Via Red Alert Politics comes an op-ed by Congresswoman Barbara Comstock about a real threat to our nation’s security right in our own backyard:
Last week, a disturbing news story reported that a 17-year-old high school student in Northern Virginia was in federal custody for allegedly helping an older teen make it into Syria — presumably to join the terror organization ISIS. According to press accounts, the juvenile now in custody was highly intelligent and very much technologically savvy, and was using social media in his efforts with ISIS. We need to know if this is an anomaly or a growing problem and how we should address it.
In February, the FBI arrested three men from New York, all suspected of trying to join ISIS in Syria — one was a teenager. Last month, three British teenage girls fled their homes in England and made it by way of Turkey into Syria. Also, just this past weekend, two Australian brothers ages 16 and 17 were stopped at a Sydney airport under suspicion of flying to join ISIS and wage jihad. The world is the smallest it has ever been thanks to technology and social media. No longer are we separated by oceans, we are now only separated by iPhones and the strokes on a keyboard. Is ISIS now using social media the way human traffickers use it to target young, vulnerable teens?
After the September 11th terrorist attacks, I worked at the Department of Justice and saw every day how important it was that we connect the dots in tracking down threats to our people and our country. After seeing the report about this disturbing incident in our community, I wrote to FBI Director James Comey (a former colleague of mine at the Justice Department) asking for a detailed briefing about this situation and the extent of the problem and how to prevent it in the future. As any parent knows, teenagers are on social media constantly, and this medium is part of their everyday lives. ISIS knows this, and just like when teens are getting recruited by a local street gang or being targeted for human trafficking, ISIS uses social media to influence the vulnerable.
Combating ISIS’s long tentacles here at home must be a community effort. Parents, teachers, guidance counselors, and clergy all have to do their part and notice the signs that a teen has changed. ISIS is clearly using technology to their advantage. The Brookings Institution just released a report showing that ISIS is linked to 46,000 Twitter accounts. While the 46,000 number is shocking, what is more shocking is that over 400 of those accounts are located right here in America.
In the coming months and years, we will have to fight ISIS on many fronts. A strong defense and an aggressive stance against ISIS and working with our allies to dismantle and defeat ISIS will be key, but we must also realize that this threat may have a homegrown front, and we must stay vigilant and alert to yet another reality of our 21st century world.