Because of the ISIS attacks on Paris, there has been an overwhelming and sudden scrutiny on Syrian refugees coming into the United States. This issue has been highly debated by both political parties and by the media, but it has also diminished a terrifying fact: there are already terrorists here on American soil who are determined to inflict widespread chaos and casualties.
Since July, the FBI has seen just a half-dozen U.S. travelers attempting to journey to the Middle East to join the Islamic State, which is a fraction compared to previous figures that saw more than 250 Americans traveling to Syria and Iraq to come to the aid of the caliphate. However, this may not be a better job of deterring terrorism, but rather a shift in the philosophy of Daesh. During the same time period of declining exodus of foreign fighters, there has been a spike in the number of homegrown ISIS cases.
FBI Director James Comey recently revealed that the caseload of ISIL suspects has exploded to more than 900 in all 50 states. These are active and open investigations which do not include the 66 Muslim men and women around the United States the FBI has already charged with alleged ISIS activities over the past two years. In particular, there is a hotbed of activity in New York, New Jersey, Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland and Minneapolis.
“One part of the change is ISIL urging people not to travel but to stay and kill where you are,” Comey said, cautioning, “We’re not sure exactly what’s going on.”
This is also troubling since this new increase of terrorist activities have overwhelmed the bureau, zapping time and resources from agents to conduct surveillance and disrupt terrorist plots.
And they are recruiting fellow Americans to carry out these attacks. “They’re targeting the school-shooter types, the mentally ill, people with dysfunctional families and those struggling to cope with different issues,” one senior law enforcement official told the New York Times on the condition of anonymity because he was not allowed to talk to reporters. “We have been pretty successful in disrupting these cases because they are not very sophisticated or smart.”
However, other officials believe that because law enforcement has gotten so proficient at finding and stopping prospective terrorists from going overseas that they don’t want to risk getting caught so they carry out their attacks on American soil. Federal agents have apprehended nearly 30 American Muslims in recent months before they could depart for the Middle East.
This perplexing paradox was apparently the case for Terrence J. McNeil, a Muslim convert from Akron, Ohio. He wanted to travel to Syria to join Daesh, but was worried that he would be arrested at the airport. So instead he tried to bring the fight here. McNeil reposted names and addresses of 100 U.S. service members in information given by the Islamic State Hacking Division. He also posted an image of a handgun and a knife with a message that read, “We have made it easy for you by giving you addresses, all you need to do is take the final step, so what are you waiting for? Kill them in their own lands, behead them in their own homes, stab them to death as they walk their streets thinking that they are safe.” Another heinous message said, “I can’t wait for another 9/11, Boston bombing or Sandy Hook!” He is charged with solicitation of a crime of violence.
So do we allow the American terrorists to go overseas? There is also a threat that they may be going to Syria or Iraq to gain military training, then return to unleash an even more potent attack. It is certainly a catch-22 situation.