The Supreme Court recently upheld the travel ban against six countries that was initiated in early March by President Donald Trump through an executive order. The ban affects foreigners from Syria, Libya, Iran, Yemen, Somalia, and Sudan for 90 days. The countries were identified as terrorist safe havens by the Obama administration and foreigners from these countries could represent a threat to the United States. The purpose of the ban is to temporarily pause entry into the United States until proper vetting measures are in place and proven to be effective. The order also pauses the refugee flow.
While there is much focus on the external threat of terrorism, there is another growing concern within our borders in the form of homegrown extremism. The most significant Islamic based terrorism events that have taken place in the United States since 9-11 have come from American citizens who have pledged allegiance to ISIS or other forms of Jihad. Some of the larger attacks are: 2005- the Fort Hood terrorist, Nidal Hasan who was raised in Virginia; 2015- Chattanooga terrorist, Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez who was born in Kuwait but raised from infancy in the United States; 2015-San Bernidino terrorist, Chicago-born Syed Rizwan Farook and 2016-Orlando terrorist Omar Mateen who was born in New York. These four terrorists were responsible for the deaths of 80 people.
The FBI currently has 1000 ongoing investigations in all 50 states of individuals who pose a risk or are linked to potential terrorist plots or networks. One such investigation led to Justin Sullivan of North Carolina who is an ISIS convert and was recently sentenced to life in prison for killing a 74 year old elderly neighbor as practice for a mass casualty terrorist event he was plotting. Counter Threat Group, LLC recently met in Washington, D.C. with Seamus Hughes, expert on homegrown terrorism and Deputy Director of the Program on Extremism at The George Washington University, to discuss the growing threat of Homeland extremism. During the meeting, Hughes pointed the growing presence of online recruiting thorough the various chat programs online. Hughes was recently quoted in The Charlotte Observer regarding recent terrorism arrests and said “nearly nine out of 10 of those arrested are either Americans or permanent legal residents. The article went on to state the urgency of the problem we face in America with more and more people becoming radicalized online and through social media. Hughes said, “Based on the numbers, we should be looking at home-grown terrorists, not necessarily individuals coming from the outside in. Sullivan is typical. He was born and raised here,”
While Americans have to be concerned with those entering the US illegally or from countries that harbor terrorists, there also has to be appropriate resources allocated to make sure that those among us who wish harm to America are being actively tracked, investigated and identified.