When someone says “ISIS” the picture conjured in one’s mind is probably that of emotionally-detached extremists besieging American citizens with bombs strapped to their chests, but should that be a concern for resdidents?
According to an ABC News article, Western authorities believed at least 30,000 fighters were fighting for the ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) cause in 2014; likewise, the Director of the National Counterterrorism Center Nicholas Rasmussen reported 20,000 fighters from 90 countries had traveled to join ISIS.
But these numbers are hardly the biggest concern for the administration, nor for political voices who fear a ragtag group of lone wolf extremists will infiltrate the border and murder innocent Americans at home.
Rather, it seems the concern is that of Americans turning on their own and joining ISIS in a moment of weakness. Why Americans would do this has yet to be decided and the answer may not be as obvious as the proposed ISIS agenda in the West.
However, according to Attorney General Eric Holder, homegrown terrorism is precisely the fear most Americans should have regarding ISIS.
“We are seeing, I would say, an alarming rise in the number of American and European Union nationals who have been going to Syria to help extremist groups,” Holder reportedly told TIME in August, 2014.
The number of Americans joining radical groups is uncertain, though an article by Digital Journalist Mike Levin on ABC News reports that thousands of Westerners have ISIS fever.
“In fact, while U.S. Authorities have been warning that thousands of Westerners recruited to fight with overseas could pose a threat to the U.S. homeland,” Levin writes, “That threat ‘is a small problem’ compared with the group’s ability to reach the United States and radicalize someone without anyone else knowing.”
Thus, there is fear of potentially pre-radicalized US citizens within national borders who have been instructed to become martyrs, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Meanwhile, former Director of the National Counter-terrorism Center Matthew Olsen, said fears regarding ISIS are overblown, pointing out that there are no ISIS cells in the United States nor are they planning an offensive on American soil.
“ … we have no credible information (that the group) is planning to attack the U.S. … ISIS is not al Qaeda pre-9/11,” Olsen said in the TIME’s article.
This, coupled with the farcical Khorasan Group, has any skeptic shaking their head. That is, the fear of ISIS at home is concrete to some, albeit difficult to quantify at the same time and to the same people, which may may indicate an exiguous threat.
Furthermore, Rasmussen was clear to point out that it is difficult to really know the true numbers in ISIS due to “a variety of sources that vary in quality,” which seems shaky at best.
Regardless, it shouldn’t have to be said that one cannot assess the danger of a threat with unreliable information and that more solid information needs to be reported before any conclusions can be met about the danger of radical extremists at home.