The recent Paris attacks have the F.B.I. on high alert. Fear of similar attacks in the United States is at an all time high as the F.B.I. continues to crack down on homegrown ISIS cells.
Fewer American Muslims are leaving the U.S. to fight for ISIS abroad, with only 250 known Americans having left to join the so called caliphate’s efforts. Since July, the FBI has reported only six, almost nothing compared to the number leaving earlier this year.
However, there is growing concern that the reason people have stopped leaving is because they have chosen to stay in the United states and plot terrorist attacks within U.S. borders. While the FBI has so far had some success in cracking down on ISIS supporters in the United States, including a string of successful raids and arrests in Boston and New York City, the threat posed by these silent terror cells is a serious one. The raids in Paris are proof enough of the potential havoc a small cell can wreak in a large city.
FBI Director James Comey recently stated that his caseload of potential ISIS members in the U.S. has grown to over 900 individuals spread across all 50 states. Hotspots have been identified in New York, New Jersey, Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, and Minneapolis.
Comey and FBI analysts believe this sudden growth is due in part to the success of FBI efforts to stop people from leaving the country to join ISIS. Discouraged from leaving and afraid of arrest if they were to attempt to cross the border, many ISIS supporters are instead choosing to stay in their communities and commit acts of terror at home.
“It’s logical we’d see an increase in homegrown jihadis after slowing the flow of foreign fighters,” said former special FBI agent John Guandolo, who headed counterterrorism training at the bureau’s Washington field office after 9/11.
If the FBI is going to continue to successfully combat ISIS threats in the United States, they may need to shift efforts away from ISIS members trying to leave the country and back towards those who have chosen to stay. Hopefully, their awareness of the issue will allow them to develop appropriate countermeasures in the months to come.