Counterterrorism Official to Oversee DHS Intelligence Office

  • John D. Cohen to lead Intelligence and Analysis Office
  • Biden hasn’t picked nominee for under secretary role

The Department of Homeland Security’s counterterrorism coordinator is taking on a broader role as head of the agency’s intelligence office.

John D. Cohen will lead DHS’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis temporarily until President Joe Biden nominates an under secretary for the role. The office, charged with analyzing security threats and issuing warnings, drew criticism from lawmakers for failing to issue a threat assessment ahead of the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

“I am confident John will continue to serve our Department with the same commitment to excellence, dedication to mission, and leadership he has demonstrated throughout his distinguished career,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said Friday in a letter to agency staff.

Photo: Paul J. Richards/AFP via Getty Images
The Department of Homeland Security logo.

In his new role, Cohen will oversee the office charged with gathering intelligence about potential U.S. security threats and alerting state, local, tribal, and territorial governments, as well as the private sector.

In a recent Washington Institute for Near East Policy event, Cohen outlined the Biden administration’s strategy for countering domestic terrorism. He stressed that DHS is mindful of civil liberties concerns and wants to identify violent actors, “not police thought.” Cohen served as acting head of Intelligence and Analysis during the Obama administration.

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Melissa Smislova, the current acting head of Intelligence and Analysis, will now return to a senior role in the division. Smislova, a career official, appeared on Capitol Hill in March to answer questions about why the office didn’t issue a threat assessment ahead of Jan. 6.

Mayorkas also announced Friday that senior national security counselor Samantha Vinograd will become an acting assistant secretary in DHS’s Office of Strategy, Policy, and Plans, where she will work on counterterrorism and threat prevention.

To contact the reporter on this story: Ellen M. Gilmer in Washington at egilmer@bloombergindustry.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Sarah Babbage at sbabbage@bgov.com; Bennett Roth at broth@bgov.com

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