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Experts, Lawmakers Warn of Long-Term ISIS Threat

Experts, Lawmakers Warn of Long-Term ISIS Threat

By Adam O'Neal - September 10, 2014

Several members of Congress, joined by State Department and Homeland Security officials, said Wednesday morning that the terrorist group ISIS does not pose an obvious threat to the United States. However, they pointed to the possibility of threats from Westerners now fighting in Iraq and Syria along with lone-wolf attacks inspired by the group. 

“Terrorists could be just one visa-free flight away from arriving in the United States, bringing with them their skills, and their training, and their ideology, and their commitment to killing Americans,” warned Rep. Candice Miller, a Michigan Republican.

The comments came during a hearing, dubbed “One Flight Away: An Examination of the Threat Posed by ISIS Terrorists With Western Passports,” sponsored by a Homeland Security subcommittee. 

Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee echoed Miller’s concerns, albeit with a caveat:  

“I am not willing to cede the point that ISIS does not represent a threat to the United States,” said the Texas congresswoman. “I did not say ‘imminent.’ I did not say ‘today.’ But I believe this hearing recognizes ISIS is a threat to the United States and the people of the United States.” 

Jackson Lee’s comments were apparently meant to stave off criticism from liberal opponents of military action against ISIS, who note that intelligence sources have not found a specific, credible threat against the United States from the group. 

“The ongoing conflict in Syria has emerged as an unprecedented draw for more than 12,000 foreign fighters, including more than … 100 U.S. persons,” said Jennifer Lasley, a senior official in the DHS’ intelligence and analysis office. 

“Our concern remains that these individuals, if radicalized, could return to their home countries or to the U.S., and use their newly acquired skills to carry out attacks,” she continued. “Although we currently have no credible information to indicate that [the Islamic State] is planning to attack the homeland, we remain concerned in the long term.” 

Lasley later suggested that ISIS could inspire lone-wolf terrorists through its extensive and ongoing social media campaigns, or it could coordinate attacks against the U.S. from the Middle East. 

The Islamic State actively recruits Western fighters, some of whom contribute social media savvy to the organization. The terrorist who beheaded journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff notably spoke with a British accent in videos of the gruesome slayings. 

About one-third of the foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq are believed to come from the West. Dozens have American passports, and many more left European countries to join the group, according to the Los Angeles Times.  

Miller also said that the United States should consider revoking passports of American citizens who fight for ISIS. “We need to reduce their ability to travel to the United States, and I think we need to consider what it will take.” 

President Obama met with top congressional leaders Tuesday and discussed his plan to combat the terrorist group. While the president does not plan to seek congressional authorization for an expanded mission against the Islamic State, he will deliver a prime-time address tonight outlining his strategy for confronting the threat posed by it.

 

The public backs strikes against Sunni insurgents in Iraq and Syria by wide margins, according to a Washington Post-ABC News survey released Tuesday.

This article was updated on Sept. 10 at 4:51 p.m.

 

Adam O'Neal is a political reporter for RealClearPolitics. He can be reached at aoneal@realclearpolitics.com. Follow him on Twitter @RealClearAdam.

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