Extremists are taking advantage of the chaos created by the Syrian civil war — and might leave the war-torn country to carry out attacks in the West.
That’s a big worry for the Intelligence leaders testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Wednesday.
“Syria has become a huge magnet for extremists,” Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said.
The hodgepodge of some 1,600 rebel factions operating in Syria includes groups with extremist ties, including Qaida affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra, which Clapper said does aspire to carry out attacks on the U.S. homeland. More than 7,000 foreign fighters have traveled to Syria for the battle against embattled President Bashar al-Assad. They’re coming from some 50 countries, many of them in Europe and the Middle East.
Extremists, Clapper said, are also getting training and weapons as they join with these groups in Syria. “We’re seeing now the appearance of training complexes in Syria to train people to go back to their countries and conduct more terrorist attacks,” Clapper said. “This is a huge concern to all of us.”
With this “permissive environment” for extremists, National Counterterrorism Center Director Matthew Olsen said, the U.S. is particularly concerned about the “potential for terrorist attacks emanating from Syria to the West.” Olsen told National Journal previously that dealing with Syria would be the primary counterterrorism focus of 2014.
The committee’s top Republican, Saxby Chambliss, wanted to know if the terrorist threat against U.S. interests overseas has increased or diminished — but the answer he got was not simple. While the ideological center of the Qaida movement remains in the FATA, or federally administered tribal areas along the porous Pakistan-Afghanistan border, Clapper said, its “locus for operational planning” is dispersed throughout a dozen countries, including Yemen, Somalia, and now Syria.
In Syria, Clapper said, there’s a possibility the unrest could turn the war-torn country into a “new FATA” — which he said is “very, very worrisome.”
What We're Following See More »
Newt Gringrich is actively positioning himself as a possible VP nominee for Donald Trump, according to National Review. After a New York Times piece mentioned him as a possible running mate, he said, "It is an honor to be mentioned. We need a new Contract with America to outline a 100-day plan to take back Washington from the lobbyists, bureaucrats, unions, and leftists. After helping in 1980 with Reagan and 1995 as speaker I know we have to move boldly and decisively before the election results wear off and the establishment starts fighting us. That is my focus." Meanwhile, Trump told CNN he'd be "interested in vetting" John Kasich as well.
"House Democrats are stepping up pressure on Republicans to advance legislation addressing Puerto Rico’s worsening debt crisis by issuing a report arguing that austerity cuts can’t be sustained and have made the island more vulnerable to the mosquito-borne Zika virus." Democrats on the House Natural Resources Committee released a report yesterday that argued "further sharp reductions in government spending can’t be a part of a legislative solution"—especially with a rainy season boosting the mosquito population and stressing an island health system already struggling to deal with the Zika virus.
"ISIS has the capability to stage a Paris-style attack in the U.S. using local cells to strike in multiple locations and inflict dozens of casualties, according to the Obama administration's top U.S. intelligence official." Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told CNN's Peter Bergen that such a scenario is "something we worry about a lot in the United States, that they could conjure up a raid like they did in Paris or Brussels."
"Donald J. Trump said on Wednesday that he expected to reveal his vice presidential pick sometime in July—before the Republican National Convention in Cleveland—but added that he would soon announce a committee to handle the selection process, which would include Dr. Ben Carson." He said he's inclined to name a traditional political figure, unlike himself.