By Nick Simeone
DoD News, Defense Media Activity
WASHINGTON, Sept. 17, 2014 – Social media has given terrorist groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant the ability to recruit Americans and others like never before, and the threat of Americans and others returning to their home countries from Syria to carry out terrorist attacks has become the chief issue of concern when he meets with his foreign counterparts, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said today.
“There is a capability to recruit people and inspire them by a terrorist organization without them ever having to go to a terrorist camp or to get an order directly from somebody in command in a terrorist organization right here at home,” Johnson told the Air Force Association’s Air and Space Conference in Maryland.
Spreading propaganda, boosting recruitment
This capability, he added, stands in in stark contrast from methods used in the days before the 9/11 attacks. ISIL is very adept at using social media to spread propaganda and boost recruitment, he added.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has said that at least 100 Americans are among the foreigners who have joined rebels in Syria since the start of the country’s civil war. “We’re concerned that these individuals may hook up with extremists and become indoctrinated by their ideology and return to their home countries motivated to commit terrorist acts,” Johnson said, citing the Boston Marathon bombing last year as as example of the kind of threat the nation needs to remain focused on.
The ability of Americans and others who do not require a visa to enter to the United States has led the Department of Homeland Security to review how easy it is for those travelers to clear immigration, Johnson told the audience. “We are right now reviewing what additional information we should obtain from visa waiver countries,” he added.
While DHS is “very focused” on the threat posed by ISIL, Johnson said, the intelligence community currently has no specific credible information that ISIL is planning an attack on the homeland.
A dangerous terrorist organization
Still, he added, “ISIL, by all accounts is a dangerous terrorist organization.”
“They have both the elements of a terrorist group and an insurgent army,” he said. “They take in over a million dollars a day in revenue. They occupy large parts of Syria and Iraq. “They are capable of killing Americans in a depraved manner,” a reference to the two American journalists, James Foley and Steven Sotloff, who were held hostage by the group and later beheaded on camera.
Though David Haines, a British aid worker, also was beheaded by ISIL last week, Johnson said, the group regards the United States as its main enemy.