Intelligence Chairman on ISIS: ‘They Are One Plane Ticket Away’

August 24, 2014 - 5:24 PM

ISIS fighters in Mosul

Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant fighters seized Mosul, Iraq’s second city, on June 10, 2014 (Screenshot: ISIS propaganda video)

(CNSNews.com) - Rep. Mike Rogers (R.-Mich.), the chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said on NBC's “Meet the Press” today that the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) is “one plane ticket away from U.S. shores” and that terrorists carrying European passports could get into the United States without a visa.

“Oh, it's a very real threat,” Rogers said of the threat to the United States from ISIS.

“You saw the very barbaric behavior,” he said. “And one of the problems is it's gone unabated for nearly two years, and that draws people from Britain to across Europe, even the United States, to go and join the fight. They see that as a winning ideology, a winning strategy, and they want to be a part of it. And that's what makes it so dangerous. They are one plane ticket away from U.S. shores. And that's why we're so concerned about it.”

Host Chris Jansing asked: “But we've heard the Pentagon say that, right now, they are not in a position to launch an attack on the United States. Is there any credible intelligence that ISIS is either planning that or has the capability to do it?

“Well, I'm going to dispute that,” said Rogers. “So we know that, and the number 2,000 of Westerners with Western passports is low. Intelligence has a very different number and it's much higher than that. And the very fight between Al Qaeda [and ISIS} that allowed ISIS to separate from Al Qaeda in Syria was the fact that they wanted to conduct Western-style operations.

“Zawahiri, the leader of Al Qaeda, said, ‘No, we want you to focus on Syria,’” said Rogers. “That's what started the fight. This notion that they were too barbaric is almost laughable given that Al Qaeda flew airplanes and slaughtered 3,000 people on 9/11. It was all about direction, control of those individuals.

“What they [ISIS] were saying at the time was we have a lot of people who have passports that could go to Europe and then to the United States without a visa waiver, meaning they wouldn't have to apply for a visa,” said Rogers. “The only way we would know is by looking at who was riding on those airplanes, and that might not be enough.

“And so they were believing, at the time, that they could be aggressive in that, and they still talk about that,” said Rogers. “If you note, even the rhetoric is, ‘We're still going to conduct a Western-style attack.’ And remember, Al Qaeda wants to put some points on the board because they want to be the jihadist organization that attracts people and money.”

On January 21, as CNSNews.com previously reported, ISIS leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi recorded an audio message in which he said: “Our last message is to the Americans. Soon we will be in direct confrontation, and the sons of Islam have prepared for such a day. So watch, for we are with you, watching.”

On Feb. 4, CIA Director John Brennan told the House intelligence committee that he was concerned that Islamic terrorists could use territory in Syria and Iraq to threaten the United States.

“We are concerned about the use of Syrian territory by the Al Qaida organization to recruit individuals and develop the capability to be able not just to carry out attacks inside of Syria, but also to use Syria as a launching pad,” Brennan told the committee

“So it's those elements--Al Qaida and ISIL--that I'm concerned about, and especially the ability of these groups to attract individuals from other countries, both from the West, as well as throughout the Middle East and South Asia, and with some experienced operatives there who have had experience in carrying out a global Jihad,” Brennan said.

“There are camps inside of both Iraq and Syria that are used by Al Qaida to develop capabilities that are applicable, both in the theater, as well as beyond,” he said.

Intelligence Chairman Mike Rogers asked Brennan directly: “Do you believe that that ungoverned space presents a real threat to the United States of America, via al Qaida operations, or the West?

The CIA director said: “I do.”

In a press briefing on Thursday, Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also warned about “Europeans and other nationalities” who had joined with the jihadists

“Well, the immediacy [of the threat] is in the number of Europeans and other nationalities who have come to the region to become part of that ideology,” Dempsey said. “And those folks can go home at some point. It's why I have conversations with my European colleagues about their southern flank of NATO, which I think is actually more threatened in the near term than we are.

“Nevertheless,” Dempsey said, “because of open borders and immigration issues, it's an immediate threat. That is to say, the fighters who may leave the current fight and migrate home.”