DHS adds top counterterrorism intelligence official to leadership team


Department of Homeland and Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas announced a new counterterrorism intelligence official to the department’s senior leadership team, over six months after the Jan. 6 Capitol riots.

Mayorkas said in a Friday announcement to DHS staff that John Cohen, coordinator for counterterrorism at DHS, will now also serve as acting head for the Office of Intelligence and Analysis (I&A).

“John has over three decades of experience in law enforcement, counterintelligence, and homeland security,” Mayorkas said in the Friday memo. “He previously served as the Acting Under Secretary and Principal Deputy Under Secretary of I&A and as Counterterrorism Coordinator for DHS during the Obama-Biden Administration.”

DHS confirmed the announcement of Cohen’s appointment to Fox News Friday. 

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Cohen also served as senior expert on global threats for the Argonne National Laboratory and as an adjunct professor at Georgetown University’s Security Studies Program.

“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,” Mayorkas wrote.

The changes come over six months after the Jan. 6 Capitol riots for which DHS came under scrutiny for failing to inform other departments of threats being made to the Capitol, as The Wall Street Journal first reported.

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Melissa Smislova — an intelligence officer for 35 years — has been leading the I&A office for several months, according to the Journal, and will return to her position as deputy under secretary for Intelligence Enterprise Readiness at I&A, “where she will be working closely with John and our Department’s leadership to advance I&A’s strategic priorities and mission,” the DHS secretary said. 

Mayorkas also announced that Samantha Vinograd, senior counselor for national security at DHS and former CNN security analyst, will serve as acting assistant secretary for counterterrorism and threat prevention within the department’s Office of Strategy, Policy and Plans, while continuing to serve as senior counselor for national security. 

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The White House National Security Council (NSC) in June announced its strategy for countering domestic terrorism after the intelligence community in March released its comprehensive threat assessment, which found that domestic violent extremism posed a “heightened threat” in 2021. President Biden, in January, tasked his administration with the review. 

The administration’s strategy is set to improve information sharing throughout law enforcement at the federal, state, local, tribal and territorial levels, and, at times, with private sector partners. 

Fox News’ Brooke Singman contributed to this report.

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