ISIS Among Us

Group's digital reach and influx of Muslim migrants bring terror to America's doorstep

As the nation reels from the brutal terror attack in Orlando, Florida — perpetrated by Omar Mateen, an American-born Muslim of Afghan descent who pledged allegiance to ISIS — the ongoing danger posed by the Islamic State to American cities was made uncomfortably clear.

“The foreign terrorist now has direct access into the United States like never before,” said Michael Steinbach.

The Islamic terror group’s sophisticated and advanced use of the internet enables it to reach beyond the limitations usually faced by similar organizations. ISIS is able to spread its propaganda relatively unhindered, and active cells and individual terrorists are able to plan and orchestrate attacks with an added level of protection against local security services.

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“The foreign terrorist now has direct access into the United States like never before,” Michael Steinbach, assistant director of the FBI’s counterterrorism division, told the House Homeland Security Committee in June last year.

Sites like Twitter and YouTube are convenient vehicles for ISIS to spread its propaganda throughout the world — the group has even used dating sites to recruit young followers. They have enticed thousands of disaffected Muslims in the West to travel to the Middle East to join the organization. “We are seeing 90,000 … tweets a day that we’re combating,” State Department spokeswomen Jen Psaki said in June 2015.

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“There are thousands of messages being put out into the ethersphere and they’re just hoping that they land on an individual who’s susceptible to that type of terrorist propaganda,” said John Carlin, the assistant attorney general for national security. “They just need to be right once to get a terrorist attack inside the United States.”

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In the case of Mateen, President Obama said on Monday that he had been radicalized by the internet. “It appears that the shooter was inspired by various extremist information that was disseminated on the internet. All those materials are currently being searched, exploited so we can have a better sense of the pathway that the killer took in making a decision to launch this attack,” Obama said.

In addition to its tech-savvy — and effective — propaganda war, ISIS also employs the internet to train fighters and plan and orchestrate terror attacks. The organization has become an expert in encrypted communications as well as the navigation of the “dark web” — internet content existing on overlay networks which use the public internet but for which individuals need specific software or authorization in order to access. The dark-web space is extremely difficult, if not impossible, for international law enforcement or intelligence authorities to patrol and suppress. The group even has a “Jihadi Help Desk” operating on the far reaches of the internet, manned by six people and operational 24 hours a day.

“They’ve developed a series of different platforms in which they can train one another on digital security to avoid intelligence and law enforcement agencies for the explicit purpose of recruitment, propaganda and operational planning,” said Aaron F. Brantly, a counter-terrorism analyst at West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center.

Given the Islamic State’s technical abilities and its effectiveness at using those abilities to recruit and train new recruits in the United States, the desire to import tens of thousands more Muslim migrants into the U.S., a platform shared by both the Obama administration and Hillary Clinton, seems an obvious way to exacerbate the threat.

Muslim immigrant communities in Western European countries like the U.K., Belgium, and France are hotbeds of ISIS radicalization and recruitment. Somali refugee communities in Minnesota have offered the first glimpse of that sort of danger in the United States. Nearly 20 Muslim refugees living in Minnesota alone have been caught attempting to aid or join ISIS.

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In April it was reported Obama’s administration issued twice the number of green cards to Muslim migrants than to European migrants. Roughly 500 Muslim migrants from unstable parts of the Middle East arrived in the month of May alone.

ISIS has revealed on multiple occasions a dangerously effective ability to use the internet in order to recruit and groom terrorists. Increasing the potential pool of ISIS recruits within our own borders by permitting large-scale Muslim migration is the sort of blind policymaking giving rise to the pragmatism of Donald Trump.

“We admit more than 100,000 lifetime migrants from the Middle East each year. Since 9/11, hundreds of migrants and their children have been implicated in terrorism in the United States,” Trump said in an official statement on the Orlando attack.

“We can’t afford to be politically correct anymore.”

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