The San Bernardino shooting, which killed 14 innocent people at a holiday party earlier this month, was the most severe terrorist attack in the country since 9/11. As the FBI investigations continue, it has become painfully clear that ISIS is a dangerous, highly organized group that spans from the West into the Middle East and Asia. According to the FBI, ISIS has “71 trained soldiers in 15 different states ready at our word to attack” and recruitment in America is increasing.
Anyone interested in learning more about ISIS is encouraged to read the special report “ISIS: The Threat to the United States” released by the Threat Knowledge Group shortly after the attack on Paris. The report shows “key evidence” that the terrorist organization has recruits in the US with plans to execute “domestic attacks here in America.” The report explains Al Qaeda’s evolution into ISIS and stresses its priorities: “Allah, the Caliphate, and the ummah – the global community of Muslim believers.”
Since March of last year, US law enforcement has arrested 82 ISIS-affiliated individuals. Just think how many they may have missed. Of those 82 criminals, 52 were between 15 and 25 years old. The oldest individual arrested was 47 years old. ISIS takes advantage of social media to spread the word and focuses on recruiting young members, which they refer to as the “Lions of Tomorrow.”
Ali Shukri Amin, a 17-year-old ISIS supporter in Virginia with nearly 4,000 followers on Twitter, was sentenced to 11 years in jail for planning to support the terrorist group. If you read my article published on December 1st, you know that ISIS also targets immigrants and former refugees, as they are doing with a Somali neighborhood in Minneapolis. Estimates show that over 250 Americans have already attempted to join the ranks of terror.
According to a report by the Program on Extremism at George Washington University, “American ISIS sympathizers are particularly active on Twitter, where they spasmodically create accounts that often get suspended in a never-ending cat-and-mouse game.” The GW report, entitled “ISIS in America: From Retweets to Raqqa,” provides a detailed analysis of all 82 aforementioned arrests.
Arab-American Islamist preacher Ahmad Musa Jibril was arrested in Michigan. He had 38,000 followers on Twitter. According to research conducted by the Centre for the Study of Radicalisation (ICSR), a full 60% of foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq had followed him on Twitter.
Fortunately there are talented individuals out there fighting ISIS’s online presence. GhostSec, believed to be a division of the “hacktivist” group known simply as Anonymous, is trying to eradicate the online presence of groups like Al Qaeda. They made the news recently when they successfully replaced an ISIS recruiting website with Viagra ads.
The special report emphasizes the importance of recognizing, not downplaying, the threat of ISIS on America and other countries. It calls for the protection of vulnerable youth that may be recruited and begs us to target ideologues. The report also suggests we screen refuges because “ISIS and other terrorist groups may use the refugee track as a way to gain access to the United States with the purpose of carrying out an attack.”
The GW report argues for “robust funding” to “counter violent extremism,” but has a softer tone when suggesting how to prevent further recruitment in America. Both the GW report and the special report are great opportunites for Americans to educate themselves on what could very well be the most serious domestic threat of our lifetimes.