FBI: Syria Is ‘Metastasizing’ Terrorist Threats Against U.S.

The agency director’s comments arrive on the heels of reports that al-Qaida is setting up training camps within Syria.

Syrian opposition fighters ride a truck through the town of Deir Ezzor on Monday.
National Journal
Jordain Carney
March 26, 2014, 9:51 a.m.

The FBI warned Con­gress on Wed­nes­day that Syr­ia is quickly be­com­ing a haven for ter­ror­ists look­ing to do harm to the U.S. and its al­lies.

A re­cent flood of mil­it­ants in­to the coun­try poses a “ser­i­ous chal­lenge” for coun­terter­ror­ism of­fi­cials, who are in­creas­ingly con­cerned that West­ern­ers in the coun­try could be trained to plan and carry out at­tacks around the world, FBI Dir­ect­or James Comey said.

“It’s one of the things that I meant by the meta­stas­iz­ing threat,” said Comey, ap­pear­ing be­fore a House Ap­pro­pri­ations sub­com­mit­tee. “We’re very wor­ried about people who [travel] there, who travel out to the E.U. and then can come to the U.S. without a visa, or our cit­izens who travel back and forth dir­ectly.”

Comey’s com­ment fol­lows a New York Times re­port that al-Qaida op­er­at­ives are trav­el­ing from Pakistan in­to Syr­ia as part of a co­ordin­ated plot to carry out fu­ture ter­ror­ist strikes against the U.S. and Europe.

Al-Qaida’s seni­or Pakistani lead­er­ship is hop­ing to use chunks of largely un­gov­erned ter­rit­ory with­in Syr­ia to re­cruit and train West­ern­ers — bey­ond the reach of drone at­tacks, which U.S. of­fi­cials are hes­it­ant to use in the war-torn coun­try.

Comey said the poorly or lightly gov­erned spaces in Syr­ia and oth­er coun­tries have al­lowed the growth of a glob­al ter­ror threat “that is weak­er in the core, but dis­par­ate and vir­u­lent in a lot of dif­fer­ent places.”

Ap­prox­im­ately 1,200 Amer­ic­ans and European Muslims have traveled to Syr­ia to fight in the coun­try’s civil war, which star­ted in 2011, The Times notes.

The FBI dir­ect­or said earli­er this year that U.S. of­fi­cials are us­ing a mul­ti­tude of ways to track Amer­ic­ans in Syr­ia, in­clud­ing elec­tron­ic spy­ing, travel re­cords, in­form­a­tion from sources in­side Syr­ia, and data provided by the European Uni­on.

Sub­com­mit­tee Chair­man Frank Wolf, R-Va., in­tro­duced le­gis­la­tion earli­er this month that would al­low the pres­id­ent to re­strict U.S. travel and ma­ter­i­al sup­port to coun­tries that have ter­ror­ist or­gan­iz­a­tions en­gaged in an armed con­flict with­in the coun­try — in­clud­ing Syr­ia.

Comey says he is gen­er­ally sup­port­ive of the le­gis­la­tion.

What We're Following See More »
STAFF PICKS
What the Current Crop of Candidates Could Learn from JFK
1 days ago
WHY WE CARE

Much has been made of David Brooks’s recent New York Times column, in which confesses to missing already the civility and humanity of Barack Obama, compared to who might take his place. In NewYorker.com, Jeffrey Frank reminds us how critical such attributes are to foreign policy. “It’s hard to imagine Kennedy so casually referring to the leader of Russia as a gangster or a thug. For that matter, it’s hard to imagine any president comparing the Russian leader to Hitler [as] Hillary Clinton did at a private fund-raiser. … Kennedy, who always worried that miscalculation could lead to war, paid close attention to the language of diplomacy.”

Source:
STAFF PICKS
Maher Weighs in on Bernie, Trump and Palin
2 days ago
WHY WE CARE

“We haven’t seen a true leftist since FDR, so many millions are coming out of the woodwork to vote for Bernie Sanders; he is the Occupy movement now come to life in the political arena.” So says Bill Maher in his Hollywood Reporter cover story (more a stream-of-consciousness riff than an essay, actually). Conservative states may never vote for a socialist in the general election, but “this stuff has never been on the table, and these voters have never been activated.” Maher saves most of his bile for Donald Trump and Sarah Palin, writing that by nominating Palin as vice president “John McCain is the one who opened the Book of the Dead and let the monsters out.” And Trump is picking up where Palin left off.

Source:
×