The Department of Homeland Security and FBI have put out a joint intelligence bulletin to all federal law enforcement that the Islamic State has the capability to mount attacks on U.S. targets overseas with "little to no warning."
While the bulletin, obtained by TheBlaze, states that the FBI and DHS are unaware of any "specific, credible threats" against the U.S. homeland, they urge law enforcement to be vigilant about social media postings by Islamic State supporters within the U.S. calling for attacks against America.
This undated file image posted on a militant website in January 2014 shows fighters from Islamic State marching in Raqqa, Syria. (AP Photo/militant website, File)
The warning was dated Aug. 22, less than a month shy of the 13th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks and as U.S. intelligence registered a spike in chatter from jihadi websites ahead of the anniversary.
The rise of the Islamic State — which shares Al Qaeda's core beliefs — and its recruitment capability have come because of significant intelligence lapses in more than a decade of war, current and former U.S. officials told TheBlaze. The officials charge that the West was blindsided by the establishment of the Islamic State because the intelligence community lacked necessary human assets that would have helped expose the terror group before it could hit its stride.
After 9/11, the CIA focused on paramilitary operations and targeted drone strikes, but failed in its "ability to infiltrate organizations and recruit the necessary assets to curb these organizations and counteract the ideology before it takes hold," said former CIA officer Brian Fairchild.
"You can keep targeting all the Osama bin Ladens and his replacements, but you won't solve the problem," Fairchild said. "You need a strategy that comprises both the paramilitary and what the CIA was intended to do: analyze, recruit and infiltrate so lawmakers can make the best decisions on how to handle these crisis."
Without actual people on the ground to gain "actionable intelligence" on terror plots or terror cell networks like the Islamic State and Al Qaeda, the U.S. is essentially flying blind, said Fairchild, who ran clandestine operations in CIA stations around the world.
"All the intelligence we have is that [Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi] is trying to provoke a military response from the United States and he's more than willing and capable of coming here and doing that," Fairchild said.
After taking significant criticism for saying last month that "we don't have a strategy yet" to defeat the Islamic State, President Barack Obama will address the nation on Wednesday about how the U.S. plans to fight the group.
The battleground is not limited to the Middle East, Fairchild warned.
"How are we going to stop three French men, two Germans, an Australian and a Norwegian coming into the United States when they come here and they have a passport and a visa and they say, 'Hey, I'm here to see the Grand Canyon.' How are you going to stop that?" he asked.
The intelligence bulletin, which was unclassified but designated "for official use only," stated that it is difficult to predict the specific triggers that could set off someone in the United States who has become radicalized and that such "lone offender" attacks give law enforcement "limited opportunities to detect and disrupt plots, which frequently involve simple plotting against targets of opportunity."
A Pentagon official who has worked in Iraq and has knowledge of the Islamic State's actions said there "should be no doubt that a threat to the homeland is real and the failure has been with the administration, which has refused to accept that the ideology was more than Al Qaeda core or Osama bin Laden. The administration chose to play politics instead of looking at the facts and that has cost the West tremendously."
Islamic State members and supporters "will almost certainly continue to use social media platforms to disseminate their English-language violent extremist messages," the bulletin states. "Although we remind first responders that content not explicitly calling for violence may be constitutionally protected, we encourage awareness of media advocating violent extremist acts in particular locations or naming particular targets, to increase our ability to identify and disrupt potential homeland threats."
The bulletin urges "state and local authorities to promptly report suspicious activities related to homeland plotting and individuals interested in traveling to overseas conflict zones, such as Syria or Iraq, to fight with foreign terrorist organizations."
Fairchild said the threat is longterm and that homegrown radicals "know that when they go to Iraq that these guys are beheading people and putting their heads on spikes, killing hostages hundreds at a time — they know that before they go and they've already accepted that, so to them if Baghdadi says 'go and gas these suckers, go and behead these suckers' … Baghdadi says we're going to kill as many of them as possible in the most horrifying way as possible just to show them."
"All we know is that bad things are coming," he said.
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