(CNSNews.com) – The American people have grown “somewhat accustomed” to the ever-present threat of terrorism, even though the threat to the nation “has not diminished,” Homeland Security Secretary Gen. Jack Kelly told an audience at George Washington University on Wednesday.
“In fact, the threat has metastasized and decentralized, and the risk is threatening us today in a way that is worse than we experienced 16 years ago on 9/11,” Kelly said.
“As I speak these words, the FBI has opened terrorism investigations in all of our 50 states. And since 2013, there have been 37 ISIS-linked plots to attack our country.
“This is all bad news, but it gets worse,” he continued:
“Experts estimate that perhaps 10,000 citizens of Europe have joined the caliphate fight in Syria and in Iraq. Thousands more from nations in Asia, Africa, the Western Hemisphere have also joined that fight.
“They have learned how to make IEDs, employ drones to drop ordnance, and acquired experience on the battlefield that, by our reports, they are beginning to increasingly bring home.”
Kelly said the U.S.-led coalition is chalking up wins in Iraq and Syria against “conventional terrorist formations,” but: “The expectation is that many of these holy warriors will survive, come back to their home countries, where they will wreak murderous havoc in Europe, Asia, the Maghreb, the Caribbean and the United States.”
He said the United States continues to be the “prime terrorist target,” not only for people from other countries but for people who live here:
“Homegrown terrorism is a very, very difficult challenge. Few of the challenges we face from a terrorism point of view are even close to as difficult,” Kelly said.
"Over the past few years, we have seen an unprecedented spike in homegrown terrorism. In the past 12 months alone, there have been 36 homegrown terrorist cases opened in 18 states. These are the cases we know about. Homegrown terrorism is notoriously difficult to predict, detect, and certainly almost impossible to control.”
Kelly said the Internet is feeding the violence.
“And thanks to new and ever-improving and proliferating encryption devices and secure communication techniques, these individuals are becoming harder and harder and, I predict, eventually impossible to detect.”