FBI Director Comey Said ISIS Fighters Welcome Back From Syria in 2014, Now Warns of 'Terrorist Diaspora'
Earlier this week FBI Director James Comey told the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs about a looming "terrorist diaspora" that would come from the eventual defeat of ISIS in Syria and Iraq, and yet in October 2014 he told 60 Minutes that any American with a passport who fought with the Islamic State was welcome to return to the U.S.
Testifying on Tuesday in the wake of the NY-NJ bombings by Ahmad Rahami just over a week ago, Director Comey issued this ominous warning:
The number of Americans traveling to Syria to fight alongside the Islamic State group has slowed to a trickle in the last year, but as the so-called caliphate is "crushed," many militants from Western nations who are already there will stream out of the region and create new security threats.
"There will be a terrorist diaspora sometime in the next two to five years like we've never seen before," Comey said.
This is identical to his warning in late July, when he told a cybersecurity conference about the "terrorist diaspora" threat:
At some point, there is going to be a terrorist diaspora out of Syria like we’ve never seen before. Not all of the Islamic State's killers are going to die on the battlefield. Hundreds and hundreds of them, when the coalition succeeds and I'm confident they will in crushing the Islamic State--through the fingers of the crush--are going to come hundreds of really dangerous people and they're going to flow out primarily towards Western Europe, but we might as well be right next door to Western Europe given the ease with which people can travel.
And this is an order of magnitude greater than any diaspora we've seen before. A lot of terrorists fled out of Afghanistan in the late 1980s and the early 1990s. This is 10 times that or more.
But in an interview with 60 Minutes' Scott Pelley in October 2014, Comey said that any American with a passport who had fought with the Islamic State (and presumably with any other designated terrorist organization operating in Syria) was welcome to return:
Pelly: How many Americans are fighting in Syria on the side of the terrorists?
Comey: In the area of a dozen or so.
Pelley: Do you know who they are?
Pelley: Each and every one of them?
Comey: I think of that, dozen or so, I do. I hesitate only because I don't know what I don't know.
Pelley: With American passports, how do you keep them from coming home and attacking the homeland?
Comey: Ultimately, an American citizen, unless their passport's revoked, is entitled to come back. So, someone who's fought with ISIL, with American passport wants to come back, we will track them very carefully.
As I noted here at PJ Media in April 2015 -- six months after Comey's 60 Minutes interview and after the 2014 mid-term elections -- the number of Americans who had traveled to Syria had risen from "a dozen" to 180 individuals.
Remarkably, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said in March 2015 that forty of those individuals had already returned.
A report exactly a year ago today stated that the number of Americans who had gone to Syria and Iraq had risen to 250.
How many of those had returned to the U.S. is not clear, but a February 2016 report by the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security on Muslim Americans involved in violent extremism stated that only five individuals who had fought in Syria and Iraq had been charged.
But nearly a year earlier Clapper was saying that forty had already returned.
In at least one case, which I reported on at the time, Ohio terror suspect Abdirahman Sheik Mohamud, who had fought with Al-Qaeda in Syria and returned, was charged with planning terror attacks here at home.
Mohamud, who had been interviewed by the FBI even before he left for Syria, had been allowed to roam freely for eight months, even conducting weapons training, before his arrest.
So what about the several dozen others who have returned home from fighting with terrorist groups and not been charged?
And what efforts to prevent this "terrorist diaspora" from growing any larger, such as cancelling the passports of those who have fought with terrorist groups to prevent their return, have been taken?
Meanwhile, Comey has said the FBI is pursuing more than one thousand terror investigations, with ISIS-related suspects representing 80 percent of that amount.
These ISIS-related investigations span to all fifty states.
And Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson told the same Senate committee on Tuesday that the terror threats and potential targets are metastasizing, so much so that some investigations are not considered a "priority":
Homegrown terrorists to target concerts, sporting events, DHS warns - https://t.co/k5997RmtYV
— The Washington Times (@WashTimes) September 27, 2016
DHS Warns America: Brace For More Terror Attacks; Not All Threats a 'Priority' Because Agency Can't Handle https://t.co/VfF3okFWp7
— Adam Kredo (@Kredo0) September 28, 2016
So if the terror-investigation case load is too large for the FBI and Homeland Security to handle, why would the FBI not take active measures to prevent the "terrorist diaspora" from returning, instead of welcoming them back with open arms?
With recent terror attacks in Europe committed by individuals that are part of that "terrorist diaspora" Comey warns of, how long before Americans are killed by someone allowed to return from Syria or Iraq by the FBI and Homeland Security?