Terror at Home: We Are Smarter Than We Think
Fear mongering media outlets have convinced many that we are losing the war on terror at home. The truth is, however, that we are doing quite well.
According to the October Terror Threat Snapshot, released by the Majority Staff of the Homeland Security Committee, US authorities have arrested 109 suspects in ISIS related incidences since 2014.
The report states, “These individuals had, among other acts: plotted attacks; attempted to join ISIS in Iraq and Syria (or facilitated others’ travel); provided money, equipment, and weapons to ISIS; and falsified statements to federal authorities. Eight ISIS-linked terrorists have been killed while carrying out five separate attacks in California, Florida, Massachusetts, Texas, and Minnesota.”
Currently, there are over 1,000 active FBI investigations into homegrown terrorism according to Director James Comey. He stated that over 80 percent of those are ISIS related. Since September 11, 2001, there have been at least 171 homegrown jihadist plots in the United States, including attempts to join terrorist groups overseas and execute attacks at home. More than 86 percent of these cases have occurred or been uncovered since 2009.
There is a lot of “behind the scenes” action, resulting in statistics like those above, that the general public rarely hears about in mainstream media.
Tactics such as leveraging the criminal justice system, seizing financial assets, gathering intelligence, covert operations, restricting movement of suspected terrorists, monitoring social media, and enhanced border restrictions and rules are all tools which aid in capturing US and foreign jihadists. As a result of these methods, fighters traveling into Syria and Iraq (at a one-time high of 2,000 monthly) have now fallen to as few as 50 per month.
U.S. efforts to counteract ISIS messaging online have proven an effective way to deter recruitment. ISIS has social media experts, and even hosts real-time Q & A sessions online where recruiters answer questions such as, “How do I travel, undetected, from the US to Syria?” Radical extremists post videos online, encouraging young people who have felt rejected by American society to take up Jihad.
According to the Terror Snapshot, here are some of the actions and arrests during this past September which have stopped some of these radicalized individuals from acting:
- September 8: Marie Castelli, a 56-year-old U.S. citizen and Muslim convert from Maysville, Kentucky, was arrested after issuing violent threats and lying to federal authorities. Castelli promoted ISIS propaganda through social media.
- September 10: An ISIS-linked cyber hacking group released a “kill list” with information about real estate professionals in the United States and encouraged individuals to locate and attack them.
- September 18: Ahmad Khan Rahami, a 28-year-old U.S. citizen who was born in Afghanistan and is a resident of Elizabeth, New Jersey, was arrested after launching a bombing campaign targeting multiple locations in New York and New Jersey. Rahami was carrying a journal citing ISIS’s call for its followers in the West to launch attacks at home.
- September 18: Dahir Adan, a 20-year-old U.S. citizen living in St. Cloud, Minnesota, attacked nearly a dozen people with a knife at a mall. Adan was born to a Somali family in Kenya before immigrating to the United States. Adan reportedly asked victims during his stabbing spree at a mall in Minnesota if they were Muslim. ISIS’s primary media arm claimed Adan was an ISIS supporter shortly after the attack.
- September 30: Nelash Mohamed Das, a 24-year-old Bangladeshi citizen who has been living in Maryland as a legal permanent resident, was arrested after he plotted to kill a member of the U.S. military on behalf of ISIS.
Authorities know that roughly 90 percent of ISIS fanatics charged in the US are male and an average of 26.3 years of age. We are learning how to find these high risk individuals and arrest them. Almost 30 percent of those arrested were planning ISIS related attacks.
In a few instances, individuals known to be associated with terrorist groups have unsuccessfully attempted to gain admittance to the US through the refugee program. Over the past fiscal year, the Obama Administration has let almost 13,000 refugees through our borders and planned to allow in even more. By comparison, 1.3 million refugees arrived in Europe during that same time period. Trump has indicated that he intends to reduce these numbers drastically.
Although the US has a highly rigorous screening process for incoming refugees (Consuming 18 – 24 months for each person) the Terror Snapshot states that, “American law enforcement and intelligence officials have repeatedly indicated that the U.S. lacks reliable and credible intelligence to properly vet and screen potential Syrian refugees.”
President-Elect Trump has repeatedly indicated that he plans to improve this process with what he calls "extreme vetting."
ISIS has proven to be a challenger unlike anything the US has previously faced. Their ability to use the internet and social media to reach high risk individuals and radicalize them to the ISIS cause has created a threat that is difficult to combat. Our intelligence agencies continue to learn and grow, having great, if often unrecognized, successes in protecting the American people.