WASHINGTON - D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser is calling for calm, reassuring residents that the nation's capital is prepared to meet the challenge of protecting people from terror attacks, but Homeland Security experts tell FOX 5 there's little that can be done to completely defend the city against a vehicle attack.
Washington is a primary terror target in the world. ISIS has been urging more vehicle and knife attacks during this Ramadan holiday. They're low-tech in nature, but they've become more frequent-- with the most recent happening in London over the weekend.
Bowser said she's fully aware of the constant threat D.C. faces, but she promised "vigilance" in protecting residents and visitors.
"We are the nation's capitol," Bowser said. "We are a symbol of democracy around the world, and we prepare that way each and every day. So there are some things that our Chief of Police Chief of police in partnership with his intelligence gathering, with our federal partners and other law partners will do if the conditions or intelligence suggest that he should."
Security analysts in Washington say unlike Al-Qaeda, which is known for large-scale spectacular attacks, ISIS has changed tactics in 2017-- making it harder to defend against them. The Manchester area bombing shows that Islamic extremist networks can still execute large-scale complicated plots. Experts, though, say ISIS is increasingly calling for operations involving small groups or individuals using cars, trucks and easily-obtainable weapons like knives.
Smaller terror networks leave smaller footprints online-- more so if the terrorist works alone, not communicating with others. In D.C., that makes the job of Homeland Security officials even more difficult. Experts say just look at areas like the National Mall, where you have large, open landscapes packed with tourists and few barriers. David Inserra, Homeland Security analyst at the Heritage Foundation, has studied these issues for years, and he cautions that physical barriers are a last resort, and intelligence is the first line of defense.
"We can try and harden our locations, we can do barriers, we can do those types of things, but a better way to do it is to use intelligence to stop these guys from getting to their targets in the first place," Inserra told FOX 5.
In response to an inquiry from FOX 5 Monday, U.S. Park Police confirmed they are actively collaborating with agency partners on the most current information to safeguard areas of their responsibility, which include the National Mall and monuments. However, to maintain the integrity of their operation, they declined to discuss the specifics on camera.