ISIS urges homegrown terror attacks against Americans
This week the Senate Homeland Security committee heard testimony from Secretary Jeh Johnson regarding the uptick in homegrown terrorist attacks. He said the nation is facing a phase in which people quickly radicalize and launch simple, but deadly, attacks. Using social media ISIS has urged Muslims worldwide to use any methods to achieve mass killings.
As a result, DHS officials warn that self-radicalized terrorists are looking at “soft targets” like festivals, concerts, outdoor events, sporting events, theme parks and other mass gatherings to pursue simple and achievable attacks.
“I’ve talked repeatedly about how we see the global terrorist threat evolving and the threat to the homeland evolving from terrorist directed attacks to the global threat environment that now includes the inspired attacks of the type you see most recently where an actor is self-radicalized without receiving direct orders from a terrorist organization. As Senator Carper noted he (Ahmad Khan Rahami) spent most of his life here as a US citizen but is inspired by things that he sees in the Internet, social media and the like,” said Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson at a Senate committee hearing.
The likelihood that America will face more terror attacks from lone-wolf terrorists remains high and preventing the next attack will require help from civilians, the nation’s top Homeland Security expert warned. “The nation is facing a phase in which people quickly radicalize and launch simple but deadly attacks before authorities have time to detect them,” Johnson told Senate members.
“If you’re asking how many San Bernardino or Orlando type attacks will we have in the year 2017, no national security, homeland security or law enforcement expert is in a position to quantify it,” Johnson said. “We haven’t ended the scourge, (of) the threat of homegrown violent extremists.”
Also testifying at the hearing was the director of the National Counterterrorism Center, Nicholas Rasmussen, who explained that while ISIS is losing territory in the Middle East, it is bound to strikeout against the West. The top counterterrorism official testified that the world’s army of terrorists is “broader, wider and deeper than any point since 9/11, the day al Qaeda attacked America.”
The White House has cautioned US reporters to tone down their national security rhetoric in an effort to calm fears as the presidential election nears. The top homeland security official also scolded the press for only covering bad news. But White House officials said, “The good news in homeland security is often no news.”
“You can’t say everything is a priority,” Johnson asserted. “You’ve got threats that are high impact, but not necessarily a high probability. Then you’ve got threats that are high probability, but likely, or perhaps, less impact, like a (homegrown violent terrorist) attack, which could involve as many as 50, as many as 10” deaths.
“Even ISIL’s (ISIS) leaders know they’re going to keep losing,” President Obama said to reporters. “In their message to followers, they’re increasingly acknowledging that they may lose Mosul and Raqqa, and ISIL is right … they will lose them. And we’ll keep hitting them and pushing them back and driving them out until they do.”
While the White House is painting a rosier image of the American war efforts abroad, the Intel community paints a dramatically different picture of the ISIS spreading from Syria may create a more difficult enemy in the future.
ISIS supporters reached American shores again a week ago with a pair of attacks in Manhattan and New Jersey. The Afghan-born Muslim, Ahmad Khan Rahami, was arrested and charged with multiple charges after a gunfight with US police. ISIS quickly claimed responsibility and advised in a September 23 message that more attacks were on the way.
The Homeland Security Department’s office of intelligence said, “ISIS is assessing commercial facilities… They (ISIS) is (sic) looking for simple, achievable attacks with an emphasis on economic impact and mass casualties.”
A DHS report reaffirmed that homegrown terrorists are hard to detect. “We face an increased challenge in detecting in-progress plots by individuals or small groups acting quickly and independently or with only tenuous ties to foreign handlers. Preoperational indicators are likely to be difficult to detect; therefore, state, local, tribal, territorial, and private sector partners play a critical role in identifying and reporting suspicious activities and raising the awareness of federal counterterrorism officials.”
Rasmussen emphasized that; “While we’ve seen a decrease in the frequency of large-scale, complex plotting efforts that sometimes span months or years, we’re instead seeing much more rapidly evolving threats, or plot vectors, that emerge quickly or suddenly. And this so-called flash-to-bang ratio, the time between when an individual decides to attack and when an attack actually occurs, the flash-to-bang ratio of this kind of plotting is extremely compressed and allows very little time for law enforcement and intelligence officials to get their arms around a plot.”
The Director of the FBI James Comey also had a similar view on the impending battle against ISIS. “It’s our judgment that ISIS’ capacity and ability today to carry out attacks in Syria and Iraq and abroad has not thus far been significantly diminished. And the tempo of ISIS-linked terrorist attacks and terrorist activity in Europe and other places around the globe is a reminder of that global reach.”
Comey continued to say, “The challenge will be through the fingers of that crush are going to come hundreds of very, very dangerous people. They will not all die on the battlefield, in Syria and Iraq. There will be a terrorist diaspora sometime in the next two to five years like we’ve never seen before.”
He added: “We must prepare ourselves and our allies, especially in Western Europe, to confront that threat. Because when ISIL is reduced to an insurgency and those killers flow out, they will try to come to Western Europe and try to come here to kill innocent people.”
In the end, the Secretary of DHS said it was nearly impossible to determine when the next terror attacks will take place. Johnson emphasized the threat of a biological attack, mass shooting, dirty bomb attack, the poisoning of America’s food supply are real. He said the agency must prioritize all these potential terror threats but they only have to be wrong once and sometimes the bad guys get lucky.
“People ask me, ‘What keeps you up at night?’ That is thing number one, the prospect of another home-born violent extremist acquiring a weapon or tool of mass violence and carrying out an attack somewhere here in the homeland,” Johnson said. “That doesn’t always get reported. Bad news is front page news, but the good news in homeland security is often no news.”
Rasmussen said intelligence officials have been predicting the homeland threat would metastasize as ISIS suffered losses on the battlefield. “It’s not surprising. It puts us in a period of sustained vulnerability that I don’t think any of us are comfortable with. But I think it’s a reality,” he concluded.
Remember, if you see something, say something, vigilance is a national responsibility.