Record number of suspects charged with terrorism in US in 2015

ISIS’ mounting influence and terror activity in the US is keeping security and law enforcement authorities on edge as they work to prevent the next Islamic terror attack on US soil. 

By: Atara Beck, World Israel News

The US Justice Department has charged a record number of at least 60 suspect in 2015 with terrorism-related crimes.

According to a report in the Washington Post, officials attribute the unprecedented number of cases to a heightened threat from the Islamic State (ISIS) terror organization and its influence and recruitment via social media.

Last week alone, prosecutors charged three people and convicted two others on terrorism-linked charges.

Some others were arrested in connection with the San Bernardino massacre committed by a Muslim couple.

In total, federal prosecutors have charged 73 men and women around the country in connection with ISIS. So far, 22 have been convicted. Men outnumber women in those cases by about 6 to 1. The average age of the individuals is 26, while one of them is a minor. The FBI says that, in some of cases, it has disrupted plots targeting US military or law enforcement personnel.

“The common connection we’re seeing is — in almost every case — a tie to social media,” the Post quotes John Carlin, assistant attorney general for national security, as saying at a conference last month hosted by the news site Defense One. He also pointed out that many of the cases involve young people, who are at ease building relationships online.

More than 55 percent of those charged are under 25 years old. Most troubling, Carlin said, about one-third are 21 or younger.

“That’s not the same age demographic that we saw with al-Qaeda,” he said in a discussion at the Atlantic Council last month.

Islamic State supporters inside the United States, inspired by its leaders’ calls to attack where they reside, are increasingly plotting or attempting to carry out attacks domestically, officials said. In 2015 alone, prosecutors brought more than 15 cases against suspected terrorists.

James Comey

FBI Director James Comey. (AP/Mark Humphrey)

The FBI has opened investigations in all 50 states, and the cases cross ethnic and geographic lines, officials said. In November, FBI Director James Comey said the FBI is pursuing 900 active ISIS terror-related investigations.

Comey testified to Congress this month that he had “no reason to believe” that ISIS had established cells in the United States. Rather, he said, “they’re trying to motivate people already in the United States to become killers on their behalf. And they would very much like to be . . . the leader in global jihad, to send people here to conduct attacks. It’s that second piece we have not seen yet.”

Comey told reporters that in the month leading up to July 4, the FBI arrested more than 10 people who were suspected of ties with ISIS, as security forces feared a mass attack on the holiday. All, he said, were products of online recruiting and radicalization efforts. However, he said, not all were engaged in active plots.

ISIS’ threat in the US “is high and has escalated dramatically this year and remains high,” according to the latest “Terror Threat Snapshot” for September released by House Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul.

Approximately 4,500 Western fighters, including 550 women and 250 Americans, have traveled to join ISIS in Syria and Iraq. Many of these fighters return home with knowledge in warfare and terrorism they acquired while fighting with ISIS, and employ this knowledge in establishing domestic terror cells.