharing Environment, Office of the Director of National Intelligence, where he authored and coordinated the implementation of key components of the 2007 White House National Strategy for Information Sharing.
Cohen has an extensive background in homeland security and law enforcement operations and policy development. He was Senior Homeland Security Policy Advisor to a number of State and local officials including Governor Mitt Romney of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and Janet Napolitano, Governor of the State of Arizona. He has worked within the private sector and has held a variety of government positions including: Special Agent, Office of Naval Intelligence; Police Detective and Patrol Officer, City of Gardena, CA; Senior Investigator, House Judiciary Committee, U.S. House of Representatives; and Senior Policy Advisor to the Director, Office of National Drug Control Policy, Executive Office of the President of the United States.