Transcript: Behind-the-Scenes With Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano

NAPOLITANO: -- into a field in Pennsylvania. Now, what we're seeing are more, you know, send out an individual here, an individual there, maybe not the most sophisticated tradecraft, but in an effort to disrupt to kill, to maim, to disrupt maybe people who want to go shopping or go travel on a bus or a subway or, indeed, still get on an airliner.

And I think the important part to remember there is we are doing everything possible to minimize the risk they will succeed. And it's not just us. It's the FBI. It's other agencies of the federal government.

I mean there is a number of other entities involved. But the part that we should never forget is how strong and resilient we are as a people, as a nation, and that we are not powerless and we are not terrorized by this. We know it's a threat environment. You know, you deal with that, you minimize the risk and you're prepared to come back.

THOMAS: One official I spoke to described al Qaeda as, at 9/11, they were going for these massive sort of scale plots, where you could kill hundreds, if not thousands, of people. But he said the feeling now in the intelligence community is that they want to get on the scoreboard. They want to do something, particularly in the U.S. homeland. Do you share that belief that they are much more willing to do a mid-scale to smaller scale attack just to get on the scoreboard?

NAPOLITANO: Well, I think recent events, as demonstrated by Zazi and Headley would illustrate that again, you know, more smaller scale, individual using perhaps less sophisticated tactics but still the tactics designed to kill innocent people, women -- men, women and children, to interrupt the way of life that we have in the United States.

And that's why it's so important to say, look, we will, throughout the federal government, with state and local law enforcement, you cannot underestimate their activities here, and their importance –to do everything possible that we can to minimize the risk that one of these things is successful.

We'll never lose sight of the fact that we are a strong and resilient country and we will still prevail. I mean our way of life will not be changed.

Abdulmutallab – the "Underwear Bomber"

THOMAS: And the darkest or scariest moment?

NAPOLITANO: We've had several of those, as well. And the more we learn about Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab on Christmas Day, that was a very serious moment.

We have used that as a catalyst to really accelerate the strengthening of airport security in the United States and aviation around the world. But as you know, you peel like an onion and you peel away the facts of what somebody was trying to do, that was a moment.

There have been moments where, you know, we thought we were on the cusp of a major natural disaster and that did not actually happen, but, you know, something we were all leaning forward on.

In this job, you're always leaning forward. You never can kind of sit back in this one.

THOMAS: Going back to Christmas, the one moment where you received a fair amount of criticism was about the comment that "the system works as it should". Any lessons learned from that or was that just a moment where, you know, words were flying and you didn't think it all the way through? Was there any moment learned from that particular incident?

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