During today’s White House press briefing, a reporter asked spokesman Josh Earnest whether he could comment on the number of Americans who have gone to fight alongside the Islamist State, and have since returned to the US. The obvious concern about them is that they can use their American passports to travel freely back and forth, and stage attacks on behalf of ISIS here at home.
Thus far, the Obama administration has taken no actions against Americans who choose to fight for ISIS. Over the weekend, Canada announced that it was revoking the passports of any of its citizens who fight for ISIS.
Earnest was very careful not give numbers or admit that any American ISIS fighters are now under surveillance. But he also did not state that no American ISIS fighters have returned.
The reporter specifically asks Earnest, “Earlier today, administration officials said that at least some of these foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq have come back to the United States. I was wondering, how many of those are the administration tracking? And are they under active surveillance by the FBI? I was wondering if you could comment on that.”
Earnest could not comment on most of it, because the numbers have not been disclosed and because he said that he cannot comment on active surveillance or investigations. He did say that “As it relates to the number, I’m not in a position to confirm numbers like that,” citing the “relatively sensitive intelligence information” that is at stake.
The threat of returning ISIS fighters took on a new dimension this weekend, when two different individuals managed to get past White House security and inside its fence. One of them even got into the White House itself.
Neither are thought to have any connection to ISIS or terrorism in any way. But like the open border and its accessibility to children, if two random people can get past security and into the White House grounds, so can individuals who mean to cause harm.