House committee hears testimony on rising terrorism threat

The House Homeland Security Committee met last week with the purpose of examining security and terrorist threats posed by ISIS and the Middle Eastern refugee crisis stemming from violence in the region.

The meeting was headed by Chairman Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX). Members heard testimony from witnesses from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the FBI, and the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC).

Witnesses spoke on the perceived threat growing in the United States and Europe from ISIS and other terrorist groups. The committee also heard testimony on the actions of Russia and Iran in Syria, and how the Syrian refugee crisis in Europe is affecting America’s security. Other items on the agenda included homegrown terrorism and cybersecurity.

One overarching theme of the hearing was that the growth of ISIS in the Middle East has fueled terrorism around the globe over the past year.

“I predict this year could exceed the last to become the most violent year on record for global terrorism,” McCaul said in his opening statement of the hearing. “In the United States, there have been more terrorist cases in 2015 involving homegrown jihadists than any full year since 9/11.”

McCaul said violent extremists are recruiting those homegrown terrorists by “crowd-sourcing” online. ISIL is using social media to push their messages in the United States and Europe.

The FBI has dealt with multiple terrorist threats in every state in the U.S. over the last year according to testimony given at the hearing. DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson testified about his concerns that violent Islamist groups could be trying to infiltrate terrorists into the country while posing as refugees.

“We know that organizations such as ISIL might like to try to exploit this program,” Johnson said. “It’s true that we’re not going to know a whole lot about the Syrians that come forth in this process, that definitely is a challenge.”

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