Since 9/11, the terror threat in the U.S. and the West has constantly morphed and changed forcing security and intelligence officials into a game of “cat and mouse” with Jihadist elements from throughout the world adapting counter-terrorism measures to threats at borders, airports, transportation hubs, as well as numerous targets within major urban areas. That threat Matrix has included dirty bombs, shoe bombs, underwear bombs, print cartridge bombs, liquid containers, VBID’s (car bombs) and now, speeding cars and hatchet attacks. The carrying out of many of these terror tactics were conducted not by international terrorists who had received training on the Jihadist battlefields but by “homegrown” or lone wolfs who had been inspired and instructed by al-Qaeda and the Islamic State from the battlefields of Syria and Iraq in the new terror “training ground”: Cyberspace.
These “lone wolves” are just one of the two major threats facing the west today; those that are “inspired” to carry out acts of terror as we have recently witnessed so vividly in Quebec and Ottawa, Canada as well as with the hatchet attacks against four young NYPD recruits. These perpetrators with sketchy, disaffected and often criminal backgrounds do not fit the definition and profile of a true Jihadist but their new found “cause” of terror resonated even more so here in the homeland because of its pernicious and unpredictable nature.
The second prong of today’s major threat is an even greater existential threat to us here in the U.S. as well as our neighbors in Europe. That threat also emanates from the civil war in Syria and Iraq with ISIS, aka ISIL and their declaration of an Islamic State or “Caliphate” and it flows out of the massive “state of the art” Jihadist propaganda machine, headed up by abu Mohammad al-Adnani. This propaganda campaign has lured many young impressionable westerners to include hundreds of Europeans and upwards of a hundred Americans to the battlefields of Iraq and Syria. Again, cyberspace is the medium, first, as the new training ground with on-line magazines such as Inspire, chat rooms, social media sites, web-sites, instructional guides and even an ISIS twitter feed but, secondarily as medium for the “call to bear arms” as young men and women sitting in bedrooms and university dorms ingest this massive Jihadist informational dump and are driven to join the “cause”. We have already seen examples of young impressionable youths, to include 2 young Denver high school girls, tracked and stopped at airports before they could board planes for the battlefield.
(Call to the Battlefield clip)
According to the Justice Department, National Security Division more than 16,000 foreigners from more than 90 countries have traveled to Syria and Iraq including more than 2,700 westerners. More than 100 American have traveled to the region to join in on the battlefield and intelligence estimates are that at least a dozen have actually joined the Islamic State. The primary national security threat for the west to include the U.S. is the return of these battle-hardened Jihadists with tradecraft that will include bomb-making skills, kidnapping expertise, and the use of automatic weapons. We have already witnessed last spring what a French citizen who returned to the battlefield did in Belgium when he attached a Jewish museum in Brussels and murdered three victims in cold blood.
A few weeks back in a 60 Minutes interview, FBI, Director Comey advised that the FBI is aware of upwards of 100 Americans who have traveled overseas on behalf of ISIS and that we are “monitoring the situation”.
Our national security response MUST be more succinct and aggressive. Why would we even risk the chance of attempting to “track” these individuals upon their return to the U.S.? The FBI and the intelligence community are overwhelmed under the current threat matrix and U.S. domestic anti-terrorism laws and surveillance capabilities do not favor fully and successfully “tracking” these folks.
(L.A. gang members fighting Jihad in Syria)
Under U.S. law and with such treasonous and harmful intent, these U.S. citizens who have traveled to the battlefield on behalf of ISIS should have their U.S. passports IMMEDIATELY pulled thus precluding them from travel back to the U.S. If they want another passport, they can apply at a U.S. Embassy or an Embassy of their choosing at a future date.
Secondly, any U.S. citizen that travels to the battlefield should be immediately charged under U.S. law with the federal crime of “material support of a designated terrorist organization” (18USC2339), which hold a 15 year federal prison sentence along with very stiff fines. This could be very easily accomplished through a coordinated effort between with the FBI, Homeland Security, the U.S. intelligence community and the U.S. Dept. of Justice.
We are in living unprecedented times of “clear and present danger” with respect to an attack on U.S. targets both here and overseas. We cannot play defense….we must be offensive, deliberate and focused in our counter-terrorism posture. ISIS leadership has sworn revenge on the U.S. for our coalition efforts against them back on the Iraq/Syria battlefield and we must respond not only on the foreign battlefield but HERE and NOW.