After conducting airstrikes this past weekend against ISIS targets in Syria, the Pentagon announced it would also be going after another, as they described it, "imminent" threat to the United States: the Khorasan Group, an al-Qaeda splinter cell virtually unknown to the American public before the announcement.

The urgency of the description "imminent threat" was reminiscent of past escalations of the now-defunct color-coded terror alert system, intended to communicate to the American public when it was in immediate danger. But homeland security expert and former gubernatorial candidate Juliette Kayyem says we should think about the word "imminent," in this case, in a different way. 

"One way I interpret 'imminence' in this instance is we either had human assets close to Khorasan, meaning spies or people we turned, terrorists we were paying to get information from, or foreign intelligence agencies did," Kayyem said on Boston Public Radio.

"We knew what was about to happen was we were going to start bombing ISIS, and our access to intelligence was going to be probably destroyed."

Kayyem suggested that the Administration's focus on Khorasan was about routing the group's ability to carry out future attacks -- not, necessarily, that those attacks had already been planned. "Imminency also should be taken to mean that here is an organization that has been planning, it has the means, which is new, has certainly the personnel to plan something," she said, "and imminently we were about to lose access to them."

Kayyem also insisted that any successful military action against the militants would not be a quick or decisive campaign. "The way to look at it is: it's a little bit like Whack-A-Mole. We're going to get them here, and then in another year we're going to get them there," she said.

"It's not pretty, but that's the nature of what we call an asymmetric threat," she continued.

To hear more from homeland security expert Juliette Kayyem -- including her take on stemming the tide of homegrown extremism  -- tune in to the full interview on Boston Public Radio, above.