On Wednesday of this week three of the nation's top law enforcement and intelligence officials, FBI Director James Comey, Director of National Intelligence Nick Rasmussen and DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson, testified before the House Committee on Homeland Security in hearings entitled Worldwide Threats and Homeland Security Challenges.
During the particularly sobering unclassified sessions, each of the three witnesses emphasized the U.S. is now facing more threats, originating in more places and involving more individuals than at any time since the attacks of 9/11. According to Director of National Intelligence Nick Rasmussen, the array of extremist actors around the globe is broader, wider and deeper than at any time in the last 14 years, and the problem is only getting worse, with the Islamic State and al Qaeda both remaining a significant concern, though from different positions in terms of the roles they are playing.
For instance, there is significant concern within the defense and intelligence communities that President Obama's planned drawdown of troops from Afghanistan, in the midst of weakened government stability, could result in a resurgence of the terror organization, which, despite the steady attrition of al Qaeda's senior leaders in S. Asia, still remains a viable and significant threat from elsewhere (see this, this and this)
In terms of the Islamic State, Director Rasmussen indicated that while the world has seen a decrease in the frequency of large-scale, complex plotting efforts that sometimes span several years, we have seen a proliferation of more rapidly evolving threat or plot vectors that emerge simply from an individual being encouraged to take action, then quickly gathering the few resources needed and moving into an operation phase. This so called "flash to bang" ratio is extremely compressed, thus allowing little time for traditional law enforcement and intelligence tools to disrupt or mitigate potential plots.
FBI Director James Comey's testimony backs up that of the DNI. Director Comey stated that the Islamic State has proven relentless in its violent campaign to rule, and has aggressively promoted its hateful message, attracting like-minded extremists to include Westerners. To an even greater degree than al Qaeda or other foreign terrorist organizations, ISIL has persistently used the Internet to communicate. From a homeland perspective, it is the Islamic State’s widespread reach through the Internet and social media which is most concerning as they have aggressively employed this technology for its nefarious strategy. ISIL blends traditional media platforms, glossy photos, in-depth articles, and social media campaigns that can go viral in a matter of seconds.
Director Comey goes on to state that in recent months ISIL released a video, via social media, reiterating the group’s encouragement of lone offender attacks in Western countries, specifically advocating for attacks against soldiers and law enforcement, intelligence community members, and government personnel. Several incidents have occurred in the United States and Europe over the last few months that indicate this “call to arms” has resonated among ISIL supporters and sympathizers.
NO WAY TO VET THE 'REFUGEES'
Of particular importance was the warning message all three witnesses delivered regarding President Obama's decision, despite America's unique security situation, to import a minimum of 10,000 Syrian refugees into the country during this fiscal year. According to FBI Director Comey, they have no ability to vet them through the databases it uses to determine if they have ties to terrorism.
“We can only query against that which we have collected, and so if someone has never made a ripple in the pond in Syria in a way that would get their identity or their interests reflected in our database, we can query our database til the cows come home, but … there’ll be nothing show up, because we have no record on that person.”
Director Comey went onto say that the U.S. had a decade’s worth of information with which to vet Iraqi refugees because of the United States’ work there.
We remind readers that as far back as February of this year, AlertsUSA Threat Journal was warning of this particular problem. How do you vet refugees from a particular country when you are receiving no assistance from that government, and in particular, one which you are actively working to topple, such as is the case of Syrian President Bashir Assad?
And as we also reported back in January, there are already intelligence reports that Islamic State fighters posing as Syrian refugees have already entered Europe.
APPROX 900 DOMESTIC TERROR INVESTIGATIONS UNDERWAY
Late this week during a presentation before intelligence officials, FBI Director James Comey revealed that federal authorities have an estimated 900 active investigations underway against suspected Islamic State-inspired operatives and other home-grown violent extremists across the country. During a press event earlier in the week, Director Comey stated that their investigations extend into all 50 states.
House Homeland Security Committee Hearings
October 21, 2015
WORLDWIDE THREATS AND
HOMELAND SECURITY CHALLENGES
These hearings examined the growing threat America and the West face from ISIS and other terrorist groups, the actions of Russia and Iran in Syria, the impact of the refugee crisis in Europe on America’s security, homegrown terrorism, cybersecurity, and other threats to the homeland.
AlertsUSA continues to closely monitor the overall domestic and international terrorism threat environment and will immediately notify service subscribers of new alerts, warnings and advisories or any developments which signal a change the overall threat picture for American citizens as events warrant.