WASHINGTON, May 10 (UPI) -- The leader of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security said Sunday that a "new phase" in the war on terror has emerged in the last few years -- and it's one authorities have so far found to be quite difficult to combat.
In an interview with ABC News' This Week, DHS secretary Jeh Johnson said although defense forces have made significant strides fighting global terror, a dangerous new supplemental front has presented them with a major challenge.
"The so-called 'lone wolf' could strike at any moment," he said. "We are very definitely in a new environment, because of ISIL's effective use of social media, the Internet, which has the ability to reach into the homeland and possibly inspire others."
The DHS secretary said federal authorities are now interacting more with local-level law enforcement and community leaders, believing it's a critical requirement in fighting the advance of unorganized, home-grown terrorism.
"I saw other groups have called for attacks on government installations, military installations, which is why we have ramped up our federal protective service at federal buildings around the country -- and why the military, the Department of Defense, is taking action itself," Johnson said. "These are prudent steps ... in a time when the public and law enforcement and our government needs to be vigilant."
"Every event, every attempted event, is very definitely a lesson learned," he added. "Since 9/11, we've come a long way."
Johnson emphasized the importance of dissuading such domestic "lone wolves" and said the most effective way to accomplish that is influence from local and religious communities and social media -- not state authorities.
"A lot of the counter narrative needs to come from within the community. And so when I meet with community leaders, I am asking them, 'what are we doing to counter this narrative?'" he said, noting that Islamic radicals have so far been wildly successful recruiting or inspiring terror via social media channels.
"It is slick. It is effective," Johnson explained. "But we need to get the message out, and that's not necessarily a government objective ... It has to come from within the community."
Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., has called the Obama administration's efforts at combating terror via social media "laughable" -- saying the feds are using antiquated and grossly ineffective media tactics to propagandize terrorists, while their enemies are scoring consistent victories with clever new media strategies.
Booker said the government's official answer to tweeting terrorists, called "Think Again, Turn Away," is being badly outgunned by Twitter-savvy Islamic radicals.
"If you know anything about social media, then one of the things you should look at is the engagement of people on our social media feeds, and it's laughable," Booker said.
"We are getting creamed on social media, not just by ISIS but Russia, Iran and Syria," the New America Foundation analyst Peter Bergen said. "We don't do propaganda well because we have principles in terms of truth and fairness that they do not."
Secretary Johnson, though, doubts that the federal government can match the Islamic State's success on social channels.
"[Social influence] has to come from Islamic leaders, who frankly can talk the language better than the federal government can," he said. "When I meet with community leaders, Islamic leaders, that is one of the things that we urge them to do. Some have began it. We have seen some good progress, but there is a lot more that can be done."
Muslim clerics, Johnson noted, probably hold a lot of influence that could be a culture changer in the ongoing effort to avert sudden, unexpected strikes within U.S. borders.
Right now, U.S. officials have no formula yet for wiping out extremist influence online -- but Booker has suggested a strange, potentially helpful weapon: Trolling terrorists. "Trolling" is an Internet term for communicating online, typically on message boards, with the intent to stir controversy or draw ire from other posters.
Booker believes terrorists' success online owes partly to their clever "memes" -- photographs of various people or things with a humorous caption overlying the image.
"I know something about memes," he said. "Look at their fancy memes compared to what we're not doing."