House Homeland Security Chairman Michael T. McCaul on Sunday warned Americans to brace for more terrorist attacks inside the U.S. because of the proliferation of online recruitment, especially by the terrorist army known as the Islamic State.
“Terrorism has gone viral,” Mr. McCaul said on “Fox News Sunday.”
The threat of homegrown terrorists has garnered fresh attention since two Muslim gunmen attacked a Muhammad cartoon contest last weekend in Garland, Texas, injuring a security guard before the pair were shot dead by a police officer.
“This threat is like finding a needle in a haystack sometimes, and it’s going to get worse — not better,” said McCaul, Texas Republican.
Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson agreed.
“We’re very definitely in a new phase in the global terrorist threat, where the so-called lone wolf could strike at any moment,” he said on ABC’s “This Week.”
Still, the secretary cautioned Americans not to change their daily routines, saying they should remain vigilant but not avoid shopping malls, sporting events or other public venues.
“It is a new environment, but we are not discouraging Americans from doing the things they do on a daily basis,” he said.
The FBI has taken steps to counter the secret websites and flashy Internet videos that the Islamic State, which is also known as ISIL or ISIS, uses to sow seeds of terrorism inside the United States, Mr. Johnson said.
The FBI efforts include moves to interdict Americans attempting to travel to Syria and others seeking to provide material support to terrorists.
The Pentagon on Friday raised the alert level for military bases in North America to the highest since the 10th anniversary of 9/11. Officials said the move was in response to recent incidents.
The threat level, known as “Bravo,” is the third-highest of five alert levels and triggers more security measures at bases across the country.
That same day, Mr. Johnson and FBI Director James B. Comey held a video conference call with law enforcement departments from across the country to advise them to be on the lookout for lone wolf attackers.
No specific threat was cited in either the military alert or the warning to police.
Mr. Comey last week told reporters that there are hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of homegrown potential “lone wolf” terrorists in America who are being riled up by terrorist propaganda on the Internet.
“It’s like the devil sitting on their shoulders, saying, ‘Kill, kill, kill,’” Mr. Comey said.
The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack on the Muhammad cartoon contest in Garland, which was committed by two American-born Muslims. The White House, however, said there was no evidence that the two were following foreign orders or had outside help.
The gunmen were identified as Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofi, who were roommates in Phoenix. The authorities did connect Simpson to Islamic State recruiters in the United Kingdom, but the impetus for the attack remained in question.
The Islamic State has claimed that it had recruits across the U.S. ready to launch more attacks.
Mr. McCaul said the threat was real.
“There’s been an uptick in the threat streams out there. The level of chatter, Internet calls to arms … to light up potential ISIS followers potentially in the United States and attack military installations,” he said. “We’re seeing these directives almost like on a daily basis. It’s very concerning.
“They can be activated by the Internet, and really terrorism has gone viral,” said Mr. McCaul, who was interviewed via satellite from Paris.
Mr. McCaul also blamed the Obama administration for fueling the threat by allowing chaos to flourish in the Middle East.
“The threat environment today is one of the highest I’ve ever seen it … primarily because there are so many failed states out there,” he said.
• S.A. Miller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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