McCaul Releases December Terror Threat Snapshot

House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-TX) has released December’s Terror Threat Snapshot, a monthly assessment of the Committee’s continuing effort to highlight the growing threat America, the West, and the world face from ISIS and other Islamist terrorists.

Congressman Michael McCaul (R-TX)
Congressman Michael McCaul (R-TX)

“While we have crushed the caliphate in Iraq and Syria, ISIS remains a threat world wide,” said Chairman McCaul.

“The loss of the terrorist safe haven that ISIS once enjoyed is forcing the group the shift tactics and strategies.”

“We can already see these changes evidenced by their calls for violence in America and Europe during this holiday season.”

“As we near the one year anniversary of the Berlin Christmas market attack, we are reminded that jihadis will continue to target the West.”

“We must remain vigilant and strengthen our security to prevent more people from being radicalized and do all we can to thwart potential attacks.”

Key Points Include:

  • At the Committee’s World Wide Threats hearing on November 30, Department of Homeland Security Acting Director Elaine Duke stated that, “DHS is improving almost every stage of the vetting process for U.S.-bound travelers.”
    • She continued, “Security checks are being brought into the digital age with measures like continuous immigration vetting, a real-time, systematic process that constantly analyzes visa files against law enforcement and intelligence holdings to identify possible matches to derogatory information.”
    • Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Christopher Wray echoed calls for forward reaching security measures, specifically through section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
    • He stressed that, “Section 702 is a critical tool that the Intelligence Community uses properly to target non-U.S. persons located outside the United States to acquire information vital to our national security.
    • To protect privacy and civil liberties, this program has operated under strict rules and been carefully overseen by all three branches of the Government.”
    • National Counterterrorism Center Director Nicholas Rasmussen urged Members of Congress to remain aware of the threat posed by Homegrown Violent Extremists, “What we have seen over time is that HVEs—either lone actors or small insular groups—tend to gravitate toward soft targets and simple tactics of opportunity that do not require advanced skills or outside training.
    • We expect that most HVEs will continue to focus on soft target, while still considering traditional targets, such as military personnel, law enforcement, and other symbols of the U.S. government.”
  • After Raqqa was reclaimed by the U.S.-led coalition, Secretary of Defense James Mattis stated that, “Despite these successes our fight is not over. Even without a physical caliphate, ISIS remains a threat to stability in the recently liberated areas, as well as in our homelands.”
    • He continued that, “We are stabilizing the territory liberated from ISIS through continued engagement with our Iraqi partners.”
    • “ISIS is opposed to all nations’ civilized values, and we must remain focused on the common threat: denying them their sick and twisted objectives.”
  • ISIS fighters fleeing Syria and Iraq remain a top priority for security services around the world.
    • Governments in the region and elsewhere, including Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Kosovo’s Interior Ministry, have expressed concerns about the threat.
    • The Turkish government believes that there are thousands of ISIS militants in Syria waiting for the opportunity to cross illegally into the country, with the goal of eventually entering Europe.
  • ISIS online presence remains a concern to security services around the world, despite efforts made to limit their ability to spread hate and encourage violence.
  • November 14, 2017: Five coordinated nighttime attacks on Afghan security forces during a 36-hour left several dozen dead.
    • The Taliban militants who conducted the attacks were equipped with night vision goggles and laser sights, and are believed to have used police and military vehicles to get close to targets without raising suspicion.

Homeland Security Committee

  • November 24, 2017: ISIS militants killed 305 and wounded 128 in an attack on a mosque in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula.
    • Approximately 30 militants detonated a bomb outside the mosque, before opening fire on worshippers as they attempted to flee.
    • The mosque is associated with Sufi sect of Islam, which ISIS views as heretical.

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