Top lawmakers and U.S. officials are voicing concerns about the growing threat of jihad-inspired terror attacks planned for the United States, as last week’s failed attempt in Garland, Texas as well as the dire FBI warning that followed are still pre-eminent in their minds.
“I think there’s been an uptick in the stream of threats out there,” Texas GOP Rep. Mike McCaul, chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, told “Fox News Sunday.” “We’re seeing these directives on almost a daily basis. It’s very concerning. Terrorism has gone viral.”
Mccaul’s sentiments come on the wings of the failed May 3rd attack in his state, where two armed assailants were killed outside a “Muhammed cartoon contest”. Messages via social media by one of the two terrorists, seem to link him to ISIS, and the internet chatter seems to have tipped off officials about the impending attack on that event.
Thursday, FBI Director James Comey talked about the challenges his department faces – as social media facilitates communications between terror groups and potential domestic terrorists here in the U.S. He also said the Islamic State terror groups have thousands of English-language followers on Twitter, many of whom live in the United States.
He went on to say that ISIS has been increasingly steering these followers into forums that allow encrypted communications, making it harder for law enforcement officials to access them. They have reportedly been encouraging followers to travel to Syria to join the self-created caliphate, but also states that if the potential terrorists cannot make the trip, to “kill where you are.”
“The siren song sits in the pockets, on the mobile phones, of the people who are followers on Twitter,” Comey said. “It’s almost as if there’s a devil sitting on the shoulder, saying ‘Kill. Kill. Kill. Kill,’ all day long.”
McCaul stated publicly that Comey was “exactly right”, that trying to find ISIS calling for terror attacks via the internet is similar to “finding a needle in a haystack.” He went on to say that the terror threat is now, “one of the highest that I’ve ever seen” warning everyone that similar incidents may become common place.
“It’s going to get worse, not better,” he said. “This is very difficult to stop.”
Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson also chimed in on Sunday stating that the U.S. is looking at a new phase of terrorism, in which so-called lone-wolf terrorists motivated by ISIS via social media could “strike at any moment.” The Obama administration is now officially calling the attack in Garland, Texas last week a “lone wolf” effort.
“We’re very definitely in a new environment, because of ISIL’s effective use of social media, the Internet, which has the ability to reach into the homeland and possibly inspire others,” Johnson said on ABC’s “This Week.”
Friday, the Pentagon increased the terrorist threat level for all military bases across the country based on the non-specific threats from Islamic State extremists and supporters.
California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, chimed in on Sunday, agreeing with Comey. “I think [the Islamic State’s message] is ‘kill, kill, kill,’ ” she said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “It’s a force that we really haven’t seen before, and we have to begin to cope more seriously with it, and that includes social media.” She also parroted Comey, by suggesting that changing terror environment in which Islamic extremists are encouraging lone wolf terrorists to commit an attack, then “take credit for it.”